It has been inspiring to watch Black women to do so well at the Olympics and wow the world with their talent, power, and poise. Black women are kept out of many spaces and often overlooked so seeing these Olympians take center stage, shatter records, and represent America is particularly moving. While the performances of these athletes looks easy, they are not. I’m sure these women have spent thousands of hours perfecting their craft, strengthening their bodies, and preparing their minds to execute on the largest athletic stage in the world. I’m sure that all of these women have engaged in high levels of discipline. I doubt any of them would have succeeded without discipline.
In America, we often focus more on talent as a contributor to success than on hard work. We like to fantasize that if we just had the same talent as professional athletes or artists we would be successful without much effort. Talent is important but it takes much more than talent to be successful in a particular area. I remember internally rolling my eyes when my dad would emphasize the importance of me being disciplined as a teenager. As an adult, I fully appreciate the necessity of discipline. Discipline carries us through moments that are boring or tedious. Discipline carries us through the times when we are sleepy, our body is tired, and our muscles start to ache. Discipline gets us up early and enables us to push farther. Discipline may not be sexy but it is necessary for us to succeed in all aspects of life.
The good news is that there is a long legacy of disciplined black women that have come before us. It took discipline for our mothers, aunts, great grandmothers, great-great grandmothers to cook full meals for their families after long and hard days of work. It took discipline to wake up at dawn to clean and prepare for the day. It took discipline for them to teach themselves to read by candle light. It took discipline for them to wait for hours to take a voting registration tests, be turned away and return again and again. The capacity to be disciplined is in our DNA.
How to develop discipline:
Identify an area of your life where you have not been as successful as you think you could be. This could be a side hustle, work, improving your eating, exercising more consistently, a relationship etc. Reflect on what you have not been doing that could contribute to your success. For example, if your side hustle is the area you chose, have you been putting as many hours as necessary into it? Have you been pushing yourself to make the necessary contacts for the project? Have you sought and incorporated feedback on what you have produced thus far?
Make a plan for what you will do differently starting today. Try to make your plan reasonable so that it is doable. It can feel good to over-plan and think that you will spend 3 hours a night after work on your side hustle. However, if you work long days and are tired at the end of the day that’s not realistic. Identify a consistent time when you can work on the area that you identified. Make a specific plan for what you will do during the time that you allot.
Make a commitment to yourself and possibly find someone to help hold you accountable. Decide how long you will spend sticking to the plan that you developed. If you give yourself a specific time period it will be easier to do. For example, will you give your side hustle a year of work before deciding whether or not to continue? Commitment means even when you’re anxious or disappointed, even when you’re a bit tired or sore, even when that pint of ice cream is calling your name, you stick to your plan. I’m not advocating for pushing yourself too hard because that can cause illness and injury but we often need to persevere when we are not enjoying ourselves in order to get what we want.
Implementation is simple and the most challenging aspect of discipline. Implementation involves following the plan you laid out and adjusting it as necessary. Implementation is putting hours in on your project when your friends are going to happy hour. Implementation is waking up in the morning to exercise before work. Implementation is revising that book for the 5th time before you send it to your editor. Implementation involves following through on your plan even when success is not imminent.