Discipline! That most vital and essential ingredient in all achievement and success. It’s a word that likely triggers thoughts of your youth, where parental discipline—if you were lucky enough to have parents who disciplined—set the standards, and your obedience to those standards was enforced by means of whatever system of reward and punishment your parents used. This memory may not be very pleasant for you. But then you grew up and left your home, and parental discipline was no longer there to set boundaries for you or to guide you. It’s a transition that ends badly for some, who go hog-wild and behave in a most undisciplined manner, as often seen in the lives of first-year university students.

Fortunate indeed are those who wake up from this self-indulgent and destructive lifestyle and learn to practise self-discipline—because that’s what is needed if they want to be counted among the successful achievers in life. The ones who never graduate from parental discipline to self-discipline are inevitably left behind in the valley of mediocrity, failure, and envy, never to see the world from the top of the mountain. I know what I’m talking about, because for several years after escaping parental discipline I was one of those undisciplined people, living a self-indulgent life that brought me no lasting pleasure. I ended up standing frustrated on the sidelines, watching the disciplined folks achieve success in the workplace, their relationships, their earnings, their self-respect, their personal confidence and pride.

Like the prodigal son in the parable Jesus told, I only came to my senses when I found myself up to my neck in the pig-poo of failure. I asked God to help me cultivate some self-discipline so I could get myself out of the self-indulgent failure hole and begin to climb the success mountain. All you need to climb this mountain, impossible though it may seem at times, is self-discipline, determination, and a never-say-die attitude. With God’s help I was able to develop these, and the result was the material and relational success I craved. I was able to start and build a flourishing business and have now been married 59 years—none of which would’ve been possible without self-discipline, self-denial, and God’s blessing.

Why do you need discipline? It’s because without it, you give up when things get tough, as they inevitably will. You do what you feel like doing instead of what’s necessary. You neglect the things that don’t offer immediate gratification—like most things that lead to long-term success.

So if you’re pursuing any kind of success, whether in the workplace, your business, marriage, academic studies, managing a household, fitness, the Olympics, or whatever, you need to practise self-discipline and self-denial in your life and in your thinking. They’re as essential to success as gas is to running an engine.

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.
—Jim Rohn, entrepreneur, author

No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterwards there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
Hebrews 12:11