More than 40 years ago, researchers at Stanford began studying the impact of discipline on long-term success.
They found that young children who were able to resist a delicious marshmallow placed in front of them for 15 minutes had better SAT scores and were healthier and happier at the age of 32 than their more-impulsive peers.
The children who were able to avoid the temptation of the single marshmallow did so by staying focused on a long-term incentive: If they could abstain from eating that marshmallow for 15 minutes, they would receive two marshmallows rather than just the one that was in front of them.
Leaders have a lot to learn from these kids.
The lesson is simple: We can achieve greater success if we have the discipline to focus our time and attention on our long-term goals.
When you have a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish, you have the power to overcome any challenges you face and achieve your full potential.
In today’s ever-changing business environment, it takes a great deal of perseverance to remain steadfast and execute on long-term plans—but it can certainly be done.
Organizations need leaders who have vision, can inspire others to act, and demonstrate the discipline needed to stay the course and unlock the door to the future.
Fortunately, self-discipline is a trait that can be learned. By clearly defining long-term goals, managing priorities, overcoming obstacles, and successfully handling conflict, just about anyone can become a really effective manager.
When it comes to setting goals, the most effective leaders will clearly define what they want to accomplish, as well as establish clear roles, responsibilities, timelines, and outcomes.
They avoid creating goals for their teams or departments that conflict with others in the organization.
Unfortunately, in large organizations, it’s not uncommon to find conflicting goals and fierce competition for resources or budget. Effective managers sidestep these kinds of issues and develop goals that support the organization as a whole.
Self-disciplined leaders engage up front with others in the organization; they set up and openly communicate their execution plans to avoid problems down the line and make sure the plan is supported by the team, other departments, and key stakeholders in the business.
They also have the ability to weigh short-term gains against the long-term plan and make the best choice overall, which may include delaying gratification, working really hard, and enduring some pain along the way.
Communicating priorities and decision-making authority to others members of the team allows everyone to avoid being distracted by short-term gains.
Even though we know that exercising self-discipline can be difficult at times, we believe it can lead to longer-term commitment and satisfaction among team members.
Most leaders do have long-term goals in mind, but many become distracted or give up when faced with challenges along the way.
You can expect to encounter some level of resistance any time you try to implement a new, long-term business plan.
We can learn from the children in the Stanford study that often, just “cooling off,” managing our emotions, and thinking through the situation can help us stay focused on what we really want.
While we know it can be challenging, cultivating self-discipline pays off.
A study published in the Journal of Personality showed a strong correlation between higher levels of self-discipline and overall life satisfaction.
What this means is that self-discipline can not only help you accomplish more in the long run, it allows you to more effectively manage your day-to-day stress and can even improve your health.
Having a process you can use to become more disciplined and focus your efforts gives you the power to make progress and achieve long-term success.
CMOE has many leadership development solutions that can help leaders at all levels of the business gain the self-discipline they need to be more successful over the long run.