Essential disciplines are those which are foundational to success. One definition of ‘discipline’ is: ‘Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior’ The Free Dictionary  

John Maxwell says, “Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people are unwilling to do” (The 360 Degree Leader). In other words they are willing to work at things. They put themselves through training to learn and become accomplished at doing the things required for them to succeed.

No-one builds a successful life accidentally. It requires hard work and the willingness to learn and grow. There are habits that are foundational to success. And there are habits that undermine success. These 5 essential disciplines I have observed in people who have achieved long term success.

5 Essential Disciplines for a Successful Life

  1. Walk in humility – the humble person realises they do not know everything. They know they need other people. So they stay in a place of humility where they can ask questions, listen and learn. They can reach out for advice rather than struggle through pretending they know when they do not. Humility is not weakness or a lack of confidence. In fact it is a sign of deep security to be able to surround yourself with talented people who can assist you to achieve your goals.
  2. Keep your word – Trust is essential to success. Especially with people in your inner circle. The one thing that builds trust more than any other is the discipline of keeping your word. The successful person does not make rash promises they cannot keep. They tend to under-promise and over-deliver. They do what they say. Their word means something and can be trusted.
  3. Take time to think – Thinking takes discipline and time alone. Successful people are unafraid to cut off distractions, and spend time alone to think deeply; especially about what they want. They know where they are headed. They may have a thinking space in their house or garden where they go to think. Some have a thinking chair. Some walk the beach or the bush.
  4. Make decisions – Successful people know how to make decisions. They have clear priorities and values. They have disciplined themselves to consistently make decisions. They also have advisers to assist them with the tough decisions. Having decided they rarely second guess their decisions. Unless it becomes obvious that their decision was wrong and then they will quickly let it go and make a better decision.
  5. Take action – The way to success is all about taking action. Thinking and researching and deciding is important but without vigorous action nothing is ever achieved. Successful people have disciplined themselves to take action and learn as they go. They do not wait for everything to be totally clear. They make good decisions and then act. They know that as they take action they will learn what to do next and they back themselves to overcome each hurdle as they come to it. No procrastinating. No vacillating.

Some people may have short term successes without these disciplines. However long term sustainable success depends on these essential disciplines becoming habits.

Other disciplines I will mention which fit under these broader headings are: 1. curiosity, letting go of offence; 4. a positive mindset, forgiveness; 5. persistence, finishing what they start,

What other disciplines have you observed in successful people?


INTEGRATE: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth | John Drury

Integrate: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth and what you really need to create a fulfilling lifestyle

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