Self-discipline may be defined simply as the quality that allows a person to do what needs to be done when he or she doesn’t feel like it.—Peter Senge in Systems Thinking
Just before New Year’s Eve, my family and friends were giving me a hard time about my choice for a restaurant that evening. They expressed shock and surprise that my recommendation was not Chilli's’s or Panera. “What happened to your consistency?” they teased. I indicated that my consistency was as strong as ever, but I was not opposed to change and reason when the opportunity presented itself! This conversation, however, led to consideration of several questions. They are different, but each answer could be the same:
• What characterizes students who are habitually successful
at school — in academics, clubs, activities or sports?
• What single quality in a business builds deeper respect than
• What do students most need from their parents when at home?
• What do parents most want from the school?
• What brings security in relationships?
• What do we most want from the cable company, our cellular
phone service, our Internet provider, or other electronic services?
• Why are we drawn to the same restaurant time and again?
• What will prevent us from not keeping our New Year’s
resolutions more than anything else?
Consistency built upon a foundation of improving toward the “right things.” That is the answer to all of the questions. Rooted deeply to the notion of self-discipline, the lack of consistency stands in the way of a successful 2011. It stands in the way of our New Year’s resolutions, too. Interestingly, the tradition of making “New Year’s resolutions” dates back to the early Babylonians. Their most popular resolution (about 4,000 years before the Roman calendar began) was to return borrowed farm equipment to your neighbor. This year, more than100 million Americans promise bold New Year’s resolutions including exercising more, losing weight, stopping smoking, cutting down on alcohol, eating a healthier diet, and making new friends. According to University of Washington researcher Alan Mazlott, the key to making a successful resolution requires “commitment and consistency” toward the changed behavior.
Consistency is solid. It provides the rock of determination and the steadiness of commitment to “do what needs to be done when you just don’t feel like it” as Senge reminds us. Consistency helps us show up on time at work or school. Consistency brings students to the tutoring lab every day until their grades improve. Consistency is the resiliency of parents when children or older parents get sick. Consistency provides the diligence required to complete that late-night homework paper on time. Consistency is the living model of determination and strength when you don’t want to drag yourself into the gym or the workout class. Consistency will sustain your effort well past February, when most resolutions begin to fade. Consistency is the spirit of self-discipline. Consistency allows us to stand tall when ridicule or criticism comes our way. Consistency steadies the student in times of crisis and pressure, and through the emotional highs and lows of school.
For some, consistency allows you to hang in there day in and day out during a year that may cause you to get easily sidetracked. Consistency — and the subsequent effort that is required — will sustain students as they start fresh with new hopes and promises for a second semester. Doing “what is best for all students” — should be a resolution for consistency woven into the fabric of your school culture.