When a person joins the military, his first taste of discipline is external. His drill sergeants assume that he has no self discipline and thus seek to install it; left to his own devices, the soldier, sailor, or airman would be slovenly and too self absorbed to succeed.
Had the new recruit chosen another life, college or a civilian job, his time away from the classroom or the shop would have been his own. He could have decided on his own when to get up, when to study and what to do after hours. No one would have spoken to him about the shine on his shoes and the length of his hair.
This is not to say that the young civilian would not find discipline in his life. He would also be growing as a person and realizing that he must please his boss or his teacher if he ever wanted to succeed. However, his path to maturity can be slower. The military man has gone into a demanding profession. His country depends on him for its very survival. He is going to be asked to risk or give his life for his fellow soldiers and for the nation. He has to grow up fast and be ready to do things that lesser men cannot.
So his first days in the military, aren’t pleasant ones. Discipline must be ground into him. He has to gain physical strength, endurance, knowledge, and spirit quickly. Day by day, morning and night, he is pushed to do more than he thinks he can. He is forced to stand tall and look sharp. He must run everywhere and never give an excuse for failure.
At first he is forced to do these things. He is watched, yelled at, and punished for every infraction. Bit by bit, though, he starts to internalize the code of the military. He starts to care if his fellow soldiers succeed or not. He starts to care about the military code. He stands tall, not because someone has told him to, but because of the pride inside him. He is fit and ready for the hard life ahead of him.
This determination and spirit does not leave the soldier when he leaves the military. He approaches tasks in the civilian world with the same self discipline that he acquired years back as a nervous young recruit. Now he is a confident individual, ready to tackle the projects that those around him fear are impossible.
He knows, first of all, the value of organization. He can put things into perspective. He sees that the impossible project is only a series of little tasks.
He learned long ago that self discipline is the first step towards leadership, and now he is ready to step to the front of the group and assign those tasks to others.
He realizes the importance of following through on a task and following up on the people assigned to it. He knows that the self discipline that rests in his breast may not be present in his non-military team mates. He is ready to lead by example or push from behind. Whatever the moment requires, he can do. He is not afraid to praise or to punish. As the job nears completion, he sees that same spirit of comradeship and pride beginning to grow the same way it did for him when the military taught him all about self discipline.
Looking for a good book on military discipline? Then check out the book “Unleash the Warrior Within,” by former Navy SEAL Richard Machowitz. It’s one of my favorites!
How to Build Your Self Discipline
Military Time Management: CARVER System
I Will Never Accept Defeat. I Will Never Quit.
13 thoughts on “What the Military Teaches About Self Discipline”
I realize this is an old article by now, but I found myself doing a research paper on the benefits of military training, and this article was exactly what I was looking for. It was able to put my own (and others’) experience into words. Thank you.
You are inspiring
You are the biggest influence on my life since I saw your mom walking pass the street. I love your emotions and contentions about everything you say. I experiennced my life even more with those words, I love you sweetie.
Thank you for your Service. As a Vietnam Veteran, I wish this military discipline could be carried out in our schools. Today, the lack of discipline is one of the causes of failure in our school system. Great article that explains military discipline in a concise way.
These words, and also the miltary code, are very inspiring to me. I did not serve, mainly because I grew up in a time when miltary service was actually looked down upon ( post Vietnam )
However, my grandfather (who was a great influence on me) was a WW2 volunteer who served his time in the Pacific.
He taught me the very things of which you speak, and I will never forget them.
or Marine! We aren’t sailors, soldiers, or airmen. We are Marines.
I’m 17 and thinking about joining the military and one of the things I hope they can help me with is building my self discipline. I know that I need to eat healthier and exercise but I can’t bring myself to do it. I know that I won’t make it to the military to build my self discipline if I don’t get some for myself and get in shape first so that I can pass the test to join. Do you have any tips?
Everyone needs to start somewhere. It’s true that the military helps with self-discipline, but it’s just as true that a person already needs a bit of self-discipline to even make it there in the first place. My only suggest would be to dig deep inside the best you can and find that self-discipline that we all have inside. I think the common myth is that the military “GIVES” people self-discipline, but the truth is that the military doesn’t give anyone self-discipline, all the military does is helps people find the self-discipline in themselves that was always there. You already have something deep down inside yourself, try to find it on your own, and if you can, and can make it to, and through, basic training, then I guarantee you that the seed inside yourself that you find, will sprout to a full grown tree by the time you’re done training. Hope this helps. Good luck!
Hi Michael. With respect, I would argue that military experience is a route to self discipline. My dad served in the British Parachute Regiment in the 1950s. Tis group is renowned in Britain for being ‘hardcore’. However, my father died of drink related illness at the age of only 56. He could not find the self-discipline to overcome his addiction to alcohol. My mum, meanwhile, had to find the long term discipline to work full time, and run a house, and try to help my dad, with some help from us kids but with no comradeship from any quarter. I think she demonstrated more self discipline than he did during my childhood. I loved, and still love my dad. He had many brilliant qualities, but I do not recognise the self-discipline you speak of in him. Furthermore, my husband was compelled to undertake a year of National Service in Spain. He is something of a couch potatoe, and to be honest I hold far higher standards for cleanliness and household organisation.
Ironically, both my husband and my dad have made the claim that military experience engenders self discipline, but I am not so sure.
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