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You Get What You Pay For

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | September 12, 2009

"Discipline is a matter of taking total responsibility for your future."
John Maxwell

The longer I live the more I believe the axiom, "You get what you pay for." Of course, we all want bargains. And in these days of economic unpredictability, even a sale on ice cream seems to make it taste better. 

On the other hand, have we not all purchased what we thought was a good bargain only to find out how quickly it broke down or wore out? Just because it is cheap does not make it a bargain. Those kinds of bargains cause us to say, "You get what you pay for." 

The same principle applies to excellence. We all want excellence in our personal and professional lives but, as we know, there is always a price to pay. Discipline is part of that price. We do indeed get what we pay for. 

In John Maxwell's recent communiqué; Leadership Wired (6/9/2009), the internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, and author identified four truths about discipline: 

Discipline Comes with a Price Tag. Over the past few months I have been trying to lose a little weight. Evie has helped me understand the Weight Watchers point system. I have been sobered to realize how many points I earn if I eat a cheeseburger and French fries. Even a genuine hot dog with all the trimmings makes me think twice about each bite. 

How I wish there were a sale on discipline. If only I could go to an outlet store and pick up some discipline at a bargain basement price. But as we know, you get what you pay for. 

Discipline Turns Talent to Greatness. We often read of average athletes who excel because of their commitment to discipline. We also read of gifted athletes who never reach their potential because they think they can drift along on their natural ability. 

Over the years I've seen the exhilaration of average college students who make the Dean's List. I have also seen the tragedy of brilliant students who flunk out of college because they think the cost of tuition is the only cost of one's education. But as we know, you get what you pay for. 

Discipline Focuses on Choices, not Conditions. Maxwell says, "In general, people approach daily discipline in one of two ways. They focus on the external or the internal. Those who focus externally allow conditions to dictate whether or not they remain disciplined. Because conditions are transitory, their discipline level changes like the wind. 

"In contrast, people with internal discipline focus on choices. You cannot control circumstances, nor can you control others. By focusing on your choices, and making the right ones regularly, you stay disciplined." 

It is much easier to adjust our discipline to the external conditions around us rather than to make the right choices ourselves. Without internal discipline, the second portion of food or sizeable dessert will always find its way to my plate. The price for more is much easier than the price for less. But as we know, you get what you pay for. 

Discipline does not Bow Down to Feelings. Years ago I developed this definition for discipline, "Whenever you do what you know you ought to do even though you don't feel like doing it, you will be a better person."

Why do we have these maxims: No gain without pain; Groans today, gratitude tomorrow; The more you sweat in peace, the less you will bleed in war? We have them because they are true. 

The price for obeying our feelings for the immediate benefit will always be less than the price for denying those feelings for the greater good. But as we know, you get what you pay for. 

Maxwell wisely said, "Discipline is a matter of taking total responsibility for your future." 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
Responses can be mailed to president@vfcc.edu