Jay Rifenbary

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Sustaining Self-Discipline - The Backbone of Achievement

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I am frequently asked during the course of my travels and “No Excuse!” speaking engagements, “What elements of your character were developed while attending West Point? “. Two that come to mind consistently are performance under pressure and self-discipline, and both principles are interdependent of one another. Having to perform under pressure ignites the practice of self-discipline. I believe societal changes, including the pampering of our children, and the relinquishing of holding individuals accountable has played havoc in understanding the benefit and implementing the execution of self-discipline. Self-discipline is defined as, “the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.”

Have you ever abandoned a task or dream because of the overwhelming feeling of stress, self-doubt or awareness that an alternative course might be easier, but less rewarding? Self-discipline mitigates those feelings, weaknesses and temptations. Increases in alcohol and drug abuse, acting upon temptations for personal gratification, and the willingness to violate one’s personal core values for self-serving financial gains are all results of a loss of individual self-discipline in our society. The ever-increasing advancements in media and internet technology only fuel the exposure to the lure of being distracted from one’s primary focus, a proper life path, and a difficult task at hand; only to fall prey to what is easier and less stressful. A lack of self-discipline tends to always align with taking the “easy way out”, or caving to temptations of personal gratification.

For example, as a student would it be easier to continue to work on a research paper, or social network on MySpace? Is it easier to sit down and watch the “boob tube” (literally), or work on developing one’s mind through constructive reading and intellectual engagement with others? Is it easier to eat cake, or say “no” and eat healthy to maintain proper weight? Is it easier to sit on the couch and vegetate, or exercise to improve one’s health and fitness? Is it easier to be ill learned, or develop professionalism and pursue further education? Is it easier to be ill mannered, use profanity, or to utilize proper etiquette and speak succinctly? A lack of self-discipline is a, if not the, primary factor for the hindrance of personal growth and professional development.

Five steps to strengthen ones self-discipline are: *reinforce an understanding of the core values that you believe in and reflect who you are. Define those values and incorporate them in the process of accomplishing the task at hand. *Take “baby steps” when beginning the pursuit of a new endeavor. It is imperative to not look at the entire vision at hand, but approach the task day by day. The old adage of “do not bite off more than you can chew” is essential. *Establish a moral compass that is in alignment with the core values you espouse too. A clear sense of your morality will subdue the temptations of the deadly sins we are exposed to every day. Personally, I define morality as how I treat another human being, and I believe we should treat one another with dignity and respect. Take the time to assess how you would want to be treated if you were walking in another’s shoes. *Manage your time and effort by planning properly and executing the task efficiently. Prioritize the elements of the task at hand to best reach that goal in the most efficient manner possible. *Finally, visualize the light at the end of the tunnel, and anticipate the satisfaction of the successful completion of that goal. Concerted Effort + Determination = Self-Discipline. There is nothing more satisfying and self-respect developing than the knowledge that your efforts and determination were the primary factors in the achievement of your success. Successful leaders are always self-disciplined in the pursuit of their passions, dreams and goals. Be that leader and set a positive, self-disciplined example every day for those around you.



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