Did you know that there are some intangible qualities that contribute to success and increased productivity? The two most important attributes are discipline and attitude. They are what I call the “secret weapons” of productivity.
Even if you have the best time management system set up, your life will only change if you have the discipline to implement the practices. Even if you have clear measureable goals and align your activities to achieve them, only executing those activities will accomplish your goals. Attitude is another contributing factor. If you have a picture of your success, whatever that means to you, there is a much greater likelihood you will achieve it.
Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.
There are two parts to having discipline. On one hand, we need to have discipline to follow and respect rules imposed by others. On the other hand, we must learn how to follow our own self-imposed rules. I think that the first part tends to be easier for us to follow. After all, there is a higher accountability level imposed by others.
Sometimes the challenging part of self-discipline is having enough respect for ourselves and our goals to work on them even if we don’t feel like it. How often do we walk around feeling guilty about everything we should be doing that is not getting done? No matter how many tips and techniques you learn about how to become more productive, as Maya Angelou stated, “Nothing will work unless you do.”
There probably isn’t another quote that points out the importance of discipline more than the one by Brian Tracy in his book No Excuses: The Power of Self-Discipline. Tracy talks about his chance encounter with M. R. (Kop) Kopmeyer, a noted success authority, and asking him this question: “Of all the 1,000 success principles that you have discovered, which do you think is the most important?”
As Tracy writes:
[Kop] smiled at me with a twinkle in his eye, as if he had been asked this question many times, and he replied without hesitating, “The most important success principle of all was stated by Elbert Hubbard, one of the most prolific writers in American history, at the beginning of the twentieth century. He said, ‘Self-discipline is the ability to do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.’ …Without self-discipline, none of them work. With self-discipline, they all work.”
Thus, self-discipline is the key to personal greatness. It is the magic quality that opens all doors for you and makes everything else possible.
Regardless of how much you learn and no matter how many different techniques you read about, you have to have the motivation and discipline to implement and make changes.
Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.
It has been proven that happy people are more productive. And being happy has a lot to do with your attitude. In their 2011 article in the New York Times called “Do Happier People Work Harder,” Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer established through their research that being unhappy at work means lower productivity. They cite one study by Gallup that estimates an annual $300 billion loss in productivity by U.S. companies as a result of people not caring for their jobs or employers.
The rationale for the study was based on the concept that people who are dissatisfied show up for work less often and produce less or lower-quality work. The authors reference other research showing “that inner work life has a profound impact on workers’ creativity, productivity, commitment, and collegiality. Employees are far more likely to have new ideas on days when they feel happier. Conventional wisdom suggests that pressure enhances performance; our real-time data, however, shows that workers perform better when they are happily engaged in what they do.”
You might feel as if there are factors impacting your negative attitude that you can’t control, like a difficult boss or a job that does not give you a sense of accomplishment. Have you tried to change your attitude about it? In The Art of Possibility, Rosamund and Benjamin Zander talk about engaging in negative self-talk that can lead you to a downward spiral. You need to be conscious of your self-talk and change it in order to create a positive attitude.
In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin recounts a story of a friend who worked under a challenging boss. Gretchen’s friend made a rule that she wasn’t going to say anything negative about her boss and that if others were saying negative things, she’d walk away. The friend turned out much happier with her job than her coworkers, and even found herself liking her boss.
Many experts recommend developing an attitude of gratitude as a way of improving your general happiness. One of the recommended methods is to keep a gratitude journal. This is a simple way of shifting your focus away from what’s making you unhappy toward what makes you happy, and from what’s making you feel deprived to what makes you feel fulfilled.
While most of my articles and my book focuses on tasks and activities that lead to increased productivity, this post has introduced areas that affect your productivity but are much harder to quantify and control. They are just as essential, though. You need to have discipline and a positive attitude to be motivated.