There are two primary methods of discipline that we encounter. The first and lesser of the two is external discipline. External discipline is a form of discipline exerted from outside of us. This is the discipline instilled by our parents when we were boys. This was the discipline of school, the military and of religious practices. These types of discipline are all good and necessary. They are, in fact, essential in providing the foundation for the higher form of discipline which is internal. Internal discipline is the higher of the two forms because it takes work, it takes daily struggle. It takes adaptation, trial and error, pain, frustration and sacrifice. It develops true leadership because no one else imposes it on us, we freely choose it.
Both external and internal discipline reap rewards. Learning and being reared in external discipline lays the foundation for and acceptance of internal discipline. We learn and absorb from external sources and then make them our own. Every man comes to a fork in the road where he will either accept or deny the discipline he has learned and take it further. Those who will take on the discipline will generally be successful in life, those who deny will generally become unsuccessful.
We find self discipline in many small areas that add up to a greater whole. For instance, have you ever walked into a CEO’s office? Have you seen a movie where a rich person or member of the aristocracy was portrayed in their home or office? The common denominator you will find is that these men of success are orderly. You won’t find crap laying around on their dining room table or in their office. Our external environment is a reflection of our internal state and our internal state is influenced by our surroundings. If we work in an office that is cluttered, unclean and unkempt, we will see a decline in our thought processes. Our thoughts will become more scattered, reflecting the clutter that we see daily. This is why retreat centers tend to be minimalistic in their décor. We strive for a sound mind in a sound body in sound surroundings.
We can also practice self discipline in our eating habits. I will touch more on intermittent fasting in a fitness article at a later date, but the practice of I.F. is extremely valuable in the quest for greater self discipline. Have you ever noticed guys who can’t stop talking? By controlling what we put in our mouths we become much more able to control what comes out of our mouths. Who seems more powerful and in control to you; the guy who cannot control his thoughts and words, or the man who can?
Sometimes we find ourselves at a crossroads. We can take what seems to be the easier road of laziness and indulgence. This road turns bitter when we find ourselves far down the road having accomplished nothing. In the distance we can see the man who took the seemingly more difficult road of self discipline and we see him being successful. Reading, in and of itself, is a fantastic discipline. Not only is it a form of entertainment and relaxation when you read something that you enjoy, but it also works your mind in ways that television never will. The added bonus with reading is that you will also learn things. If you are serious about self discipline then reading about stoic philosophy is an absolute must. The next level of self discipline comes with filtering the material, thinking critically about it and then putting it into action.
Action is the final step, it is the ongoing step. Theory is necessary, but ultimately action is where the rubber will hit the road. Action is what will separate the men from the boys. Action is what separates the doers from the dreamers. Action is what teaches us success and failure. Action is what gives us the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day, knowing that we were being proactive and moving forward in a clear concrete way. Action is where we gain that wisdom which is called, “common sense”.