Developing Discipline in Students

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It's important to learn discipline in every area of life, not just the areas you're strongest in.

I’ve been observing a pattern in young people. Like past generations, kids need to develop discipline in their life. They need disciplines like service, patience, listening, and establishing a strong work ethic, to name a few.

I know some young people, however, that never develop these disciplines because they constantly remain in an area they love and are strong in. Curtis is a talented musician. He can sing, arrange music, write music and direct musicians as they perform. He thinks he is a disciplined person because he can do these things, but everyone who knows Curtis would say he is a terribly undisciplined person. In fact, in every area of his life outside of music—he is immature and disorganized.

I’ve been pondering a theory. I wonder if young people ought to purposefully take on a job or a project that is outside of their strength area. For a season, what if every student dove into a task that is beyond the boundaries of their passions, for the purpose of developing raw discipline. A task where nothing inside of them drives them to accomplish it except the muscles of discipline they build in the process. Later, when they do find a career in their areas of passion, they’ve already established disciplines that enable them to do stuff they don’t like, such as paying bills, maintaining a car, or patiently waiting for people less gifted than they are.

We all know that people need to find a career in an area of their personal strengths. When this happens, we come alive. We deepen our passion and tend to become the best version of ourselves. I am suggesting however, that before we take that plunge we may be served well to do something outside of that “fun” area to build discipline:

Waiting tables at a restaurant

Inputting data in a computer program

Washing cars

Filing folders or shipping products

Cleaning offices and restrooms

Do you remember the movie, “Karate Kid”?  In both the original and the remake, a mentor takes on a kid and teaches him karate. But this mentor does so by building skills and disciplines in his protégé that seem unrelated to his area of interest. The kid cannot see any relevance to karate. Remember: wax on, wax off?  Eventually, however, by developing those disciplines, it paid off in the karate matches.

I must confess, there are areas of my life I’m not too disciplined in. I’ve atrophied because I’ve worked for years in my strength areas. I don’t regret my work, but I realize now that discipline won’t stay strong unless it’s exercised in its purest form.

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