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Discipline = Freedom

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“I’m just not motivated by school,” is a response we hear frequently from students after poor performance in a subject area.

The basic definition of motivation is the desire to complete something, but if a student doesn’t always have the desire to be good at math or English, or if their motivation wavers or is found externally, what can we do?

Instead of focusing on boosting motivation, our best teachers, parents, and coaches hone in on discipline. If a student maintains discipline, motivation becomes trivial because a disciplined student will complete tasks and assignments.

Discipline = Freedom is likely something you and your student have both heard and seen at Stride. This phrase is the crux to success. The theory behind it was developed by Navy SEAL Jocko Willink, and is based on his belief and lifestyle that in order to have freedom in your life, you must be disciplined. It is a belief that discipline leads to success.

“If you want to transform your life in a positive way, that transformation will not happen by itself. You need to make it happen. You need to do the work. You need to put in the hours, the days, the weeks, the months, and the years. You need to get on the path and stay on the path—the path that leads to the positive transformations, the path that leads to a better you, the path that leads to freedom. And that path is the hard path. The tough path. The relentless path. It is the path of Discipline. And the path of Discipline is the only way. Discipline Equals Freedom.” — Jocko Willink

While this is all true, it is important to be aware that it is SELF-discipline which leads to freedom for our students. Developing self-discipline will allow us to achieve the things we want most in life, and will give us the freedom to enjoy what we love. Developing a practice of self-discipline means recognizing that although we may not always be motivated to complete our necessary tasks, we can create systems and be disciplined to achieve our goals. The system should be personalized, because not every student will respond to the same structures of external or strict discipline. Internalizing discipline is also more sustainable; instead of relying on external discipline, the student will be more successful if they can practice discipline on their own. In John Wooden’s words, “Discipline yourself and others won’t need to.”

How can we encourage self-discipline? 

Model Self-Discipline – Despite daily difficulties and challenges, each day our mentors tirelessly model the traits we hope to instill in the students we work with. Our mentors have to set an example for being kind, polite, and disciplined individuals, because we believe the best teachers of discipline are also those who are incredibly disciplined themselves.

Provide Clear Structure – Whether at home or in the classroom, provide very clear rules and structure for your student. This includes clear rewards and consequences if a daily challenge was or was not met. Make sure to stick to the rules that were created. Though it may be challenging at first, students will develop a deeper understanding of the structure and clarity of discipline.

Praise – When teaching a student how to be successful, praise can be neglected; however, positive praise and reinforcement are powerful teaching tools. They help students internalize that staying disciplined will produce positive results and help them achieve goals.

Other Activities – The reality is: through different stages of life, students often aren’t responsive to parents or teacher’s advice. Therefore, it’s essential for them to join activities outside of school that promote self-discipline such as structured clubs, athletics, or music. Teachers see a direct correlation between success in the classroom and involvement in outside activities.

Here are some ways to help get your student develop a stronger sense of self-discipline: 

Establish a morning routine – Waking up early can be difficult, but  beginning each day with this level of discipline is a great place to start. After waking up, they should check off each item of their morning routine, setting them up with a feeling of success and accomplishment in their practice of self-discipline. 

Set alarms for breaks and work periods – This external system can aid in staying on task while incorporating rewards for this successful level of discipline. It also helps to develop a sense of routine and structure for the student. 

Allow a degree of autonomy Give your student some control over their daily routine and structure. Taking ownership of their day will help your student stick to this structure. 

Write a to-do list before bed – Create this list with your student so they have clear expectations. and check off each item throughout the following day. This helps students feel accomplished and proud of their achievements. It may even help to develop a way to reward or congratulate for successful self-discipline practices. 

Make your sleep schedule consistent – waking up and going to bed at the same times every day sounds like an easy fix, and it is. This basic need gets overlooked so often, and it’s a great practice of self-discipline. This rings true for parents as well! 

Though developing a practice of self-discipline can be difficult, we can take simple steps to incorporate self-discipline into our everyday lives. From making lists to waking up at the same time everyday, we can begin to develop a disciplined routine. Discipline is the ability to stick to a structure and follow through, and has the potential to change our lives and help us achieve our biggest goals. Remember, Discipline = Freedom!