On a crisp afternoon at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, I met a young couple from Boston who taught me an unforgettable lesson about self-discipline. They were in their early thirties, vibrant and full of life. Her fitness routine consisted of twice-weekly Zumba classes, and his program included an occasional pickup basketball game, which kept them in reasonable shape. They had decided to embark on a grand adventure before starting a family and chose to climb Kilimanjaro as their life-changing experience.

With a spirit of spontaneity and excitement, they booked the trip without much research or preparation. Their only training was a single climb up Monadnock Mountain in New Hampshire, a far cry from the demanding ascent of Kilimanjaro. Despite their enthusiasm, they were woefully unprepared for the challenges ahead.

The Climb

As we began our ascent, the couple’s lack of preparation quickly became apparent. The high altitude and harsh weather conditions took their toll. After just a day and a half of climbing, battling fatigue and the elements, they realized they couldn’t continue. Defeated, they made the difficult decision to turn back and go home.

Understanding Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is often misunderstood as a trait that some people are born with. However, it is a skill that can be developed and strengthened over time. It is the ability to control one’s emotions, behavior, and desires in the face of external demands to pursue a goal despite the challenges and setbacks that arise.

At its core, self-discipline is about commitment and perseverance. The internal drive keeps us moving forward, even when the path is steep and the destination seems distant. It is the courage to stay the course, to push through the pain, and to resist the temptation to give up.

The Role of Self-Discipline in Achieving Goals

Unlike the Boston couple, I spent three months researching climbing Kilimanjaro before booking the trip. During that time, I read three books, spent hours searching the internet for clues on how to succeed, and interviewed several people who had attempted the same climb. Once I booked the trip, I started a rigorous training regimen of running, walking, or hiking five to eight miles daily, regardless of the weather conditions. In addition, I completed three high-altitude test climbs before heading to Kilimanjaro. I was prepared for one of the most challenging adventures of my life.

This level of preparation highlights how self-discipline is crucial in achieving our goals. My climb up Kilimanjaro was not just about reaching the summit; it was about proving to myself that with thorough preparation and unwavering commitment, I could overcome any challenge, no matter how daunting.

Developing Self-Discipline

Developing self-discipline requires practice and patience. Here are some strategies that can help:

  1. Set Clear Goals: A clear vision of what you want to achieve is the first step towards developing self-discipline. Break your goals into smaller, manageable tasks and set deadlines for each (five to eight miles per day, regardless of the weather.) Your vision, purpose, and goals will help you stay focused and motivated.
  2. Create a Plan: A well-structured plan provides a roadmap for achieving your goals. Outline the steps you need to take and the resources you will need. I found myself at the base of Kilimanjaro, prepared with exactly what I needed to be successful in my quest. Your plan will help you stay organized and on track.
  3. Practice Self-Control: Self-discipline is about controlling your impulses and staying focused on your goals. Practice saying no to distractions and temptations. I will confess there were days that I struggled to lace my boots up and train. I had to search for inner toughness to hit the road again. Your self-control will help you build the mental strength needed to remain disciplined.
  4. Stay Positive: Maintaining a positive mindset is crucial for developing self-discipline. During my training, I did not focus on the freezing blizzards, torrential rain, or blistering heat but focused on why I was climbing Kilimanjaro. Focus on your progress and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. A positive, growth mindset will help you stay motivated and committed to your goals.
  5. Learn from Setbacks: Setbacks are a natural part of any journey. Instead of getting discouraged, use them as learning opportunities. I failed miserably during my first test climbing but learned to recognize the signs of failure, which became helpful at 19,000 feet above sea level. So, analyze what went wrong, make the necessary adjustments, and keep moving forward.

The Rewards of Self-Discipline

The rewards of self-discipline are immense. It helps us achieve our goals and builds character and resilience. It teaches us the value of hard work, perseverance, and determination. It empowers us to take control of our lives and shape our destiny.

For me, the reward was not just the breathtaking view from the summit of Kilimanjaro but the sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that I had conquered my concerns and limitations. My success allowed me to accomplish a lifelong dream and fulfill a commitment made to my grandmother. But more importantly, it’s a powerful reminder that with self-discipline, we can overcome any obstacle and achieve anything we set our minds to.


Self-discipline is a vital skill that can transform our lives. It lets us stay focused on our goals, overcome challenges, and achieve our full potential. We can approach our challenges like the Boston couple, who were unprepared and prone to disappointment, or we can develop the discipline within ourselves to be ready for success. My Kilimanjaro journey exemplifies the power of self-discipline and is a source of inspiration for all of us. As we strive to become stronger, more intentional leaders, let us remember that with determination and perseverance, we can climb any mountain and achieve our dreams. To succeed in our journey, we must prepare, invest, and work diligently every day to become stronger leaders.