Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

The Value of Discipline


A good friend sent me this article last week and I found it so insightful and helpful that I wanted to share it with you.  Read it slowly and carefully – there is some genuine wisdom in the next few paragraphs!

Discipline-Values of Success
By William S. Cottringer

Success in life involves the use of focused discipline in applying four key values: Responsibility, Patience, Truth and Balance.Over 25 years ago, Scott Peck in his book “The Road Less Traveled,” made a good case that all mental illness was a result of a conscious refusal to embrace and practice four core values: Responsibility, Patience, Truth and Balance. There is little doubt that successful living today requires us to hold these essential values in sharp focus. We can do this by adding a fifth value as a centerpiece—Discipline. 

DISCIPLINE is the focused attitude of self-control that drives the systematic and consistent application of blood, sweat and tears to get results. Discipline is the epitome of enduring, intrinsic motivation that overcomes the constant adversity that confronts us all on a daily basis. Unfortunately we may have to figure out a way around a frustrating catch-22 paradox here. In order to be able to exercise the right discipline to be successful, we have to first accept total responsibility for ourselves and our situation and exercise enough self restraint and patience to appreciate intermediate results in getting to where we want to be from the efforts we are able to make at the time. We also must be successful in discovering important truths that can help us reach our goals, as well as avoiding the natural inclination to get lopsided or out of balance, which just requires more discipline to correct. Taking advantage of the power of discipline is merely a matter of stopping your talk and starting your walk. The more you talk, the harder it is to walk.

RESPONSIBILITY Life is hard and full of winding roads, dead ends and wrong maps; living involves lots of bruises, headaches, and broken bones. The first half of responsibility is to accept this harsh reality and not try to deny, avoid or run from it. The second half of responsibility is to “own” your own failures and realize that nobody is going to help you solve your problems or get you out of a hole you are in, but yourself by yourself. Successful people confront and solve problems and survive a series of failures to get to the finish line before others. Not assuming responsibility—even in little ways—slows the race and moves the finish line further back. A good starting point in assuming responsibility is to notice the connection between what you are doing right now and the results you are getting. Admitting you are not really where you want to be is the first step of walking your talk. This should be easy, because very few of us are! In this sense Dr. Peck was right—we are all mentally ill to one degree or another.

PATIENCE We are all addicted to the bad habit of instant need gratification in this age of nanosecond satisfaction. We seem to want all of our problems and worries to disappear instantly without exercising the needed discipline to deal with them or the patience to wait for results, wanting our rewards yesterday if not sooner. The irony of this addiction is that we know in our hearts that there are no free lunches and besides we don’t enjoy empty victories. All worthwhile things are difficult to accomplish and take time. As the true saying goes, “All good things come to he who waits.” When all is said and done, patience isn’t even an option is it?

TRUTH One of the thinking errors that keeps people locked into a vicious circle of mental illness is the lack of dedication to seeking truth. Mentally ill people often believe everything but the truth. Most mentally ill people have such an abnormal and distorted image of “normal” that it isn’t even funny. Even many mentally healthy people have very distorted perceptions of other people and untrue beliefs for which they are quite willing to get maimed or die. Success in life is based on finding and applying truths to get results in moving forward—to solving problems, removing obstacles and making progress. Truths are the operating and governing principles in living that stand the test of time. Examples are “what goes around comes around,” “a stitch in time saves nine,” and “measure twice and saw once.” The truths that we should be trying to uncover are things like what our main purpose for being here is, how we can best accomplish this purpose,  what are the things that needlessly result in failure and mistakes, and what are the easiest ways to get the best results in what we are trying to do.

BALANCE When you are out of balance it is hard to see the wisdom of these other three values and you certainly have to exercise much more discipline to even get back to the starting blocks. Earlier philosophers emphasized the importance of what they called “the golden mean” because they knew the tremendous value and utility of that balanced viewpoint—the place from where you can see and move in all directions and you generally have twice the options to choose from, improving your chances for success by 100%. If you want to be more successful, make a conscious choice to muster up the discipline needed to walk your talk in displaying these four key virtues—Being fully accountable for everything, exercising patience even when you don’t feel like it, searching for the real truth by separating out your personal needs for something just to be true because you think it so, and constantly striving to achieve more balance in all areas of your life.

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security, College Teacher, Writer and Success Coach in Bellevue, WA. He is also author of You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, He can be reached at (425) 454-5011 or bcottrigner(at)



  1. Bill Gair says:

    John..Great stuff..we all need to refocus on our core competencies often.
    Appreciate the insight as always.

  2. Two problems with this peice:

    First, the statement that all mental illness stems from conscious acts? Hmm. All those neuroscientists researching chemical brain imbalances need to stop their work right now, I guess.

    Second, on success, it can actually be reduced to three things: Vision, Execution and Luck. The five values above are ingredients for proper execution. Vision is the “guiding star” that focuses execution, and Luck is simply not landing the statistical events that can waylay even the best of visions/executions.

  3. John Dufek says:

    John, I don’t always have, or take, time to read your blogs, but there is some real wisdom here. Thanks for sharing! I’ll be sure call this latest to my son Jim’s attention. Best regards, John