The Most Important Discipline

Of the many “disciplines” I write about, there is one that I maintain is the most important of all. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was just one thing you had to do that would solve all the other puzzles? The answer is, yes, it would be. And, in a very real way, you get your wish.

Now, before I wrap this up in a bow, I have to point out that there are nine big pictures areas of mental discipline that I write about. I refer to these as The Nine Disciplines of Sustainable Growth, or sometimes just the Nine Disciplines. I’ll skip their definitions here because they are easily found on my website or in my book (Grow on Purpose: The Nine Disciplines of Sustainable Growth), but they are the Disciplines of Living, Learning, Planning, Practicing, Restoring, Attracting, Loving, Creating, and Centering.

Sometimes this whole big list of important subjects can seem to be intimidating. It doesn’t need to be a huge challenge to make sense of it all, but sometimes it helps to have a place to get started before digging into everything else.

So… Where to begin? What’s the most important thing on that list?

I’ll spare you the game of cat and mouse and skip the many reasons I could say that each of the Nine Disciplines is the most important. They’re all important in my view or I wouldn’t include them in the model at all. They all do something I think is vital to long term sustainable growth.

But the single most important of all Disciplines is the Discipline of Practicing. Why…? Because it provides a real starting point. It lets you dig into whatever you’re interested in or whatever your role is without feeling like you have to satisfy a bunch of other external requirements. If you just get started at doing what you’re passionate about in whatever way you’re able to, you’ll learn along the way and discover all the various puzzles you could encounter – AND, you’ll probably find solutions to those puzzles.

If a person got started in a profession with almost no preparatory training and sincerely intended to improve along the way, I believe he or she would probably discover all of the other disciplines along the way and figure out how to manage them. It might take longer than having these things spelled out early in the game. But puzzles would present themselves and a resourceful human being would seek out or develop solutions to those puzzles. It’s what we do.

But there is no substitute for getting started. You can make a lot of other mistakes and not scuttle your entire opportunity to succeed in a given role. But if you don’t get started and get busy with your craft, you’ll go nowhere. Time will pass and you’ll still be wondering how things might have worked out for you if only you would have… tried. Put in the effort. Given it a shot. Taken the risk. If only you had faced the task of beginning and then stayed with it.

I’ll give you one aspect of the Discipline of Practicing to add to this most basic and most important of all concepts. Here it is… Ready? Make consistent daily effort. Do something every day to chip away at your practice. If you believe it’s important, be all about it. If you want to be stronger, hit the weights, every day. Rest days are overrated. You can always vary your intensity and your routines. But until your practice is highly refined, you don’t need days off. You need practice.

Do you want to learn to play a musical instrument? Piano, maybe? Practice. Every single day. Open up the music book and put your fingers on the keys. Play a scale. Do it again. And, again. And, again. Until it’s easy. And, then practice more.

I’ve heard it said that amateurs practice until they can do it right. Professionals practice until they can’t do it wrong. I might take it a step further and say that virtuosos practice until they are beyond right or wrong, and whatever they’re doing is beautiful in its own way. How good do you want to be?

Do you want to make more sales? Talk to someone today. Do it again tomorrow. Take no days off. OK, maybe you feel like one day per week should be a family day. Fine. Give yourself ten minutes that day to review your product or service information to refresh your memory. Role play an interaction in your head. Touch that role every day.

Brain wiring is formed by frequency of repetition over time and emotional significance. If it matters to you, the brain wiring will be stronger. If you touch it daily, you’ll keep those perishable skills from falling away. Take days off and watch how hard it is to pick it back up again after a break. You’ll need a hammer and chisel to chip off the rust and then the rationalization and excuse making will kick in. It’s harder to start up again than it is to just keep doing the important thing every day. Don’t let society fool you into thinking you’re weak and that you’ll burn out. Just change your intensity or adjust your program here and there for variety’s sake, but touch this activity Every – Single – Day.

Just practice. Just train. Less talk. More action. Get after it.


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