My Take on Self-Discipline!

In a discussion recently, I came across a phrase “Self-discipline leads to greater happiness”. Somehow that discussion did not last long but what lasted in my mind was this phrase!

Happiness or leading a “Happy Life” is, perhaps, the most important goal of most of us who toil on this planet earth. While happiness can be described in many ways, one can also draw a linear relationship (i.e., A relationship that occurs when variable quantities are directly proportional to one another) between “Peace” and “Happiness”. One is happy when there is peace! Now, “Peace” is a state where there are no disturbances or surprises. The best way to reduce disturbances or surprises is to practice self-discipline.

Mahatma Gandhi had said something very relevant here. He had said that “peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.” Peace, therefore, is within the realm of everyone and is not dependent on any outside factors. By exercising self-discipline, one can reduce surprises and disturbances and achieve peace and thereby, happiness!

Besides helping one to lead a happy life, self-discipline has another very important characteristic. It will not be incorrect to say that the success or failure of an individual is largely determined by the degree of self-discipline exercised by him. We have many instances. When Sachin Tendulkar started to play cricket, there were many who were equally good (I would not like to take names here). But it was only Sachin who made it to the top. Look at any great personality whom you admire, such as Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, or Mahatma Gandhi and you will see a person who excelled in self-discipline!

What Is Self-Discipline?

Self-discipline is a thing which everyone is aware of but may find it a bit difficult to describe. Self-discipline is, essentially, the ability to take action regardless of one’s emotional state. Self-discipline involves acting according to what one ‘thinks’ instead of how one ‘feels’ in the moment. Often, it involves sacrificing the pleasure and thrill of the moment for what matters most in life.

Self-discipline is, therefore,

(i) the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses;
(ii) the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.
(iii) the thing which gives one the power over one’s life.

In our day to day life, self-discipline drives us to:

(a) Work on an idea or project after the initial rush of enthusiasm has faded away
(b) Go to the gym when all you want to do is lie on the couch and watch TV
(c) Wake early to work on yourself
(d) Say “no” when tempted to break your diet
And so on…

How to develop self-discipline?

The Creator has given us all our share of self-discipline and now it is for us to develop what is already existing within us. May be the following tips will help:

1. Get Started Right Away : One of the best methods for building self-discipline is to simply get started. Often, the hardest part about doing something that you do not want to do is the fact that you have no momentum. It may seem like a daunting task. Take the first step, simply ‘force’ yourself to take action. It will feel uneasy at first, but once you get the momentum going, you will most likely start to feel the flow and build your self-discipline.

2. Complete what you have started: Self-discipline is taking the things to its logical conclusion. If there is any failure, self-disciplined will retry but never abandon the task. Lots of people come up with great business ideas. Few people actually make a business a success. Many people start writing a book. Few people actually publish one. Most individuals have a dream. Few fully realize it. As a general rule, we are good at starting things but we tend not to finish them.

3. Have a time schedule : A great tool for building self-discipline is to have a time-table. If you are finding it hard to get started on your professional studies, schedule 30 minutes every day for the next 7 days and stick to the time you dedicated to it. Before you know it, at the end of the week you would have spent 3 and a half hours in studies. However, if you can’t work for 30 minutes at the scheduled point in time, ensure you do it at an earlier or a later time. If it can’t be done that day, ensure you add an extra 30 minutes to the following day.

4. Be prepared to put in efforts: Nothing in this life is easy and to achieve one’s goals, one has to be prepared for some hard word. Self-discipline does involve exercising lots of determination, concerted efforts and having goals.

And Finally…..

Being self-disciplined is not easy but it is not too difficult either. It is definitely worth the trouble! Self-discipline has long been recognized as a positive trait that’s highly associated with a productive life and the achievement of personal goals. Aside from that, self-discipline has also been correlated with higher self-esteem, better academic competence, better relationships, and better coping with stress and frustrations. Let’s do it!

Luck is Not by Chance!

Let’s start this discussion by having a good look at “Luck”! Generally, “Luck” is defined as chance happening of a fortunate event. Like winning a lottery, getting a promotion, getting a good apartment, getting recognition and most important of all, getting a good life partner. I must confess that I am extremely lucky in this last aspect i.e., having a great life partner!

The main theme of my discussion today is “You make your own Luck” i.e., “Luck is not by chance”. You can make your own luck by recognizing the fact that there’s far more in life that is for you than against you. It is all about taking control of your life and being receptive to the opportunities that come your way.

First let us see what distinguishes “Lucky” people from those who are not so lucky:

  1. “Lucky” people think outside the box. They are a bit more curious and tend to explore a bit more. More important is that they tend not to pre-judge or presume. Once an experiment was conducted on a group of people. They were told that in a newspaper there is a text telling them that they have won USD 10,000. They were required to find this text in that newspaper of 10 pages. They were given just five minutes to do so. Most of them could not find this text but a few did. All the while, this text was part of the bold headline on the very first page of the newspaper! Most of the people had ignored this bold headline or did not read that properly as they thought text worth USD 10,000 will not be available so easily. Most of them had looked only at small print!
  2. Lucky people take more chances and adopt an optimistic point of view. They generally do not play it safe! They believe in the saying “Nothing ventured nothing gained”
  3. Lucky people put in more efforts. They believe more efforts beget more luck. They also believe in the famous quote of Paulo Coehlo in his novel “The Alchemist”: “when you really desire something, all the universe conspires in helping you to get it.”

Now, let us see how one can make his own luck? Here are three tips for that. These are entirely based on my real life experience and all are first hand!

1. Be unreasonable in your thinking.

What, be unreasonable? Yes. This means seeing yourself a bit differently. Orville and Wilbur Wright were unreasonable when they decided to invent a heavier-than-air flying machine. Everyone laughed at their attempts to fly, but now we can go around the world in super quick time because of the invention of these two lucky brothers. Many thought that I was unreasonable when I quit a well-paying job and took up employment with a regulator for a lesser package. But this proved to be my best career move as I could do what I liked most. My salary also caught up within a short time. But the institution which I had left did not do too well after that and did not pay any bonuses to its employees after I left!

2. Look for opportunities in adversity.

You make your own luck when you look for opportunities in adversity! In this world, life cannot hand you a negative moment without something positive hidden deep inside. When you look beyond the negative and see the positive, that’s the beginning of a lucky moment. In 1987, when I was in SBI, I got an order posting me to a place called Kamalpur in Tripura. At that time, this place was a hot bed of insurgency and a group called Tripura National Volunteers (TNV) used to create trouble. This was to such an extent that SBI staff at Kamalpur were forced to pay some sort of tax to this insurgent group. When I got this transfer order, I approached the Zonal Office and told them that instead of going to Kamalpur as an ordinary officer, I am prepared to go to any remote place provided you post me as a branch manager. They posted me as a branch manager to a remote place in Mizoram called Demagiri (now known as Tlabung) where no one was willing to be posted. There is an interesting saying in Mizo language that Tlabung is so far away that even sky is not covering it! But, this posting helped my career in a big way as I could complete three mandatory assignments in one go i.e., difficult center, rural center and line assignment. Thus I was ready for the next big opportunity. This posting helped in getting selected as a forex dealer, which was a well sought after position. Not only that, I was the only person eligible for a foreign posting as a forex dealer because there was no one else below the age of thirty who had completed mandatory rural assignment and line assignment and two years as a forex dealer! Thereafter, I got posted at SBI, Hong Kong and then to Mauritius! In a way, my posting at Demagiri paved the way for my career in financial markets and shaped my future.

3. See yourself as a winner.

If you see of yourself as a winner, you become a winner. This mindset brings luck! In Doha, we have a pretty popular supermarket and it is very difficult to get a parking place near this supermarket. But there is a huge parking place little away from this place. Whenever I go to this super market, I make it a point to check for a parking place near the entrance of this super market. This, of course, is a narrow ally and most people do not even try as they presume that there will not be any parking place available there. But almost seven times out of ten, I have been able to get a parking place near the entrance just because I tried. This saves the effort of parking in a faraway open place and walking in the sun! I try because I think that I will get a parking place. Remember, if you think of yourself as a winner, you become a winner.

I can go on and on with such examples. But let me stop here and let us recap the three tips:

  1. Be unreasonable in your thinking
  2. Look for opportunities in adversity
  3. See yourself as a winner

If you follow these tips, you will fall in love with life. When you are in love with life, you feel energetic and ambitious. Things then begin to pan out as you hoped. Management guru Peter Drucker has put it beautifully as ‘Best way to predict future is to create it!’ Hope you now agree that you make your own luck and luck is not by chance.