Gifts of Character: Discipline – The Definition

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Each month we will discuss one gift of character with all of our students. This month the word is Discipline.  This life skill will be defined in the following ways for our students.

Young students: Discipline means: I work before I play!

Older students: Discipline means:  Training oneself to do what need to get done, when it needs to get done.

We are not your typical after school activity, in fact we are an education center, working with students on physical self defense skills, while empowering families to bring out the best in our children and ourselves – through the martial arts.  We believe every child has 52 gifts  in them already.  They only need to be taught how to grow and use them in their life.  Balanced Life Skills serves parents, teachers and students to reach that goal.

If you would like to see Joe Van Deuren and Balanced Life Skills at work,  TRY CLASSES FOR FREE for 2 weeks.

Work and Reward

In less than a week, I will be back in the U.S. which is excellent. My training is winding down for the year, and my classmates are all getting excited about what they are going to do for their holiday this year. For me, I am heading back to Maryland again to find some work and make some money so I can continue my training in 2013.

With the new year approaching, the time is right to try to glean some lesson from the year past and look to the future. Here’s what I’m thinking now.

I think everything — everything — we do is like pushing a rock up a hill, like the myth of Sisyphus who was punished by the gods to eternally push a great stone uphill but never reach the top. But unlike Sisyphus, our existence is not punishment, and there is respite and there is success. If we push forward hard enough for long enough, we can reach plateaus or even peaks — where we can rest, gain perspective, and enjoy the easy downhill. But if we don’t push hard enough or stop too soon, our rock rolls back to the beginning and we start again.

Here at the kungfu school, we see this a lot as the holiday approaches. Every day we struggle to put home and rest out of our minds and get to work. If we knuckle down and push with everything we have, really focus, the training becomes its own reward. But stay distracted, and the whole thing feels like a waste of time. What you get out of training is dependent on what you put in, but there is a threshold that must be passed with effort before the reward appears. Each day of training is a little hill, and if we want to reach the satisfying down-slope we have to wrestle ourselves to the top first.

It would be, of course, easier not to push at all, and there is a time and place for stillness. But if we live, we must move. Here at the kungfu school, we have our teachers and Shifu to keep us moving forward. Life outside the kungfu school has forces that goad all of us onward. But those forces can only keep us pressed to the stone; we ourselves have to take responsibility for moving it enough to succeed.

There is an element of faith in this. There is a enormous rock in front of you and you can’t see the top of the hill or what is ahead. You have to believe that success or respite will be the reward for your work, or you will never find the necessary fortitude to face the apparent futility.

Also, one can not tackle every hill. There are choices to be made. We must decide which rocks to push up which hills. But since life will not let us stop pushing altogether, we are best served by picking one rock and one hill at a time and pushing until the reward appears. Trying to juggle too many rocks, or shoving at one rock but never sustaining enough to earn satisfaction, we become mired in futility and frustration.

In my mind, Sisyphus’s task was no more than any of us face. His curse was to each time succumb to despair, to forever lack the faith and the will to persevere to an invisible goal. But the future is unknown, so all our goals are invisible. I think that in truth, the hills we climb are never as big as we imagine, and the greatest part of our time working and living is spent trying to find in ourselves the determination to push through to the end. We all have to struggle on the slope, but we don’t all have to get stuck there.

I hate it when my blogs get preachy like this, but I write for myself as much as anyone, and sometimes I need to hear this stuff 🙂

Life Skills: Discipline and Goals Part 4: Setting Goals

Teaching character and life skills to students

Everyone would agree that achieving goals require self discipline. It does not matter if the goals we have are about how we eat, our finances, personal relationships, organizing our work, reducing our television watching or anything else it all requires self discipline.

The fourth part of gaining self discipline is more than just saying we are going to do something – it is in fact the step of setting self – discipline goals. This fourth step is the basis of all the rest that we have talked about. If you do not have clearly defined, short term and long term goals – you have no need for self control, motivation or persistence.

Self discipline goals are about self improvement and the goals must be clearly defined or specific with dates or time frames included. Simply wanting something is not enough, but when you are specific about what you want, when you want to accomplish it by, and set up specific actions and schedule then you can use self control, motivation, and persistence in reaching your self improvement goal.

If I have a goal of eating 5 portions of vegetables every day, then we can ask ourselves every time we eat if we are demonstrating self discipline in our eating habit and working to reach the goal. We may have to use self control and not eat something less healthy, or we may have to rethink our motivation or remind ourselves that individuals with self discipline would persist in getting all of the portions in to the day. How would a self disciplined person thnk or act? When you demonstrate self discipline you will thank yourself later for being strong, exercising self control, and persisting with your specific goal.

This is the fourth in a series of post on self discipline:

Part one: Self Control

Part two: Motivation

Part three: Persistence


Life Skills: Discipline and Goals Part 3: Persistance

Teaching character and life skills to students

The third component was best summed up by Winston Churchill when he said, “Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.” In one word that would be PERSISTENCE. The majority of those that we would consider to be highly successful are also ones that suffered setbacks, one after the other. But due to their persistence they were able to achieve what they set out to do.

Persistence is something that you have to set your mind to from the very beginning. When you begin with a great deal of motivation and self control, it is persistence even in the face of failure that you will experience self discipline and have success in reaching your goals.

Persistence does not come off the shelf, it cannot be bought – but it is inside each of us already. What keeps some from persisting though is fear of failure, what others might think or how they may look foolish in the eyes of their peers.

So now we have self control, motivation, and persistance and in our next post the final component. You will be surprised by this one as there is a difference in personal _____ and self discipline _____.

Part one: Self Control

Part two: Motivation

Part four: Setting Goals


Life Skills: Discipline and Goals Part 2 – Motivation

Teaching character and life skills to students

In developing self discipline the second of the four key factors or components is motivation.  If there is no motivation to reach the goal we have set, then disciplining or regulating ourselves to accomplish this goal becomes much harder to do and it is far more likely that we will stop and not reach our goal.

If the motivation is external as in, you have to go to work-not because you want to, you have to study for a test-so your parents do not get mad, you go on a diet because your doctor/friend/spouse says you should, it is not likely that you will be motivated to be disciplined in the efforts.

However if you have a strong enough WHY you are doing your job, studying in school, eating healthy, that strong motivation of why will create a self-discipline that would be very difficult to break.

All of us are motivated in different ways but if we are having trouble with motivation to be disciplined on a specific task or goal, one way putting some pressure on ourselves is to tell our friends and others about the goal that we have and allow them to help us stay the course.

Finally in regard to our children, we may not be sure what motivates them, but our goal is for them to find their motivation from within.  With that in mind, external rewards and praise for winning / medals / grades and other external things are less important than helping them to see the results they get with great effort and self discipline.  Praising that in our child will help them to continue on the path of self discipline.

Part one: Self Control

Part three: Persistence

Part four: Setting Goals


Life Skills: Discipline and Goals Part 1-Self Control

Teaching character and life skills to students

Parents – So you say you want your child to develop self-discipline?  Do you know what is required to strengthen this quality in ourselves and our children and how to develop self – discipline?

There are four necessary  components to achieve success in developing self discipline that all of us will recognize when we think about those that have started a diet but did not follow through, that wanted to write a book, start a new business, achieve black belt rank, get straight A’s, save a certain amount of money or what ever the goal is that was not achieved.

The four components of self discipline that all need to be strengthened are: Self Control, Motivation, Persistence, Goals.  Anyone who started writing a book, could never start the business that they dreamed of, quit at yellow belt, or gave up on a monetary goal, most likely did so due to a lack of self discipline.

Aristotle is quoted as saying:  “I count him braver who overcomes his desire than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.”

Learning to say NO to ourselves and our personal cravings is one of the first steps in developing self control.  We are marketed to and sold on the idea constantly in the media of what we ‘need’, when in fact what is really necessary and what are simple urges or desires are quite different.  Can we tell the difference in our own lives and can we help our children to learn the difference.  Will we take the time to consider the differences or just act on the urge?   This is simply one of the hardest with so many forces (external) telling us what we need to look and feel successful.

Can we deny what we want or crave?  Can we fight the influence of advertising and our accessibility to so much?  Can we teach our children by example and action what self control is or will we teach them to give in to the brainwashing of society and our own personal cravings to get or take what we want.  Without self control, self discipline is impossible.

I will continue this discussion in later articles on the other parts of gaining Self Discipline.

Part two: Motivation

Part three: Persistence

Part four: Setting Goals