Personal Discipline

Personal discipline, when it becomes a way of life in our personal, family, and career lives, will enable us to do some incredible things. One of my favorite sayings is "When you discipline yourself to do the things you need to do when you need to do them, the day will come when you can do the things you want to do when you want to do them."

We need to understand the difference between discipline and punishment. Punishment is what you do to someone; discipline is what you do for someone. My friend and mentor Fred Smith points out that some people are very disciplined in one phase of their life and not in another. Pavarotti, for example, was a perfectionist in his music and yet totally unregulated in his eating habits. Elvis Presley's life points out the discrepancy between his discipline in his personal life and his creative life. Many noticed that he would sit at the piano, working for hours on his phrasing, going over and over it until it was exactly right. He was totally disciplined about his singing. Even some geniuses such as Ernest Hemingway, who lived a very dissolute and destructive life, said, "Every morning at eight o'clock I bite the nail."

Fred Smith goes on to say there are people with superior talent who will not submit to discipline and so are not known or recognized for their abilities. He met a young man who in high school could run so fast that he would run through the curves on the track. Coaches saw that he had world class speed and expected him to be an Olympian. He refused discipline, wanting to take the easy way of simply using his natural speed. He even lost his college scholarship. Laziness was his enemy.

Discipline is building good habits into reflexes which become part of our life. It's absolutely true that unless you can instill discipline upon yourself, you will never be able to lead others. Example is still the best teacher. As Fred says, "Discipline is building good habits into reflexes which become part of our life," and to this I would add that when it becomes a habit you will be able to control your impulses in each area of life and succeed in a balanced way.


A talented author and speaker, Zig Ziglar has an appeal that transcends barriers of age, culture, and occupation. Since 1970, he has traveled over five million miles across the world delivering powerful life improvement messages, cultivating the energy of change. Since 1970, an extensive array of Ziglar audio, video, books, and training manuals have been utilized by small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, U.S. Government agencies, churches, school districts, prisons, and non-profit associations...

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