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The Power of Self-Discipline

2nd February 2023

‘Diligence is the mother of good luck’. (Benjamin Franklin)


HOM: Persisting/Managing Impulsivity

I wonder if you have a lucky mascot. Maybe it’s a cuddly toy, a crystal or even a special pair of lucky socks (or pants!)? It seems even the students on University challenge have mascots for their teams, perhaps hedging their bets that if everything else fails, then maybe ‘lady luck’ can be harnessed to their benefit.

I remember thinking the same as I approached O-levels (yes, I’m that old!), and for each exam had my lucky black cat perched on the desk in front of me.

However, let me say now, it was not wholly reliable.

It is not luck that will help us achieve our goals but diligence grounded in self-discipline which is the ‘mother of good luck’. This means that if that if you work carefully and constantly you are far more likely to be successful, as if luck had come your way.

What is entailed in working with diligence and self-discipline was presented in a brilliant lecture by Dr Christopher O’Neill a few years back and attended by some Wychwood pupils. Firstly, he made it clear that outstanding achievement is not so much down to genes, teachers or parents (although these factors do play a part), but down to ‘YOU’!

So, what can ‘you’ do? Well, there are four factors which can tip ‘luck’ in our favour –

  • Putting in the hours…perspiration! Edison famously said ‘Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration’. In other words, focused, sustained and deliberate work or practice is essential for everyone to achieve well.
  • Self- discipline…the super power of self control! Stanford scientist, Walter Mischel, famously set pre-school children the ‘marshmallow test’ to see if they could defer the gratification of eating one marshmallow for 15 minutes, in order to win two. It turns out the ability to defer gratification is the single best predictor for later achieving better grades at school, earning higher salaries and being more healthy.
  • A growth mindset…In other words, belief that achievement is a result of deliberate effort as opposed to a fixed mindset, where you believe that you are born with fixed abilities and therefore effort has little effect. The power of ‘yet’…I can’t do it ‘yet’.
  • Finding your inspiration to keep you going! Motivation is like launching a rocket before it can take off. That means seeking out what inspires us, setting goals and taking encouragement from those who offer it.

So, there you have it, the best advice for all those who wish to succeed in school and in life generally. Let diligence be the mother of good luck for you, but you can still give that cuddly toy a special squeeze too!


Christine Crossley