Have you ever wondered what makes some people super-successful? You may put it down to their exceptional intelligence, their privileged background, the right education, connections, even just luck. But if you look at, for example, Lord Sugar or Duncan Bannatyne, it is obvious that they have been successful despite not having these advantages. And likewise, many people who have these advantages do not go on to be successful.
So what is it the X-factor that makes some people so successful? Well, there are many factors that influence a person’s level of success, but one of the most important is self-discipline. These people will do whatever it takes to achieve their goals and be successful. Jack Canfield, in his book “The Success Principles,” writes that “behind every great achievement is a story of education, training, practice, discipline, and sacrifice.” To attain success, you have to be willing to pay the price – such as devoting yourself to one activity whilst putting the rest of your life on hold.
Consider this formula: Skill + Determination + Discipline = Success.
It’s no good being naturally good at something and determined to be the best if you don’t have the self-discipline to practice enough to perfect your skills to the required level. You probably met children at school who were talented but could not be bothered with the practice and training that it takes to become great. Where are they now? In his book ‘Outliers’, Malcolm Gladwell explains a theory that researchers have come up with – that 10,000 hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with becoming a world-class expert.
Now, 10,000 hours equates to constant practice, 24 hours a day, of over a year – so, in reality, it could take more than 10 years to achieve that much practice and attain mastery of a skill. So back to the topic of self-discipline. How much do you think a top athlete trains? Rebecca Adlington, the British Olympic swimmer, whilst training for the Olympics in 2008, had a grueling training regime of 4, 5 and even 6 hours of exercise per day – not only swimming but running and weight training and often with a 5 am start. I am sure there were days when the alarm went off and all she wanted to do was roll over in bed and stay there, but she did the hard work, and her reward was two gold medals at the 2008 Olympics.
About her training in 2008, Rebecca said: “The longer you do it, the harder it gets. Every year is harder. To keep improving it has to be like that. I pushed myself harder than ever in my training cycle up to the Olympic Trials. I’ve been crying in training, I’ve been in so much pain. Sometimes I finish training so tired I wonder: ‘What am I doing this for?’ Then you do an amazing swim and you know why.”
So, what is self-discipline? It is making yourself do things that you don’t want to do or you find hard but that you know will get you achieving your goals. Not many of us are training for the Olympics, but in our businesses we still need the self-discipline to carry on picking up the phone and calling prospects, going out and meeting people, researching new products or markets, performance managing our staff – things that may put us outside our comfort zone and are therefore easy to put off. If you are the sort of person that tends to opt for the easy way out, there are a number of things you can do:
- Having clear goals that you have written down in detail and that you refer to regularly will help you to focus on what needs to be done. An even more powerful method is to tell your goals to somebody else – although we might let ourselves down, we are less likely to let others down.
- Plan your day, week, month and year to ensure that you are making time to do the things that you need to do to achieve your goals. Have a default diary and a 90-day plan and reward yourself when you achieve a milestone.
- In his book “Eat that Frog”, Brian Tracy sets out a simple method to move towards your goals every day. Evaluate what needs to be done, prioritize your tasks and then don’t stop until you have finished the most important task. If first thing in the morning you do something that you have been putting off, then it won’t be hanging over you all day and you will have a great feeling of achievement.
- It is very easy to be distracted by things that are ‘urgent’ but not ‘important’ – i.e. things that do not help us to progress towards our goals. There are never enough hours in the day to do everything, so we need to have a good system for prioritizing all of our tasks and learn to ‘Put first things first’.
- Be aware of your environment. Being successful is hard work, so try to be in an environment that gives you energy, not takes it away. It is very hard to be motivated when you are surrounded by negative people, so think what you can do to get more positive people around you.
- If you still need help, get a professional coach who will help keep you motivated and accountable.
Remember – the only thing that is stopping you being as successful as you want to be is YOU. So get out there, take action and go for gold!