For years now, I've had my athletes repeat phrases to help reinforce something we were focusing on.
I've been thinking on one of those expressions recently and realized that I needed to change it in a big way! The phrase was this:
"Discipline is when someone has to remind me to do the right thing, and Self-Discipline is when I do the right thing without being told."
Now the point that I was trying to make with this expression, was that Self-Discipline is a choice we make to do what we know we "should". We all grow and progress, and along with growing to dislike the word "should", I realize that the definition of self-discipline I was giving is lacking. Integrity is really what the phrase I gave is talking about.
To really understand self-discipline, we need to understand that it involves temptation. So self-discipline is really this:
"The ability to do what is right, despite temptation. (I know some associate the word "temptation" in a highly negative light. So for keeping this in mind, I'll rephrase the definition.)
"Self-Discipline is the ability to do what is right, despite the desire to do otherwise."
It takes NO self-discipline to do the right thing if you already want to.
Now what is "right" is really a matter of opinion and we each have to decide what the "right" thing to do is, but let me give some examples:
1) Someone cuts you off while driving, almost causing you to get into an accident. Now you may want to yell at them, tailgate them, or even tell them they are #1 :). Now most of us would agree that we have a right to be angry. Someone almost caused you serious injury! However, we can also probably agree that after we cool off, we wouldn't make the decision to do any of those things. When we are angry, we have a DESIRE to do something that deep down we know is not "right". Self-discipline is our ABILITY to make the right choice even when angry.
2) FOR TEENS/KIDS: You're at school and want to talk to your friend during class. The teacher has given you work and asked you to get it done in class and not distract others while they work. Now you WANT to talk to your friend, but you know that its not the right choice in this situation. Your ABILITY to wait until a more appropriate time to talk to your friend is self-discipline.
There are a billion different ways we can demonstrate self-discipline to better our lives and become an even better person. We have to choose what is right for ourselves and follow through with our decision despite the desire to do otherwise. In this way, we learn to master ourself.