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Discipline or Disappointment

February 27, 2024

About a month ago, the University of Alabama’s legendary head football coach, Nick Saban, announced his retirement.

It was a devastating day for Alabama fans and a joyous occasion for every college football coach, player, or fan who has ever been a victim of his success.

Throughout his storied career, Coach Saban has frequently made statements that apply far beyond the football field. Here’s one of my favorites: “You’re going to suffer through one of two things in life: either the pain of discipline or the pain of disappointment.” This truth drove him and his players to focus on process and preparation and to outwork their competition year after year. 

Saban is right. Life is hard, and pain is inevitable. But the question is this:

Will you pursue the pain of discipline or endure the pain of disappointment?

Think about it. The degree to which you are disciplined has a correlation to how often you are disappointed. There are times we will face disappointment due to factors outside of our circumstances. However, greater preparation often leads to decreased pain. Gary Player said, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”

All of us want life to be pain free. We want things to come easily to us, and if we’re being honest, we don’t want to have to go through the blood, sweat, and tears necessary to accomplish something great. But if we want to accomplish anything of value, we’re going to experience the pain of discipline. Otherwise, the pain of disappointment is waiting for us. 

Discipline is initiated by you.
Disappointment is initiated for you and to you.

You’re disappointed by your failure to meet your weight loss goal again this year.
You’re disappointed by the stack of books on your nightstand that you haven’t got around to reading.
You’re disappointed by your performance review, outlining the same areas for growth your supervisor addressed last year.
You’re disappointed by your lack of deep friendships; though, you can’t remember the last time you reached out to a friend about spending time together.
You’re disappointed that another year went by without you pursuing that idea. 

More often than not, disappointment reveals areas where you need to grow in discipline. The good news is we can grow

Discipline can be initiated by you. Here are three practical steps toward discipline:

1. Identify the areas of your life where you need to grow. Discipline starts with direction. This may be many areas, and if so, that’s OK. Take one or two to focus on first, and you’ll be surprised by how developing habits of discipline in one area of your life can increase your discipline in other areas. The principles of discipline are the same, even if they look different when applied to different things.

2. Set specific goals to grow. Once you’ve identified where you need to grow, make some goals to define what growth looks like and stick to them. Read for 20 minutes a day. Exercise three days a week. Respond to emails within 24 hours. Create an innovative solution for a problem at work by a specific date. You get the idea.

3. Celebrate the process of growth. Remember, discipline comes with pain. It’s not going to be easy, and it may not come quickly. But it’s going to be worth it. Celebrate growth. One way to do this is to share your discipline goals with someone you trust (maybe a mentor or a close friend) and to update them through the highs and lows of developing a certain discipline. They can encourage you on your journey and help hold you accountable when you want to give up!

When we understand the connection between discipline and disappointment, we can take the first step toward the future we want to create. 


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