In chemistry, a catalyst is a chemical compound that promotes a chemical reaction to occur without much change to itself. It is the match that essentially lights the fire. In life, the word catalyst is used when something is the primary agent for change.
Discipline is rarely talked of as a catalyst. Yet it is fundamental to any self-started initiative that we hope will lead to a favorable outcome. Think about weight loss, learning a new skill, working on a project, or building a company or an organization. In all of these cases there is an aspect of self-denial and repetition that defines our personal discipline.
Self-denial and repetition are the key elements of personal discipline. We are so impulsive as humans, that we act without thinking on many occasions. Self-denial works at minimizing our impulsiveness by pushing us to be more intentional in what we do every day. If I am trying to lose weight, I want to eat the donut that I see at the store but my self-denial shouts at me to wait and eat the apple that is at my desk when I return to work.
Repetition is so difficult because we are so impatient and want things to happen now. We have trouble following our words. We lose focus easily because of our many distractions. We say we want to do something but rarely do we commit to the repeated work that needs to be done to get there. “Rinse and repeat” is so hard for us to do over and over and over when our movement towards a goal is, more times than not, only one inch at a time.
When we master self-denial and repetition, involving outcomes we want to achieve, powerful things happen over time. They become a catalyst for the change in our lives we so desperately seek.
Personal discipline is never talked about when discussing what we hope to achieve. The question “do we have it in us” asks about how self-aware are we of the personal discipline needed to achieve our stated goal. We answer yes without understanding that, denial and repetition are first needed to be able to say that we have the personal discipline to achieve what we said we were going to do.
Personal discipline can impact our lives greatly once we understand its usefulness. It is a muscle within us that needs to be developed with intentional practice and time. Measuring and then improving our personal discipline, with small things at the start, is a wonderful way to build this catalyst within us so that we may realize the great things that each of us are capable of accomplishing over a lifetime.