The Root Cause of All Success

May 18, 2016

I've been asked this question a few times recently, as I advocate for self-discipline, and hold it as a close personal value. Why do I do that? Because I believe that the root cause of success in all areas of life comes from self-discipline. 

But how do you "get" self-discipline? Where does it come from? 

To preface, I understand the word itself has connotations that are certainly not inspiring: a drill instructor, being disciplined for something you did wrong, or just being a robot and following the marching orders. That's all crap. It's not the type of discipline that makes anyone successful. 

The type of discipline I'm talking about is self-discipline. And self-discipline comes down to simply the choices we make every day. We often hear two voices in our head before making a decision: 

  • "You don't have to do that, just give in, no big deal."
  • "I don't "feel" like doing this. It's hard. But I'm doing to do it anyway." 

Success hangs in the balance of which choice we make. This seemingly small decision actually means everything. It's the test of your self-discipline. 

Making the CHOICE, even though... 

  • Getting up early, even though it's more comfortable to lay in bed
  • Telling the truth, even though you could lie and get away with it
  • Doing what you say you'll do, even though who you told will probably forget
  • Taking full ownership, even when there are other people you could blame
  • Eating healthy, consistently, even though no one else seems to be doing it
  • Taking time to pray, even though it takes time out of your morning
  • Making 10 straight free throws in your driveway, even though it's getting late
  • Working out hard, even though it's normal to just go through the motions
  • Being faithful, even though no one would know
  • Having impeccable integrity, even though that's not the normal standard
  • Being financially responsible, even though there's more stuff you could buy

How do you make this choice? Where does it come from? 

It's actually very simple. People try to overcomplicate it, research it, plan it out, take courses on it. The essence of the choice is extremely simple. 

But simple does not mean easy. Often times when we overcomplicate things, it makes it easier.

But simple stares you right in the face. It challenges you. It comes with gloves on ready to go - just you and the choice in the ring. It will use the status quo and all excuses to knock you out. You have to fight it. 

It's hard to keep self-discipline simple. Because keeping it simple means there's no excuses. No bailouts. It's just your choice. 

Want to wake up earlier? Set your alarm, when it goes off, get out of bed. 
Want to run farther? Run more miles. You won't fall over and die. 
Want to get smarter? Read/listen to more books and podcasts. 
Want to improve a relationship? Love more, regardless if it's reciprocated.
Want to eat healthier? Stop eating sugar.
Want to write your book? Write 1,000 words a day. And start tomorrow. 

Most people give self-discipline a bad rap. 

They say you just follow rules, and you should ease up! I mean waking up every day to work out? Too rigid! (But what you don't understand is that I actually love getting up and getting after it.) Oh my gosh, you won't party with us all weekend again? Dude, live a little bit! (But what you don't understand is that I'm building something that's bigger than living for the weekend.) You eat too healthy - you're a freak! (But what you don't understand is that I love the energy, feeling and health of a clean diet.)

When people criticize, it's almost always because they have insecurities about that topic. And they don't understand the dichotomy of being self-disciplined. Yes, self-discipline demands control and asceticism, but (the dichotomy) it actually results in freedom, creativity, personal growth, and success.

So, where does self-discipline come from?

It simply comes from the choices you make. It comes from within.