Disciplined Thinking

I have been thinking about discipline more than usual of late.

Discipline has always been part of my life. I guess that comes from growing up on a farm, earning multiple degrees and certifications, being in the military, and having to continually adjust to new roles, new places, and new cultures.

You do not successfully navigate change without a healthy dose of discipline.

Discipline, to me, involves the consistent and continual exercise of your best thinking, doing, and being in the pursuit of higher standards and goals.  It also includes a strong dose of being able to withstand temptation.

Much has been written about discipline in various environments and from various perspectives over the years.  For me, the understanding of discipline boils down, as it often does, to the three overlapping, but distinct areas, outlined below.

Since my most current challenges revolve around shifting my professional focus toward the world of real estate, the examples that come to mind to illustrate these three areas will relate to that particular and very personal transition.


We always have to start with ourselves …

Self-discipline, in my mind, includes how we treat our bodies, how we approach our emotional lives, and how we choose to structure our days.

As many have pointed out over the years, we have more choices than we realize or admit.  Self-discipline means we recognize and exercise those choices by opting for what will move us closer to a goal over that which is easier.

Knocking on doors in a subdivision on a hot and humid summer day in the Heartland is not an activity I look forward to.   However, I know that this is how I become a known entity to those who I seek to serve.  My willingness to engage with others about property values, the local housing market, and the value I bring to helping someone buy or sell a house is what motivates me to do this activity, when I would rather be sitting in the air-conditioning somewhere with a large iced tea, watching the clouds float by overhead.


We did not build this ourselves …

Most of us operate in some formal fashion with others in professional alliance.  Whether we are part of an organized and recognized group, such as a real estate agency or function in looser fashion with a group of trusted others, we are social and communal beings.

I have been fortunate enough to join an agency where the competitiveness of our profession is far outweighed by our collegial culture. I know from experience that in some companies, a “sink or swim” attitude prevails and self-interest is more powerful than community concerns.

The discipline of accountability that comes with being a member of a group which values integrity and collegiality as essential ingredients for success is a powerful thing.

We share our experiences and issues on a daily basis, both in ongoing training and development (itself somewhat unusual in this industry)


When we become part of a profession, industry, or career field, we have a simple choice:  To either work at the minimal level to function or to work toward becoming the best in your chosen area.   You may think that you choose all the places between these two positions, but being average or mediocre at what you do is not really a choice as much as it is an unintentional outcome.

Choosing to strive to become the best you can be requires discipline.

I am a Realtor®, which means I have met certain requirements and agreed to operate at a higher standard of service and ethical behavior than someone who is simply a real estate agent.

But let me turn to one of my favorite people to help me with this one:

Modern Family is one of my favorite television shows. While I cringe at many of his scenes and lines, Phil Dunphy has one overriding positive quality: He is trying to be the best he can be.

Recently, Ty Burrell, the actor who portrays Phil, collaborated with the National Association of Realtors (NAR), to provide a lesson about the difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor®.  The episode is watchable, enjoyable, and informative.


  • Discipline does not just happen.  Discipline is a very intentional thing.
  • Discipline first includes your personal desire to learn more, work harder, and be a better “whatever you are”, whether that be a personal or professional role.
  • Discipline comes at a cost in terms of time, energy, and assets.  It’s easier not to strive for that higher level and discipline requires you fight that reality.
  • Discipline is continual, consistent, and conscious … nobody ever performed in a disciplined manner without considerable effort, even if they make it look easy on the outside.

Personally, I believe that discipline, as I have described it here, has enriched and colored my life, with the benefits far outweighing the costs.

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