Self-discipline is the master key to effectiveness in sales—or in anything else. It’s the ability to keep the commitments that you make to yourself, the ability to delay gratification. It’s also the foundation of character.
Whenever I speak about the attributes that all successful people seem to share, someone always wants to start with honesty, integrity, or courage. All of these are a subset of self-discipline. Here’s why:
The ability to be honest requires the self-discipline to tell the truth, even when the truth will hurt you.
We are built to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Because being honest can cause you pain, it requires that you act in spite of the personal pain, the risk, or the loss that you may suffer.
It’s easy to want to retreat into the comfort that will come from avoiding the difficult conversation. It’s easy to want to avoid telling the truth, especially when something is your fault and when it may damage your relationships.
Self-discipline is what allows you to be honest when it isn’t easy to be honest. That honesty, your ability to deal with the uncomfortable, makes you someone worth doing business with.
It’s tough to always walk your walk. But that’s what integrity means. It means that your word is your bond, and that you can be counted on. It takes self-discipline to always do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done.
Sometimes it’s difficult to do what needs done. Sometimes you just don’t feel like it. Oftentimes there are more pleasant distractions that can easily derail you from what you planned to do.
Self-discipline is what allows you to keep your word and to walk your talk.
Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s taking action even though you are gripped by fear. Courage requires the self-discipline to put yourself in harm’s way. It’s the ability to get yourself to take action over the internal dialogue that says you should retreat to safety.
Self-discipline is what allows you to stand when inside you are quaking with fear. You have a commitment to something greater, some higher value, and you are willing to keep that commitment regardless of the price you will pay.
Of all the things that self-discipline enables, it most importantly gives one the ability to delay gratification. It gives you the ability to trade a lesser reward now for a greater reward later.
You might avoid a little pain now by being dishonest, but you will be rewarded later with all of the benefits that accrue to those who can be trusted and who are willing to tell the truth even when it comes at a high personal cost.
You might get the pleasure of nine minutes of extra sleep in the morning, but self-discipline provides you with much greater rewards later, after you exercised your integrity, walked your talk, and kept your commitments.
You may want to retreat into the warm certainty and comfort that retreat provides when you are confronted with challenges, but self-discipline gives you the courage to act in the face of personal harm. Fortunately, most of us don’t face physical threats often. But we do face all kinds of situations that require moral courage. Self-discipline is what supports that courage. It allows you to act even when you put yourself at risk by doing so.
This is why self-discipline or self-mastery is the cornerstone of all of the attributes that allow you to succeed. Many of them are built on your ability to first keep your commitments to self.
How do you exercise your self-discipline?
Have you ever been called upon to be honest when you had much to lose by doing so? How were you able to get yourself to what was right in the face of loss?
Why is it critical that you walk your talk? How does your self-discipline enable integrity?
What is courage made of?
What small rewards that you might receive now do you trade for larger rewards later?