(Top Up) The Compass
Today many people want to be free to do as they please, but consider this: If you take the train off the tracks, it’s free-but it can’t go anywhere. Take the steering wheel out of the automobile and it’s under the control of no one, but it is useless. The reality is that until the sailor disciplines himself to be obedient to the compass, he will have to stay within sight of shore. However, once he is obedient to that compass, he can go anywhere in the world the sailboat will take him.
Yes, discipline might be the missing ingredient that will make the difference in your life. Self-discipline may be summarized in one word: obedience. People who have the ability to concentrate, focus on their goals, and consistently stay within their priorities tend to succeed.
Since self-discipline is so important, how do you develop it? Here are some practical tips that I’ve found helpful:
*Start with small things. Clean your room at home or your desk at work. Train yourself to put things where they belong when they are out of place. After you’ve cleaned your room or desk, extend that discipline of neatness to the rest of your house and workplace. Such neatness will further develop self-discipline by forcing you to make decisions about what is important and what is not.
Learning self-discipline in the little things of life prepares the way for big successes. On the other hand, those who are undisciplined in small matters will likely be undisciplined in more important issues. When it comes to a person’s integrity and credibility, there are no small issues.
*Get yourself organized. Make a schedule, however detailed or general you are comfortable with, and stick to it. Have a to-do list of things you need to accomplish. Get organized, even if all you do is jot down appointments and to-do items on a piece of scrap paper. If you don’t control your time, everything else will.
*Don’t constantly seek to be entertained. When you have free time, do things that are productive instead of merely entertaining. Learn to entertain yourself with things that are challenging, stimulating, and creative. Things that are of no value except to entertain you make a very small contribution to your well-being.
*Be on time. If you’re supposed to be somewhere at a specific time, be there on time. Being on time also acknowledges the importance of other people and the value of their time.
*Keep your word. If you say you’re going to do something, do it-when you said you would do it and how you said you would do it. When you make commitments, see them through. That calls for the discipline to properly evaluate whether you have the time and capability to do something. And once you’ve made the commitment, self-discipline will enable you to keep it.
*Do the most difficult tasks first. Most people do just the opposite, spending their time doing the easier, low-priority tasks. But when they run out of time (and energy), the difficult, high-priority tasks are left undone.
*Finish what you start. Some people’s lives are a sad litany of unfinished projects. In the words of poet John Greenleaf Whittier: For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: “It might have been!” If you start something, finish it. Therein lies an important key to developing self-discipline.
*Accept correction. Correction helps you develop self-discipline by showing you what you need to avoid. Thus, it should not be rejected, but accepted gladly. Solomon wrote, “Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days” (Proverbs 19:20); and, “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding” (Proverbs 15:31-32).
*Welcome responsibility. Volunteer to do things that need to be done. That will force you to have your life organized enough to have the time for such projects.