The Key to Success
Success has been defined as “actively progressing toward one’s goal.” So, how do you progress toward your goal? First, you must have a goal. As motivational speaker Zig Zigler says, “The greatest archer in the world will have trouble hitting a target if he is blindfolded and can’t see where it is. How can you expect to reach a goal if you don’t even have one?” Once you have a goal, you should formulate a plan to get from where you are now to where you want to be. With that accomplished there is just one more small task to fulfill to reach your goal; you must take action by following your plan until the objective is reached. This is where we get to the key ingredient that will make all of this planning actually work. Discipline. Without discipline you will find it very hard to reach a lofty goal.
Discipline is a word that is thrown around freely in most martial arts circles. It is one of the selling points in the majority of advertisements for the local schools. Many people begin studying the arts because they crave the ability to discipline themselves in many facets of their lives. What is this magic entity that so many yearn for? What is it that we all want to be able to do consistently?
I like to define discipline as simply making the right choice. Not the easy choice, or the best tasting choice, or the choice of habit. Discipline is simply making the choice that is in line with your plan to reach your goal. The Random House Dictionary definition is, “Training to act in accordance with rules.” When you set down your own rules of conduct, your plan, you must train yourself to follow those rules. Training in the martial arts can give you the feel for self-discipline that you need to succeed in other endeavors.
Discipline is really the battle of mind vs. body. Dr. Paul Bragg, the man who inspired Jack LaLanne to follow a healthy regimen and opened the first health food stores, wrote often about this battle.
In his book about weight reduction Dr. Bragg says: “You must use your mental power to win over the cravings of the body. In other words, it is mind over matter. Flesh is dumb. There is no intelligence in flesh. You must recognize that there is a lfe long running battle between the mind and the flesh. Flesh is weak and must be controlled by the mind.”
This conscious control by your mind is what discipline is all about. You know what to do to lose fat. You must drop your caloric intake through better diet while increasing your caloric output by increasing the amount and type of exercises you perform. Simple to say but tougher to do. You must make the right choice every time you sit down instead of exercising.
Luckily, improving your discipline is a lot like improving your martial art skill. The more you practice the correct way the more it becomes ingrained in your subconscious. Unforunately, the opposite is just as true. Each wrong decision will become just as ingrained until if forms the all too familiar bad habit. I am sure you have heard that practice makes perfect. You may have heard that only perfect practice makes perfect.
Dr. Michael Colgan, a top expert on sports performance and nutrition, has a more concise saying. He states that, “Practice makes permanent.” Whatever you practice will become a permanent part of you. This is why it is crucial to take control of your cravings and make an intelligent decision regarding the important choices we make every day. Remember that our lives are the sum total of our choices–be they good or bad.
One of the factors that hampers our ability to consistently make the best decision is fear. There are many types of fear, but two success killers are the fear of failure and the fear of the unknown. Fear of failure manifests itself through negative thinking. “What if I make this big sacrifice and nothing comes of it. That will be a waste of time.” You must get negative thoughts out of your head. If you plan well, you will know that success is certain as long as you follow the plan. Don’t let negative thoughts from yourself or others keep you from the joy of accomplishing your goal.
Fear of the unknown creeps up when we start saying, “What if it hurts to run that five-mile course. What if I can’t make it and my friends find out. What if I start lifting weights and I injure myself. What if I start that new kickboxing class and I find out that I’m not as good as I thought.” These are the types of ridiculous arguments that we have with ourselves when we are afraid of trying something new. Who cares what others think? Who says you have to start with five miles?
A few years ago I finally conjured up the discipline to begin a running program. Guess how many miles I start with. A couple? Three? Try four blocks. I am glad I did. I started very slow and now I can whip out a five-mile run in under 40 minutes with no problem. If I thought that I had to prove my manhood by starting with a long run I would have gotten so sore that quitting would have come easily. Don’t worry about what others think of you or your plan. Put your mind in charge and you can reach your objective.
Styles that have a ranking system are very good for developing discipline in attaining a goal. The student who starts as a white belt knows that he is going to have to attend class and practice certain things to attain the next rank. This is the all-important plan. Reaching short-term goals will culminate in reaching the long-term goal of the black belt. Other ways of developing discipline can be seen as well. Just as there are many wonderful ways of training self-defense, there are countless ways of practicing discipline.
One method used in some Japanese and Korean systems involves having the students sit on the floor with their eyes closed. An instructor will walk around with a shinai, a bamboo practice sword, and without warning strike the ground next to a student. The body’s natural reaction is to flinch, but a person with a calm, disciplined mind can keep the body from following its natural urges. When you spar you must resist flinching and closing your eyes as strong blows come in. A good Thai boxer will stand strong and firm in the face of oncoming fists, feet, knees, and elbows. Such discipline is indeed impressive, but I guarantee that it was cultivated through years of practice.
If you want to better your discipline do what you are doing now: read. Get books on the subject or audio tapes. The Neuropsychology of Self-Discipline in an excellent course. Set your goal, form a good plan, and discipline yourself to take action.
Founder of Jeet Kune Do Unlimited.
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