If there’s one thing that my coaching and my own participation in sport has taught me, it is this: You will never achieve any modicum of success without being self disciplined. It would be ridiculous to think that you could go to the pool once and suddenly become a world class swimmer. The acquisition of the skills and the development of the necessary fitness require a high level of consistent commitment over a long period of time. In sport, champions often start before they are 10 years old, train most days of their lives and don’t achieve their success until they reach their twenty’s or thirty’s, by which time they have dedicated most of their life to the attainment of their goal.

I believe the same is true for success in any activity, however many people in business baulk at the idea of repeating an activity that they aren’t very good at, over and over again in order to perfect it. I’ve heard many people say after a couple of small failures in their job, that they don’t have what it takes to be successful. I wish I had a dollar for every sales person who has said to me that they don’t like cold calling or for every manager who says they hate presenting to large groups.

Do you think a top athlete “likes” getting up at 5 am on a cold winter’s morning and putting their body through a couple of hours of painful training?  Do you think they “like” going to bed early most nights and having little or no social life?  Do you think they “like” having to regulate what they eat and drink so as to keep their body fat levels as low as possible?  What they know is that if they want to win then they have to be disciplined in all the areas of their life that affect their performance.

If you want to be the top sales person in your company, a world class communicator or a great manager you will need the same levels of self discipline. You’ll need to have a commitment to learning the necessary skills and an extremely high level of consistent repetition of those skills. You will need to experience many failures in order to get good at something and then many more to become excellent at it. You will need to perform the things that you feel are “painful” until you perfect them and then raise the activity level so that the new task becomes “painful”.

An individual who has learnt self discipline and applies the skills to the attainment of their business goals is the type of person that every company is seeking to have on their staff.

Now, let’s face it, everyone knows what self discipline is and how it can be achieved but as usual just “knowing” something doesn’t ensure we can do it.  Keeping ourselves focused and disciplined often takes massive effort but this ability is not restricted to the talented few; anyone can achieve these levels of discipline. Perhaps the reason we don’t stay focused is that we don’t understand what mental habits top sports people are constantly striving to achieve. As you read the list below, score yourself out of 10 on each of the attributes.

1. COMMITMENT. An athlete will often decide on a 3 or 4 year training plan to achieve a relatively small increase in performance. The key to their success is the discipline to stick to that plan. Commitment is doing what we said we would do, when we said we would do it, long after the mood in which we said it has passed.

2. A “DO IT NOW” MENTALITY. A sports person knows that they cannot make up for lost time. If they don’t go training, compete in the race or take the action NOW, that opportunity is lost to them forever.

3. A BELIEF IN “PAYING THE PRICE”. Because of their commitment to training all athletes know that there is no such thing as something for nothing. Anything that is worth achieving will require hard sustained effort. Instant success with no effort is either cheating or it does not exist.

4. CONSISTENCY. A sportsman keeps a training diary which logs every action he takes, no matter how small, and what result that action produced.  How else can he discover which of his actions are working and which ones are not and therefore what to modify in the plan?

5. CONTROLLING FEAR. You will rarely hear a sport person say something like “that goal is too hard” or “I’m not good enough to achieve it”. You will usually hear “what do I need to do in order to get my goal?” To an athlete there can be no such thing as failure, only learning. If they have a poor performance or lose a race then they MUST learn from the event or they will never correct the mistake.

6. FAITH IN THEIR COACH. Every sportsman will decide whose comments and advice he will be using and whose words he will ignore. There are many people in this world who seem to enjoy finding fault in others efforts and achievements. An athlete has to develop total faith in their coach and in the coach’s training plan. Only then will they be able to give 100% effort.

7. CONTROLLING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS. How stupid would it be to stand on the start line and be thinking “This is going to hurt” or “I’m not going to win this race”!

8. FOCUS. How much mental focus does an athlete need in order to perform at their best? What happens to their performance if they get distracted and are not concentrating?

9. DECLARING GOALS. All sports men and women have stretching, well defined, accurate goals that are constantly discussed and modified with their coach.

10. SELF BELIEF. How well does an athlete perform when their self belief is low? How hard do the athlete and their coach work on that self belief?

Now add up your score and see what figure you get out of 100. Not only will this tell you how well you’d perform as an international athlete, it will also tell you what attributes you’ll need to work on to become indispensable to your employers or clients.

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