What is Discipline?

By | June 28, 2022

[June 28, 2022]  Discipline is the key to a good life.  But, we don’t often ask the question, “What is discipline?”  Dr. Jordan Peterson1 does a great job of discussing the issue of ‘discipline’ and walks us through what he sees in the concept.

Discipline, according to Peterson, means that you are capable of making sacrifices.  You are not disciplined if you just do something you want more, rather than something that you should be doing.  Maybe that works for you (that would be convenient), but that is not discipline.  Discipline is when you want to do something right now, and instead, you think, no, I will do something else.  I’m going to forestall my gratification, maybe forever or maybe for a very long period of time, and I will concentrate on something that will bear fruit in the long run.

Discipline means looking into the future and deciding that by making today a little less impulsively pleasurable.  We set ourselves straight to make tomorrow a bit more secure and productive, and then you actually do it, too.  And that isn’t easy.

People have watched the successful succeed, and the unsuccessful fail for thousands of years and collectively and individually thought it over.  We drew a conclusion.  The successful among us sacrifice; they delay gratification.  As Dr. Peterson says, the successful among us bargain with the future.

If we could sit down with ourselves and be honest, then we could probably identify a dozen stupid things that I could quit doing that are making my life (and those around me) more wretched.  We could think, what are those things.  And if you really want to know, you may not want to hear it, but it’s true, and you already knew it in some sense.  Then you can see that it is terrible, miserable, and not good for you.  Ask, is there one of those things I would be willing to do something about that?

As soon as you get an answer to your question, then you have a responsibility.  Your responsibility tells you that you have to do it.  And it’s something you don’t want to do.  But then you do it.  That’s a kind of humility.  And you keep doing it.  That, my friends, is discipline.

Dr. Peterson compares this to the Cain and Abel story.  If you cannot be disciplined, it will make you bitter and vengeful and make you want to hurt people around you – or at least not help them, which is the same thing – and we all know this to be true.  Fail at being disciplined and see what happens if you think that isn’t true.

That is accepting responsibility; that is discipline.

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  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQ8hCWA4CIs

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Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).

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.

19 thoughts on “What is Discipline?

  1. Ronny Fisher

    Excellent article and made me think. That is the purpose of me being here. Well done!

    Reply
      1. Guns are Us

        Understanding the concept of discipline is crucial to be able to understand the motivations of everyone. While each of us is driven or pushed by various forces – inside and external – we all need to learn to “drive the car” (to use gen. Satterfield’s analogy). Let’s get our act together and stop using excuses for not doing what we know we must be doing.

        Reply
  2. Fred Weber

    I enjoyed this article. Thanks Gen. Satterfield. More like this blog is okay with me. 😊

    Reply
    1. Wilson Cox

      Me too. I’m one of the original readers of this blog, like Fred here, JT, Yusaf, and Dale. Keep up what you’re doing, Gen. S. We love your spot-on thinking and allowing us inside your head occasionally.

      Reply
  3. Laughing Monkey

    Good job on this article about ‘discipline.’ I certainly gain a better understanding of the idea. Today, I think we are confused about it and often think of discipline as punishment. But that is really not the case. Well done, Gen. S.

    Reply
  4. American Girl

    Hey guys, I know this is a bit early and I’m sure Gen. Satterfield would not mind, but I’m just saying that with the 4th of July coming up that we should all plan to celebrate our veterans who made our freedoms possible and also for the liberties that our US Supreme Court is helping re-establish after many years of stupid decisions. I know that the radical, psycho leftists out there have their heads exploding but I just consider them entertainment. I watch eating my popcorn. And, I want to say that be sure you celebrate properly and attend a parade or local event. Support them, show the power of Americanism.

    Reply
    1. Bernie

      Wow, American Girl, you stole my thunder. I was thinking the same thing. Get out there folks and celebrate the 4th and thank a vet while you are doing so.

      Reply
      1. Big Al

        Even vets like a good hotdog and burger once in a while. I’m having a BBQ at my house here in Dallas, Texas and any vet is welcome. For long-term commenters on this site, you know my address. Just send me an email first. Thanks.

        Reply
        1. Yusaf from Texas

          You got it, Big Al. Hey thanks buddy. I’ll be there with my wife. And, of course, my dog.

          Reply
  5. Jerome Smith

    And, folks thought this website was going to be boring and uninformed. Boy, did they get that wrong. Gen. Satterfield is on top of his game. He is providing us some understand of the basic terminology of leaders, where it is not normally discussed. But you’ve got to have a precise understanding, or you will be screwed up in the head.

    Reply
  6. Audrey

    …. and we thought discipline meant spanking your kids. Well, spank me silly.

    Reply
    1. old warrior

      “Beat” me to it Audrey. Good one! Let’s go stomp some real butt.

      Reply
      1. Dead Pool Guy

        You folks are why I read the leadership forums. Occasionally we get some real humor. 👍👍👍👍👍

        Reply
        1. Dog Man

          …… of course, and you are expecting something dull and stupid that perhaps would come from a liberal, progressive, diaper-wearing, intellectually-limited college snowflake? Yeah right. You will not find them here.

          Reply

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