Self-discipline is key to business, personal success

Maintain focus and avoid distractions. FILE
Maintain focus and avoid distractions. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

My high school teacher often used to say that the single greatest determiner of success in life is self-discipline.

He observed that the students who excelled in exams and in life were not necessarily the most brilliant or the ones who had the highest entry grades but the most disciplined.

He described self-discipline as the ability to do something you do not want in order to get something you want.

Collins dictionary defines self-discipline as the ability to control yourself and to make yourself work hard or behave in a particular way without needing anyone else to tell you what to do.

Self-discipline is a key pillar in entrepreneurial success. The owner’s ability to control themselves, the business resources, work hard, make numerous sacrifices for the business are the hallmark of self-discipline.


Most business failures are actually attributed to owners’ or managers’ lack of self-discipline is most areas of operation.

For instance financial indiscipline, where the owner overspends business money and end up not paying employees, suppliers or taxman is a perfect recipe for failure.

Fortunately, self-discipline is not inborn attribute. It is something learnable and we can all learn and succeed.

The following are simple steps that you can use to develop and lead a self-disciplined successful life:

First, know what you want. Be specific and write down what you want to achieve and by what time. For example you set your goal to be ‘I want to increase my turnover from ten million to twelve million next year’. This will guide you on what you need to do.

Second, have a strong ‘why.’ Self-discipline is about sacrifice and you cannot sacrifice without a strong reason for doing so. List all the reasons why you want to achieve your objective and the consequences of not achieving them.

Third, identify all possible obstacles so that you can plan ahead how to overcome them. You must make intentions and deliberate moves to implement your plans. You will not wake up automatically; you will not save money automatically; you will not be visible in the market automatically. You have to decide and implement everything that matters intentionally against many odds.

Fourth, develop new behaviours and habits to replace the old ones that prevented you from succeeding in the first place. You must do things differently to get different results. For instance if you may discover that you were not successful because you have not been marketing your products consistently or because of poor spending. In this case you have to develop health marketing and spending habits such as planning and prioritising daily in order to knock out the old ones.

Finally, maintain focus and avoid distractions. The ability to focus on a single task until it is satisfactorily completed is the greatest attribute you can cultivate and nurture.

In business there are many distractions that will come your way disguised as opportunities. You have to learn to say no and focus on your plan. This too requires self-discipline because quite often the deals are very appealing.