The Strength of Self-Discipline

By | September 8, 2021

[September 8, 2021]  From George Washington to George Patton, all had something in common with the great leaders across history.  Each had the strength of self-discipline in their lives.  Self-discipline helps people connect today’s behavior with tomorrow’s results; allowing a leader to know what is the right thing to do.

Good leaders live by their ability to establish a mission (goal or task) and to focus all their energy to achieve it.  It means building internal strengths in the old-fashioned way; proven over the course of human development.  When combined with hard work, self-discipline makes it not just possible to achieve grand feats but to make just about anything is doable.

“The first and best victory is to conquer self.  To be conquered by self is, of all things, the most shameful and vile.” – Plato

When people talk about what they learned from being a member of the military, I have found that it always comes back to the concept of self-discipline.  As a U.S. Army veteran of 40 years, I learned about the struggle for discipline and the difficulty in achieving the mental strength to maintain it inside one’s self.  Self-discipline meant that we needed to know our own strengths and weaknesses, our abilities and possibilities, and our desires and needs. For without that knowledge, discipline is not possible.

Rarely is self-discipline gained from an early age but … and this is important … it begins there. Adults who make a conscious decision to practice self-discipline will inevitably have a difficult go of it and many give up because of the hard work in doing so.  Not unlike losing weight for health reasons, the first few pounds lost are easy, losing a few bad leader habits is also easy. With time, it becomes more and more difficult to lose weight and to lose all the bad habits.

Self-discipline also means ensuring that you as a leader are tested regularly and that the leader encourages honest and meaningful feedback from those who know the leader.  Testing means that the leader consciously puts himself in a position that will be difficult to succeed and failure to be likely.  By surviving those tests, the leader is more resilient for completing difficult tasks.

U.S. President Harry Truman once said that in his study of great men, that the “first victory they won was over themselves … self-discipline with all of them came first.” Of all the leaders who I’ve known personally in my time, all the great ones had a remarkable depth of self-discipline. And that is what distinguishes any leader from a great one.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

15 thoughts on “The Strength of Self-Discipline

  1. Wendy Holmes

    Gen. Satterfield, another extreme example of your ability to put the period at the end of a sentence on self-discipline and reminding us that being a leader is not an easy task and why only a few of us ever achieve it. Keep up the great works. I love your website.

    Reply
  2. Bryan Z. Lee

    You have the ability to triumph over the struggle of what it takes to be self disciplined. It is a muscle that more you develop, the more you will get the satisfaction and peace of mind that comes with it.

    Reply
  3. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    Ten good quotes about self-discipline:
    1. “We don’t have to be smarter than the rest. We have to be more disciplined than the rest.” – Warren Buffet
    2. “Discipline is doing what needs to be done even if you don’t want to do it.”
    3. “It’s not the work that’s hard, it’s the discipline.” – Anonymous
    4. “Your level of success is determined by your level of discipline and perseverance.”
    5. “You will never be motivated you have to learn to be disciplined.”
    6. “Discipline: The difference between good and great.”
    7. “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” – Jim Rohn
    8. “Discipline is doing what you know needs to be done, even thought you don’t want to.”
    9. “Without self-discipline, success is impossible.” – Lou Holtz
    10. “Without hard work and discipline it is difficult to be a top professional.”

    Reply
  4. Guns are Us

    The more you push through and be self disciplined, the more you will train your mind to relax in situations that are stressful and required you to be disciplined in. That will harness the power of your mind to work for you and no longer against you. It will push you from behind to achievement and productivity. Instead of trying to pull you back into mediocrity.

    Reply
    1. Max Foster

      Thanks Lynn, there are a lot of articles and books out on self-discipline and that is a good thing because it shows us that many recognize the value of self-discipline and offer guidance on how to overcome the many obstacles along the way. I would wish that we all had the intestinal fortitude to take on the challenge. It means a lot to do so and, below, Army Captain touched on it. Thanks also to Gen. Satterfield. Note today his Daily Favorites, worth reading these articles.

      Reply
      1. Silly Man

        So very true Max and once again, thank you for your analysis. We all can improve our selves. If we are not improving (headed toward that goal), then we are dying. The choice is simple, the ability is hard.

        Reply
  5. Army Captain

    Self-discipline is hard, very hard. Much harder than one can imagine. You actually have to do it yourself. And, if you have the intestinal fortitude, maybe you can achieve success. Without it, and without a moral compass you will never succeed and do great things.

    Reply
    1. Doug Smith

      Yes, you put the period on this article, Army Captain. Gen. Satterfield set up the pitch and you hit it out of the park. Thanks for your sevice.

      Reply
    2. American Girl

      Thank you for your service, Army Capt. I wish you well. There is a clear vacuum of leadership at the top of our military today. I hope you help make a difference. Whenever I read column articles like this one from Gen. Satterfield, it gives me a twinkling of hope. Keep up your great works.

      Reply
      1. Yusaf from Texas

        Atta boy (or girl) to American Girl for writing what we all are thinking.

        Reply

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