I was chatting over lunch with few colleagues on a Friday afternoon. And the conversation naturally turned towards weekend plans. Few talked about going for late night movie, waking up late on Sunday, having brunch and just lazing around. When I said that I wake up at 5 am even on a Sunday and continue to do few things like exercise, reading, meditation, etc., one colleague couldn’t resist saying, “God, that’s so boring! Really Padma, you should learn to just relax and chill, at least on a Sunday.”
Is discipline boring? Is doing certain things consistently every single day – things that are aligned to our life goals – boring?
Well, it may seem boring, but it definitely is the key to productivity and eventually to success.
What is discipline? It definitely is not about waking up early. Each one of us have our body clock and we perform best at certain times of the day. Discipline is about deciding to do few things in certain manner – be it health, education, work, relationship, religion, sports – and actually doing them as per plan without giving into distractions and temptations. Simply put, discipline is the doggedness and the ability to motivate yourself to ‘just do it’.
Consider any successful person – a musician, athlete, artist, dancer or a business leader. What’s visible to us is their success which is only the tip of the iceberg. What we miss is their discipline that lies at the bottom of the iceberg. Their ability to overcome the boredom of discipline. It’s about their ability to get up and practice each day, every day, so that they keep up their skill level. Of course, there is an aspect of talent and genes, but all being equal its discipline that either makes or breaks it.
Discipline indeed can become boring, honestly there are times when I found it tedious. And days when I gave into temptation. But, I also know that those are the times when I slipped back. I am sure the successful athletes, musicians, dancers and business leaders that we see around us also face monotony of discipline time to time. However, they are successful in reigning their emotions and do not give into external temptations.
Recently, I came across the story of two explorers in the book ‘Last place on Earth by Roland Huntford’. It depicts this aspect of discipline very well. In 1911, Robert Scott (England) and Roald Amundsen (Norway) lead two teams on separate expedition to South Pole. Amundsen followed a consistent routine that he set out for his team – he travelled 15-20 miles every day – irrespective of the weather. He did not push his team to do more in good weather and travelled same distance even on days when the weather was bad. Towards the end, when he was just 45 miles away from South Pole, he did not push his team to cover the distance in a day, despite the weather being good. He continued the same pace even when the destination was so close. He did not give into the temptation of good weather. Or the pressure that the other team may reach before him.
Scott took a different approach. When the days were good, he pushed his team to do more and more, to the point of exhaustion. On other days, when the weather was bad, his team sat tight. His team reached South Pole more than a month after Amundsen’s team. Unfortunately, on their way back, they perished from a combination of exhaustion, starvation and cold. While Amundsen’s team reached back home safely.
Amundsen’s discipline not only helped him get victory, it also ensured survival of his team!
“Discipline is the bridge between accomplishment and goals.”