By Brian Tracy
There is one special quality that you can develop that will guarantee you greater success, accomplishment and happiness in life. Of a thousand principles for success developed over the ages, this one quality or practice will do more to assure that you accomplish wonderful things with your life than anything else. This quality is so important that, if you don’t develop it to a high degree, it is impossible for you to ever achieve what you are truly capable of achieving.
Personal Management and Self Discipline
The quality that I am talking about is the quality of self-discipline. It is a habit, a practice, a philosophy and a way of living. All successful men and women are highly disciplined in the important work that they do. All unsuccessful men and women are undisciplined and unable to control their behaviors and their appetites. And when you develop the same levels of high, personal discipline possessed by the most successful people in our society, you will very soon begin to achieve the same results that they do.
All great success in life is preceded by long, sustained periods of focused effort on a single goal, the most important goal, with the determination to stay with it until it is complete. Throughout history, we find that every man or woman who achieved anything lasting and worthwhile, had engaged in long, often unappreciated hours, weeks, months and even years of concentrated, disciplined work, in a particular direction. Fortunately the quality of self-discipline is something that you can learn by continuous practice, over and over, until you master it. Once you have mastered the ability to delay gratification, the ability to discipline yourself to keep your attention focused on the most important task in front of you, there is virtually no goal that you cannot accomplish and no task that you cannot complete.
The Qualities of Successful People
I have studied successful men and women for more than 30 years. In the simplest of terms, successful men and women are those who work almost all the time on high value tasks. Unsuccessful men and women are those who waste their time by wasting the minutes and hours of each day on low value activities.
You see, there is a “crowding out” principle in time and personal management. It simply says that, if you spend all of your time on highly productive tasks, by the end of the day, you will have “crowded out” all the unproductive activities that might have distracted you from your real work. On the other hand, if you spend your time on low value activities, those low value activities will crowd out the time that you need to complete the tasks that can make all the difference in your life. And the key to this attitude toward time and personal management is always self-discipline.
There are several disciplines that you need to develop if you want to achieve your full potential. The first of these is the discipline of goals. This means that you sit down with a pad of paper, a pen and ample time. You think through and then make a written list of all the things you want to accomplish in the next one, two, three, four and five years. You organize the list into the various areas of your life; your career, your money, your family, your health and the other parts that are important to you. You set priorities among your goals and re-write your lists so that your most important goals are at the top. You then take a separate sheet of paper and you make a list of all the things that you can think of doing, right now, to move you toward the attainment of your most important goals.
Fully 97% of adult Americans are trying to live their lives without clear, specific, written goals. This is the same as setting off across an unknown country without a roadmap. You may get somewhere eventually, but it will take you much longer, and it is far more likely that you will get lost, and waste an enormous amount of time, than if you planned your trip carefully, with a roadmap, and full information about the future terrain, before you started out.
Successful People Complete High Value Tasks First
The second discipline you need to develop for success is the discipline of planning. Many people think that they are too busy to plan. Or they don’t give themselves enough time to plan. But our studies show that you will save ten minutes in execution for every minute that you invest in planning. You will get a 1000% return on your time investment by taking the time to think through, in advance, what you are going to do in the hours and days ahead.