Power Tool: Discipline vs. Disorder


A Coaching Power Tool Created by Justin McKnight
(Leadership Coach, UNITED STATES)

As we work towards personal development, there are many tasks to embrace and apply to our ongoing improvement. These actions are never-ending and therefore they can become overwhelming at times. When looked at as a mountain to climb or a long list to check off, it can become very troubling and anxiety-inducing. We want to quickly see results and sometimes the long game is too much to consider. We must decide how to best approach our goals otherwise how will they become our future reality?

Approaching change in a disorderly way may lead to feelings of not being able to make a difference in our lives. There is no impact seen because the various efforts put in did not have time to stick and be built upon further. Working on a goal one day, but not the next, reduces our ability to build momentum. We may work a little, even see some results, like a spark or small flare. But then if we do not continue to feed the fire, nurture it, fan the flames, it will soon fade to darkness. That missing light can then produce feelings of despair and defeat. This may appear as negative self-talk based on limiting beliefs. Before long the target is avoided, put aside, and even forgotten.

As we have goals and targets, to not work on them frequently and instead procrastinate, we quickly diminish our odds of achievement.  Today we think about starting again tomorrow and that tomorrow leads to another tomorrow. Maybe it will be easier later tonight. Better yet, this weekend we will have time. Maybe this season is not ideal, Summer will be better. But we want to have fun outdoors this Summer, so by Winter, we will have more time. Pushing out and delaying will never get us to achieve anything in a reasonable amount of time.

The method of start and stop, start and stop, also does not allow for a solid foundation to be established. The lessons and learning we do earn from our work are difficult to ever apply when our approach lacks order. What to work on today? Where to start? Where to go next? The disorder is confusing and therefore difficult to inspire action.  The goal with no orderly plan of achievement is likely to remain just a wish or a good idea. Once taking that first step of action, how can we take the second and third? If not taking the next steps soon after the first, then the next time we take action it feels like the first time again. It feels like starting over from scratch. That is disheartening when the time has passed and there is not much accomplished to show for it.

What would it look like to instead take a disciplined approach towards personal development? To be disciplined involves making consistent, persistent actions that get built upon over time. Doing the right thing’s which we know we need to do, even if we maybe don’t feel like. We must let the small tastes of victory feed us to do the necessary actions again and again. Those little accomplishments can pull us forward, keep us going, drive us to take the next step and then the next. Picturing the snowball effect where the ball starts hand-sized but gathers more snow as it progresses forward, soon it’s the size of a boulder.

Jim Rohn is quoted as saying, “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.”  What a clear visual these words offer. We have a goal, and to make it become an achievement, we must be disciplined.  We can’t get there without expanding and building upon our original self.  That building is critical to forming a pathway to success. Each board of the bridge is essential and has meaning. One board is not enough to get us across, we must add another and another until we have finally constructed a foundation to support us on our journey.

Motivation can be a struggle for everyone at times, so it’s critical to get going and keep going, rather than waiting for fluctuating moments of inspiration.  Taking action and having some level of accomplishment can later lead to motivation to take further steps. Understanding the purpose of the goals also serves as a motivator. Simon Sinek in his book Start With Why said “There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.”  Knowing our purpose, our why, influences our behavior to take the required actions towards our success. Remembering our why can pull us forward like a magnet so that we do not seek outside motivation, it is created within.

Lessons are going to be learned while implementing a disciplined approach. By taking specific key actions consistently, we can see what is working and what is not. We can find improved ways to make progress. We can observe clues which will help us in the future. We will find slightly better ways to get things done and even enjoy the process more. These improvements and efficiency gains speed up our progress which saves time and energy. Therefore, we are learning how to optimize our efforts, which increases our odds of being successful.

Each action towards our goals builds up our confidence. The more we practice something and move in the desired direction, the better we feel about making some progress. This can enhance our enthusiasm and entice us to proceed, seeking more excitement from even small achievements. Knowing we completed a step reminds us that we are capable and success is feasible. By doing we get a boost of energy that enlivens the spirit. By doing continuously and consistently, we build momentum and gain speed which will carry us towards the finish line.

When coaching some clients may be carrying forward in a state of disorder, having a goal yet no process of achieving it. The coach must then work with the client to reframe the perspective, seeing what steps are required and realistic. Then finding which step is first and holding them accountable in committing to take that initial action. Then working with the client to build in habits and structures which will keep them on course and doing some key actions frequently towards their desired results. With some consistent persistent efforts soon the client will be far along towards their main aim, realizing how self-discipline was the proper approach towards improved rates of success and fulfillment.

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