There is a secret to success: A single trait that distinguishes successful people and it’s simple.

There is a secret to success: A single trait that distinguishes successful people and it’s simple.

By Jose Ruiz

Jose Ruiz serves as Alder Koten’s Chief Executive Officer providing vision, strategic direction and the roadmap for the firm’s future. He is also involved in executive search work focused on board members, CEOs and senior-level executives; and consulting engagements related to leadership and organizational effectiveness helping clients create thriving cultures.

I’m privileged to interview and speak to many successful individuals every day and there is a secret. A single trait that distinguishes them. Successful people are not always the smartest, not always the best communicators, not always the best leaders. Successful people are all disciplined. They work every single day on the small goals that achieve big things at work and in life.

The good news is that discipline is trained. You can and need to train yourself to be disciplined. Marathoners don’t run marathons because they are disciplined. They are disciplined because they run marathons.

Maybe you are born with a pair of blue eyes or brown eyes. Just like that you are born with brunette, ginger, or blonde hair. However, discipline is not something you are born with or without. It is something that you must learn throughout your lifetime so that you can achieve goals, either big or small.

So, what is “discipline”?

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it means the training that corrects, molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. Moreover, a more popular definition of “discipline” or “self-discipline” is the ability to control and motivate yourself, to stay on track on whatever it is you are doing, and to do what is right in the circumstance. Thus, there are four important elements: be in control, motivate, stay focused, and be conscientious.

This being said, self-discipline is a skill that must be continuously polished. Anything that requires you to be in control, motivated, focused, and conscientious would be a suitable exercise. Running the marathon, for instance, is an excellent practice of discipline. So is waking up in the morning and dragging your sleepyhead to the office before 9 am.

Self-discipline is in the heart of everything you do.

Forty years ago, a Stanford psychology professor named Walter Mischel conducted a series of psychological studies called The Marshmallow Experiment. He tested hundreds of children of age 4 and 5, where each of them was sat in a room with a marshmallow. The researcher said that they can eat one marshmallow now or eat two after 15 minutes. The results were expected: some kids ate one piece immediately, and others preferred to wait to receive two pieces.

After 40 years, the researchers found out that those who did not wait were likely to fail in adulthood, while those who waited were more likely to succeed. The difference was the first group did not have delayed gratification, while the second group did. In other words, the first group was not disciplined, but the second group was.

Understanding this experiment that proved how important self-control, which is an element of self-discipline, is, it is only logical that we find the time to train ourselves. The more disciplined you are, it is more likely that you will be successful as it will be reflected in everything you do.

Now, how can you train self-discipline?

First, find things requiring self-control, motivation, focus, and conscientiousness. It can be practicing a sport, a musical instrument, or a hobby like painting, ballroom dancing, textile designing, and others. The key is finishing what you start. Don’t just attend the first few practices and leave.

Second, make a commitment to yourself to practice as scheduled. Don’t make excuses for not practicing, except probably when you are having health problems. Always find time to practice. If you could not make it, find another time.

Third, keep long-term and short-term goals. Have the final goal as the prize. For instance, when you are exercising to lose weight, create the final goal, monthly goals, and weekly goals. Every time you exercise, you will be reminded of these goals to achieve and every single day is one day closer to arrive at the final destination.

At last, stay true to yourself. Trust yourself that you already have what it takes to achieve your goals. Trust is an essential basis for practicing things that would boost self-discipline. Remember that when you are disciplined, success is just around the corner. After all, discipline is what catapults us to success.

About Alder Koten

Alder Koten helps shape organizations through a combination of research, executive search, cultural & leadership assessment, and other talent advisory services. The firm was founded in 2011 and currently includes 6 partners and over 28 consultants in 4 cities. The firm’s headquarters are located in Houston and it has offices in Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Mexico City with partner firms in New York, Boston, Chicago, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and United Kingdom. We know where to find the executives you need and how to attract top talent to your organization. Our approach to executive search is based on a thorough understanding of the strategic, cultural, financial and operational issues our clients face. Our executive search engagements are targeted and focused on the specific requirements of the position including industry and functional experience, skills, competencies, cultural fit, and leadership style. Our process is rigorous. We take a disciplined and structured approach to identifying potential candidates that meet the position requirements including subject-matter, functional and regional expertise. We use our high-level professional networks, industry knowledge, and internal research resources to achieve results in every executive search engagement.This is a text block. Click the edit button to change this text.