Oswald Letter

Use discipline to achieve your goals in 2016

Goalsby Dan Oswald

The other day, I brought in a couple dozen donuts for a meeting we were having at the office. Since it was the first week back to work in the new year, I must admit I was curious about how many of those donuts would get eaten. How resolute would my colleagues be about their New Year’s resolutions?

Much to my amazement, not a single donut was eaten during the two-hour meeting. (They did disappear quickly once they arrived in the break room, so not everyone at the company had the same discipline exhibited by those in my meeting.)

As you chase your goals for 2016, it’s important that you exhibit self-discipline. The ability to pursue what you think is right despite temptations to abandon your goal is critical to your success. There’s a saying that aptly demonstrates this point: If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.

How many rabbits are you chasing this year? I won’t say you should have only one goal, but if you have too many, you’re asking for trouble. Start chasing too many rabbits, and you won’t catch any. That’s why people who exhibit self-discipline are often so successful. They make sure they pursue what is most important to them first. Once they achieve that goal, they are free to pursue their next endeavor.

The other day, I read about a study that found self-discipline has more of an impact on academic success than IQ. At first blush, that seems like an extraordinary claim—an individual’s raw intelligence is less crucial to academic success than self-discipline. But think about it for a moment. Consider the most intelligent person you know. Is that person also the most successful? Now think about the most disciplined person you know. How successful is he or she?

In my experience, the highly disciplined people tend to have achieved a greater level of success than the most intelligent. Those who exhibit laser-like focus, the ability to pursue their goals despite temptations to abandon them, are much more successful.

It makes sense. Think about dieting—you don’t have to be a genius or even a physician to adequately understand the basic premise of a diet well enough to follow one successfully. But to diet successfully, you must exhibit some self-control—all the understanding in the world won’t get you squat if you can’t exhibit the self-discipline my colleagues did in that meeting last week. The relentless pursuit of a target is more likely to produce the desired result.

At the risk of using too many “rabbit” analogies, all of this brings to mind the story of the tortoise and the hare. Clearly the hare was the faster of the two and should have easily won the race. But while the hare was blessed with the ability to run fast, the tortoise was intentional, deliberate, and self-disciplined in his pursuit of his goal—and we all know who won the race. See, discipline does make the difference.

If you want to achieve whatever goals you have set for yourself in 2016, you must be intentional in pursuing them. Study the synonyms for intentional, and you will see just how important it is if you want to succeed. Deliberate. Calculated. Conscious. Intended. Planned. Knowing. Purposeful. The list goes on, but the ability to be intentional and self-disciplined is critical to achieving your goals.

Clear away the clutter. Determine what’s most important to you in 2016, and then pursue it relentlessly. Don’t abandon it to other temptations. Don’t be distracted. Exhibit self-control. Be conscious of your goal at all times so you don’t lose sight of what you have set out to achieve. Be purposeful in pursuing the goal. And more than anything, be disciplined in chasing what you most want.