Nancy (not her real name) looked at her final semester results in her 2nd year and realized that her CGPA was a meagre 1.99 out of a total of 5.0. All she could think of was her poor parents back at home, how they had struggled to raise money to send her to the university – the first in her family. Her two older siblings couldn’t proceed beyond high school and had to resort to learning a trade. She had made almost straight A’s in her high school promotion exams known as West African Examination Council, WAEC for short – those in Nigeria will be familiar with this. So naturally, she was seen as the most intelligent of the lot with a bright future. Parents, neighbours and the extended family members had to do sacrifice a lot to raise money to send her to the University. She always had good grades and thought to herself “University will be just a walk-over”
Perhaps with such arrogance, she went into the University thinking to herself that that will be just a “walk in the park”. However, life has different ways of teaching us valuable lessons. Here she was after 4 semesters, with a CGPA that bore no resemblance to the academically gifted student she had always been. The scales were finally dropping and reality setting in. She was dejected, frustrated and depressed. Her roommates noticed her mood swings but couldn’t do much to help her. It was at this point, I met Nancy. She was 2 years my junior. After one of my free tutorial sessions I used to organize for lower years students, she approached me with teary eyes and said “my life is finished, I have disappointed my parents.”
I spent the next 40 minutes or so sitting quietly and listening to her as she narrated her story. Thereafter, I probed and asked several questions to understand the root cause of her present predicament. Over several weeks, we spotted things that needed to change and behaviours that had to be imbibed. One of the things we did was to identify and closely observe some academic high-flyers in her class as well as mine. We tried to find out what made them different from the others. We were able to see some patterns and traits. It was indeed a valuable exercise and lesson for both of us. With the help of some books I was reading at the time, like Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do, we put together an action plan. As we did this, I also learned a lot of valuable lessons in the process. I discovered something unique about successful people and that is this – they are disciplined!
What is discipline? According to the dictionary, “discipline is the quality of being able to behave and work in a controlled way which involves obeying particular rules or standards” Look at the successful people in ay field of enterprise in life, study them closely and you will agree that discipline in engrained in their DNA. Discipline involves direction, training, regimen, control, focus and keeping to certain standards irrespective of external circumstance. You see, most people get motivated by different things in their pursuit of success, whether it is money, fame, or whatever, but it takes a high dose of discipline to stay on track. In essence, motivation may get you started on a goal, but it’s discipline that keeps you going. Nancy learned the hard way, but luckily it wasn’t too late for her as she was able to turn her results around in the last 4 semesters. She went to work on herself and stayed focused on her goal which was to graduate with a Second-Class Upper degree. 3 years later, when I met her at the annual alumni convention, it was a completely different story! She graduated with a 3.64 CGPA! We had a long chat as usual, several factors contributed to her success, but one that kept re-echoing as she talked about her experience was discipline.
We always hear people say “no pain, no gain” The reality is that we must learn to trust the process. Many today always look for quick-wins, quick-fixes and short-cuts. There is a process and system that guarantees a high chance of success. You either suffer the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Also, there is a relationship between the cross and the crown, between Goliath and the Kingship, between the wilderness and the Palace, the prison and Pharaoh’s presence. No matter how talented you are, if you lack discipline, you can only go thus far. Someone once said “discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability” That refining fire is the process, the learning curve, the pain, the sacrifice, the price you have to pay to get the prize. The road may be tough, but the result is priceless. Ask Cristiano Ronaldo, Usain Bolt, Mohammed Ali, you will get the same answer – you’ve got to keep doing what needs to be done even when you don’t feel like doing it.
One of the most important areas of discipline is the mind. The issues of life flow from here. Do you see a man with an undisciplined mind? That’s a man with a disorganized life. Discipline brings organization and order into your life. It keeps you focused and makes your decision-making easier. Discipline is the bridge that connects your dreams to your reality. It is that energy that keep you on the right track even when you don’t feel like going on. For example, I have a discipline of listening to something inspiring every morning. No matter how I feel, I just have to.
My favourite apps is Amazon Audible. For those who find it a bit challenging to read, I recommend you try this Audible. I love this app because I can listen anywhere – in the car, the gym, during break at work. It has probably the world’s largest collection of audiobooks. Some of the bestsellers in my Audible library include Becoming, The Magic of Thinking Big, Uncover Your Potential, High Performance Habits, The Power of Habit, You Are a Badass, Girl Wash Your Face, Think and Grow Rich, How To Win Friends and Influence People and a host of other life-changing books. Another great app you can consider Amazon app is the Kindle Store which is very mobile-friendly.
An old friend I introduced this app to, sent me this:
“Before 2017, I was living a reclusive life because I felt I missed my life-track and my dreams were crumbling before my very eyes. I was avoiding people and living miserably…I sat down and had an honest and meeting with myself. I realized that I wasn’t failing because of what anyone did to me. I was failing because of what I was doing to myself through my mind. I took decisions and wrote them down. I read books…I started going to church and meeting with people and socializing. Behold, I achieved in 1 year what I hadn’t achieved in 6 years. I became more beautiful, more confident and happier. My faith is growing and I’m paying less attention to things that don’t count on my journey”
I really don’t know how else to say it, but the reality is that unless you change, nothing changes. The change and results you are looking for externally starts first from within. Discipline is the foundation upon which all lasting success is built, without it, failure is inevitable and success impossible. You must cultivate the habit of discipline and have a big picture view, by learning to connect today’s actions to tomorrow’s results.
As I wrap up this blog, I want to challenge you to consider making some changes to your life right now.
- Decision: Decide right now what you want to achieve, right them down and probably paste them where you can see them every day.
- Feed Your Mind: Begin to feed your mind with the right information, get a book, if you can’t read or don’t have the aptitude to do so, get an Amazon Audible or Kindle app or any other ones out there. Find the right information and start every day to feed your mind.
- Take Baby Steps: Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. Mark Cortes once said “A small step toward recovery is giant progress.” Also, Lao Tzu affirmed by saying: “A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step.” The famous Confucius summed it up with this statement: “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
- Celebrate Small Victories: Don’t be hard on yourself and also don’t expect that everything will change overnight. Arnold Schwarzenegger was once quoted as saying “look for small victories and build on that. Each small victory, even if is just getting up five minutes earlier, gives you confidence. You realize that these little victories make you feel great and keep you going. You realize that being paralyzed be fear of failure is worse than failure”