Discipline is so sexy


There are some powerful concepts that get talked about a lot in the work I do as part of the team PlanetK2.

They are often spoken of with passion and intensity. If we ever did one of those word cloud things, I suspect the following would appear in quite big letters:

Performance. Results. Goals. Culture. Coaching. Motivation. Engagement. Teams.

What would only ever appear in teeny weeny little letters, if at all, is discipline. Discipline seems to have got lost as a vital ingredient in any high performance recipe and I think that’s a shame. After all, discipline is very sexy.

Discipline for consistently delivering high performance.

In the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with high performing leaders, teams, team members in the worlds of business, elite sport, medicine and the performing arts, discipline is the hallmark of every single one. It’s always there, yet often only spoken of in hushed tones and in private. It’s like discipline has become the Voldemort of work.

  • Discipline gets shit done when we don’t feel like doing it. It’s what gets you out for that training session when the rain is horizontal, the weather’s generally biblical, the house is warm and Love Island is on.
  • Discipline is what gets you into your performance zone, even when things may be a bit shit or something’s upset you. It enables leaders to be the leaders they need to be because of the impact on those around them.
  • Discipline is what values precious time and energy. It means meetings are well run and value everyone’s time. It means the papers go in on time and we get to go home on time.
  • Discipline means we practice winning habits rather than just do what we feel like at the time and so it means we win more often.
  • Discipline enables us to be the consistent factor in an inconsistent world, giving us a sense of control and autonomy in our lives, whether it’s morning meditation or that military thing of “just making your bed every day” as the secret ingredient of high performance.

Discipline trumps talent.

Michael Johnson, the legendary U.S. athlete (and best athletics pundit in the universe), talked about how there were several athletes at college who had more talent than him, but that he did something really important that they didn’t. “Whenever there was a training session, I showed up.”

Don’t know about you, but that sounds a bit like discipline to me. Relying on motivation is like relying on the sunshine. Life is great when it shows up but you can’t always be sure that it will. On dark winter days when it just can’t be found, discipline is the guardian angel of getting shit done.

Keep it balanced.

At this point, you might be wondering about whether my love for discipline might mean that there are far too many restraints (see what I did there?) in my world for me to experience a full life. It’s OK, you can exhale. Please don’t worry about me or feel you should phone my mother.

I have an equal, if not greater, love of not being disciplined too. That’s as much me (maybe more) as the other. My body is a temple, though sometimes it’s a nightclub too. Sometimes it’s one of those temples that monkeys have shat all over.

Discipline is clearly not the only thing that matters, but it does really fucking matter. So why has it become the great unsaid?

Maybe it’s just too sexy.