06 Sep 2017 16:07 IST

Self-discipline: an important principle for success

None of us can claim to be professionals until we are self-disciplined

I was flying down from Mumbai last week when the pilot announced that we had started our descent into Bangalore, which was approximately 140 miles away. As soon as the announcement ended, a gentleman sitting next to me took out his mobile phone out, switched it on and started determining the location with GPS!

I objected to his behaviour, stating that phones must be in ‘airplane mode’ until after the plane lands and after the air-hostess announces that phones could be used. But he was unrelenting and continued his behaviour. Since the air-hostess was already seated for landing, she couldn’t do much.

On another occasion, right before taking off, an air-hostess announced that since aircraft fuelling was ongoing, passengers should not use their phones for making calls. Yet, a lady passenger, very modern and presumably educated, continued to talk. The air-hostess approached her and politely asked her to hang up the phone. But the lady refused to pay heed and continued to talk for the next 10 minutes.

Educated illiterates

We see such behaviour every day — when people stop the car at a signal but cover the zebra crossing, when they jump signals, drive through one-ways early in the morning or late in the evenings when there are no cops, throw banana peels out of the car window... the list can go on.

And guess who the perpetrators of these actions are? The educated illiterates. These are the people who come to office and expect discipline from everyone else. What an irony!

Self-discipline is declining in public and private life, even as the need for it is increasing by the day. I find it hard to understand why educated people behave this way. How can people be so indisciplined elsewhere and be disciplined at work? Worse still, how do they supervise others at work and ask them to observe discipline?

Need of the hour

It is often said that our ability to develop the habit of self-discipline contributes to our success more than any other quality. Kop Kopmeyer, a noted guru on success, published four books, each of which contained 250 success principles. He regards self-discipline as the most important of all, and gives a beautiful definition: self-discipline is the ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.”

Brian Tracy, motivational speaker and author, observes: “The pay-off for practising self-discipline is immediate. Whenever you discipline yourself and force yourself to do the right thing, whether you feel like it or not, you will like and respect yourself more. Your self-esteem increases; your self-image improves. Your brain releases endorphins which makes you happy and proud. You actually get a pay-off every time you hold your feet to the fire.”

21-day period

Self-discipline is a habit that one can learn with practice and repetition. It usually takes 21 days to develop a habit of medium complexity, although some can be developed even faster. Doing so does good for not only our self, but also to people we work with. It makes us predictably rational and even more importantly, reliable. Simple acts of self-discipline go a long way in making this work wonders, when we embark on big projects at work.

The only thing we need to ask the person we see in the mirror every day is this: Am I self-disciplined?

Not being disciplined hurts not only us, but the community and company. In a plane, when you continue to receive calls even as the plane is taking off, you not only put yourself at risk, but also your fellow passengers.

None of us can claim to be a professional until we are self-disciplined.