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“Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do. Simply, self-discipline enables you to think first and act afterward.” ~ Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) 

“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you. Never excuse yourself.”
~ Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) 

“The individual who wants to reach the top in business must appreciate the might and force of habit. He must be quick to break those habits that can break him – and hasten to adopt those practices that will become the habits that help him achieve the success he desires.”  ~ J. Paul Getty (1892-1975) 

“Self-discipline is an act of cultivation. It require you to connect today’s actions to tomorrow’s results. There’s a season for sowing a season for reaping. Self-discipline helps you know which is which.” ~ Gary Ryan Blair 

Self-discipline is a trait present in all achievers.  John Rohn said it well when he said, “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” 
We’re not just talking about the Michael Jordans, the Michael Phelps, the Tiger Woods; all world-class atheletes who have denied themselves a lot to things to be at the top of the heap.  We are also talking about the policemen who are dedicated to ensuring law and order, the firemen who risk life and limb to rescue people trapped in building on fire, the doctors and nurses who stop at nothing to save the life of a patient, the father or mother who spend 10-12 hours at work and still take care of their children…they are also successful in their own way.  They do not compete against a competitor, they compete against themselves. They continuously challenge their abilities, patience, endurance, character, and resolve to do better…to push themselves even further. 
Self-discipline provides the fuel to push ourselves beyond what we thought our limits were.  It separates the “men from the boys” so to speak.  Steve Siebold said it best:
When average performers have had enough for the day and call it quits, champions are usually just getting started. Discipline is the watchword of great performers. Discipline makes the difference between the good and the great. The great ones will tell you discipline is more of a decision than it is an active skill. It’s the ability to stay the course and complete promises you’ve made. The fulfillment of these promises builds confidence and self-esteem, which eventually leads champions to believe almost anything is possible. It’s a habit and a self-fulfilling prophecy built into one. Discipline is a logic-based decision that performers adhere to, regardless of whether they feel like it or not. 
It is a conscious decision to continue even when you feel like throwing in the towel.  Like in the Sunscreen Song: “The race is long. And in the end, it’s only with yourself.”  I’d rather tire myself out pushing myself until the end…that way, I won’t have any regrets.  I’m reminded on the lyrics of two of my favorite songs: both versions of “Faith of the Heart” (the original sung by Rod Stewart in “Patch Adams” and other sung by Russell Watson for the opening credits of the TV series “Enterprise”), and “I Hope You Dance” sung by Lee Ann Womack.  Both songs talk of the reward of those who persevere, of the undaunted … of those who dared.