Why Discipline is More Important than Ambition
A commonality amongst most of the people I look up to and admire isn’t necessarily talent. A lot of people are successful, not because of some naturally-occurring edge, but rather because of a work-ethic, persistence and discipline, all three of which are skills that can be developed. Whereas you can’t teach talent, you certainly can learn how to be disciplined. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a lot this week. Discipline is the key, not only to achieving your goals, but also to maintaining good health (Both physical and mental), relationships, and nearly everything else in life.
Take my life for example. I’m not exactly naturally good at anything. I have a curiosity for learning and I like to be challenged, but when it comes to God-given talent, I have very little. I’m not too athletic, I have awful balance, and I generally find physical endeavours to be boring and too much work. However, I run a lot for a fella who despises running. My writing hasn’t always been good (And you can argue still that it’s not lol) but I’ve put thousands of hours into improving it. The only thing that’s ever made me good at anything is a work ethic and a level of discipline that I absolutely learned.
Of course, we’ll excuse ourselves from being disciplined with arguments to persuade ourselves that work ethic, discipline and persistence are genetically inherited. Sometimes they may be, but more often than not, discipline is instilled by consistency. Getting your work done, no matter what’s going on within you and around you, is a skill not a talent and we all have the ability to perfect any skill.
Discipline in this sense, is far more important than ambition. Ambition is utterly useless without discipline. We all have ambitions that we never fulfil because we aren’t willing to work at it. “I’d love to do X”, “I’d love to be Y”, are just empty dreams without discipline. Having ambition isn’t as rare as you think it is. Everyone has ambition. Not everyone has a sense of discipline, even though they could have it if they cared enough.
The people in my life who are disciplined are rarely the extremely talented ones, but they’re always the most successful ones. My housemate runs 6 days a week, every week without fail. He doesn’t do it it out of love, and he often doesn’t want to run at all but he still goes. That’s purely discipline.
If you want to achieve something, be that a huge goal, or daily mental health, I think you need to reframe how to you think you might achieve these things. Success in any field has less to do with your natural ability than it does to do with your ability to self-discipline. If you want good mental health, get your 8 hours of sleep every single night. If you want to get in shape, stop eating badly and start running. If you want to write that book, stay in on Friday nights and get typing.
Ambition is so common that it’s completely unremarkable. The ones who are remarkable are the ones who do all the boring, tedious, repetitive things every day without fail. Most of us fail to be disciplined because we have all the ambition, but none of the persistent drive to do the same things over and over and over, every single day of the year.