Everyone has a different idea of what success looks like.
For some, it's being the best they can be in their chosen career paths and making a certain amount of money by a certain period of time. And for others, it means raising happy and health kids and/or being a good partner to their significant others. Regardless of your idea of success, there is one ingredient we all need to have in order to achieve it: self-discipline.
But what does self-discipline even look like? Overall, it's the ability to make sound, rational decisions on a daily basis while having an abundant amount of self-control. Those with self-discipline are often the very same ones who have achieved a greater amount of success and are often the happiest. Think about the Oprahs and the Diddys of the world. One thing they all have in common is the mastery of self-discipline: the ability to motivate themselves despite circumstances that are out of their control.
Another true success story is Lupita Nyong'o. The 35-year-old actress didn't get to where she is by accident. The Black Panther star recently sat down with Net-A-Porter to discuss her career, her methods of self-discipline, and how she approaches life.
Self-discipline is a learned behavior.
Even if you come from a disciplined environment, the moment you become free to make your own decisions about life is the very moment self-discipline needs to come into play. It's easy to wild out and lose your focus entirely. Nyong'o says that although she came from a very structured environment growing up, once she entered college at Hampshire University, all of that went out of the window. She says she had to learn how to depend on herself for motivation because no one there was going to do that for her. She says of her experience:
"Hampshire was very generous. But I was apprehensive about the experience. It's a place where you have to design your own major. You just made it up. I didn't like it. I came from a lot of structure, and I didn't understand this thing of doing whatever you wanted. But what I learned was invaluable: to depend on myself, to self-generate and self-motivate. I learned self-discipline because it wasn't being imposed on me."
Self-discipline includes taking time to figure yourself out.
In life, many of us fall victim to the expectations of others. Whether we are seeking the approval of our parents or our friends, we can sometimes lose the very essence of who we are trying to please others. This can force us into a life that isn't truly aligned with our purpose, and, ultimately, can lead to a lot of misery and regret. In order to avoid that, it's imperative to actually take the time to sit down with yourself to understand who you truly are and what matters the most to YOU and only YOU.
Nyong'o reveals that at the age of 24, she experienced a sort of quarter-life crisis. In an excerpt from the interview, she said:
"'I didn't know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, so I went home to sit down with myself and figure things out. I remembered that I had a home, and people who loved me.'"
It wasn't until she forced herself to step away and truly evaluate herself that she discovered her life's calling: becoming an actress.
Self-discipline requires the ability to say "no" to things.
"No" is the most powerful and most universally understood word in any language. When we are focused too much on the expectations of others, it's easy to fall into a pattern of people-pleasing. But when you begin to step into your purpose, the ability to say "no" is what separates those who achieve their goals from the ones that simply let life happen to them. Saying "no" is the ultimate form of taking control of your life.
For the Mexican-born Kenyan, Nyong'o said that despite the patriarchal environment of her youth, she learned the ability to say "no" from watching the power her mom wielded with the word:
"I come from a very patriarchal world, but not within my family. My dad listened to my mom. My mom held her own. She had the power to say 'no' to things, and I saw her hold that power."
Self-discipline is about controlling your mind and impulses.
Self-control is a major component in self-discipline. We certainly have free will in this life, but free will should not come at the expense of controlling your impulses. They often say stress is derived from a lack of control, but when you are able to quiet the mind, you are able to begin to control your thoughts and your reactions to those thoughts and feelings. There are many different avenues one can take to master your mind and impulses, but for Nyong'o, working out on almost a daily basis and practicing meditation has been almost a saving grace. She attended a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat and continues to meditate daily.
"I learned so much in there. It blew my mind. All you are doing is learning this technique of meditation. It was the hardest 10 days of my life. It was also the most restful 10 days...It makes all the difference...Stress is what makes me an insomniac. And I'm a stress-buster, man."
Self-discipline comes from within and being present in the now.
One sure way to misery is depending on the approval of others for our happiness. The opinion of others is fleeting, it is the opinion you have of yourself that will take you the farthest. As an international superstar, you might think Nyong'o is fueled by being in the public eye and the love of those she doesn't even see. However, the actress is not motivated by the limelight and the adoration of her fans. Rather, it's the day-to-day, in real life connections that fuel her.
"You'd be surprised. I think there's a separation between the public and the private. In the arena where I'm being desired, I'm absent. Most of the time, I'm actually not there...The only thing that matters is the private – seeing someone eye-to-eye. Desire from afar is just news."
The ability to self-reflect, to learn how to self-motivate, to master the use of the word "no" and to always remain in the present moment isn't easy, but it certainly is worth it in the end. But like most things, practice makes perfect. Once you decide to focus on self-discipline, watch the world change right in front of you.
To read more of Lupita Nyong'o's interview, click here.