At the beginning of any process there is motivation. People join a martial arts class, don their white belt and are ready to take on Bruce Lee. As they cruise through the beginner belt(s), they see that the program is getting harder and they lose motivation. This point is the crossroads. If the person has developed discipline, the person continues with their training. If they have not, they typically quit.
The discipline we develop as martial artists is a great tool and many times we do not use it outside the dojo. Having discipline throughout our day to day living will make us stronger people and will help us be successful. We don’t need a hammer to drive a nail, but having the hammer makes it a lot easier. The same goes with discipline. We don’t need discipline to be successful but having it makes succeeding a lot easier.
There are a lot of everyday activities that can be improved using the tool of discipline:
- Diet – This is the most challenging item for most people. We are very busy so it takes planning and effort to eat right. It takes discipline to execute a healthy eating plan consistently.
- Exercise – Sometimes our martial arts training is not enough to keep us fit. We need to make the time and put forth the effort to work out and stay fit if we want to continue with our martial arts and other activities as we get older.
- Money – How we spend our money has a direct impact on our future ability to maintain our lifestyle. If we want to travel when we are older we need to save the money today. However, we can get too wrapped up in planning for the future and miss out on living today. We need to be disciplined to find a balance between living today and planning for the future.
- Commitments – If we say we are going to do something, we should do it and do it on time. If your workday is supposed to start at 9:00, coming in everyday at 9:20 makes you look like a slacker. Even if you work harder than your coworkers you will have a reputation of being chronically late and that will overshadow your accomplishments. Have the discipline to come in early or at least on time and you will start to build the reputation of being reliable.
- Relationships –Even those you love can make you very angry and drive you crazy. Having the discipline to stick through rough patches can make you more successful at relationships. This can be the hardest task to manage and disciple does not always work since it takes two to tango, but having discipline can make you more successful in your relationships.
Stress and fear can destroy discipline. Using myself as an example, I am a stress eater. When things are not going my way the vending machine sings its siren’s song. It takes discipline to fight through the cravings. Unfortunately, everyone has their breaking point, so you can’t get depressed over a slip up. You just need to get back on track and learn from your mistake. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Aristotle. Discipline gets easier as it becomes a habit but it can never be absolute and can fail under enough stress.
I was watching the final movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and a scene in the movie was part of the inspiration for this article. The Orc Army is attacking Gondor and winning. All of the sudden the Riders of Rohan show up blowing their horns. The riders see the vast number of Orcs and are scared. The king motivates the Riders and they attack. The Orcs defend but the discipline of the Riders holds as their fellows fall at their sides. The enemies clash until the stress and fear builds up too much and the Orcs’ discipline breaks and they scatter.
This breakdown of discipline can happen to us too. A project can seem so big that we are afraid to start so we procrastinate. We can have a super stressful day and blow off a workout. We may have an unpleasant task that we have committed to but we stall and we are late or miss it entirely. In all of these situations we can use the discipline we honed in martial arts to persevere through the rough patches, recover from failure and press on to achieve our goals.