We continue our series on discipline. In previous posts, we talked about a healthy mind and healthy people being foundational to discipline. To build on that, we’ll focus more on our minds and the self-discipline of our thoughts.

One of Buddha’s teachings says, “Discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you can’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do.” The mind is a powerful machine, releasing powerful chemicals into our bodies: serotonin, endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and adrenaline. And it’s fast with more than 60,000 thoughts per day. So how do we train it? We start with controlling the distractions, the drama, and interruptions of the day.

Begin by shutting off the notifications and alarms on your phone, watch, and computer. All of these are kicking chemicals into our system, and our bodies are reacting to them constantly. No wonder we struggle to focus during the day with buzzes, bells, rings, and vibrations all trying to steal our attention and productivity.

Using some simple, time-proven tools can help focus your thoughts.

Start with a daily priority list. Let’s go old fashion and make this a written list. Before you close your day, simply ask yourself, what are the three most important things I need to accomplish tomorrow? And write them down. At the beginning of each day, take out the list and work in priority of the most important. And at the end of the day, do the same again. What are the three most important things for the following day?

About 100 years ago, Charles Swab, then owner of Bethlehem Steel, hired management consultant Ivy Lee to solve the efficacy problem he was having with his management team. Charles asked Ivy, “Can you help me, how much time will it take and how much will it cost?” Ivy Lee said, “Yes, I can help you. It will take about ten minutes with each manager, including yourself and you pay me what you think it is worth in about three months.” Ivy Lee trained Charles Swab and each of his managers in the simple practice of taking time at the end of the day to list the most important things they needed to do the following day and list these tasks in priority order, then work the list. At the end of three months, Charles Swab sent Ivy Lee a check for $25,000, worth about half a million dollars today. (Next time we talk, ask about the G3 Card.)

John Maxwell once said it best, “You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.

Discipline = Healthy Mind and Body, Mastery of Thought and the Right Tools used Routinely