There is a fundamental misunderstanding about what self discipline is and how self discipline works. I say fundamental because - and let me make a sweeping generalisation - 99% of people I speak to have no idea of these basic concepts.
Here’s one. Self discipline is living life the easy way. Not having self discipline makes life hard. Those who have mastered self discipline don’t go back. Life’s too hard the old way. This runs counter to most people’s perceived view of what self discipline is. What usually comes to mind is soldiers marching around a parade ground or that feeling of oppressive authority you remember from your school years. Those who have mastered the art of self discipline understand it is the opposite of oppressive. It is liberating. It is freedom. It takes almost no effort. Doubt that last claim?
What keeps you from driving into the oncoming traffic at 100 kms an hour? It’s not the white/yellow line painted along the centre of the road. That’s just paint. It has no magical force field, that if you nudge up against, sparks fly from your car panels. Nope. That’s Hollywood. This invisible guard rail is real though. It has a name. That name is self discipline.
Long ago, probably from the back seat of your parents car, you assessed the situation. It didn’t need discussion with your parents. It was just so obvious; crossing that line on the road had grave consequences. At this early age you made this value judgment: my life is worth more than crossing that line.
You have carried this unspoken choice since. It sits there quietly purring away. It doesn’t need tending from you. It never gets touched when clearing out your mental closet. You never have to change the oil of your belief that keep the gears of conviction turning. Most of all, it doesn’t care what you ‘feel’ on any given day. Elated, down in the dumps or any mood in between, you stay on your side of the line.
How much effort does it take for you to exercise the self discipline needed for you to stay on your side of the road ,whether it’s a two minute drive to the store or a three day cross country drive. Just about zero effort is the answer. You have likely never even thought about this until this very moment you are reading this. That’s because self discipline is actually the easy way. Once you have made the choice and consider something valuable enough and worthy enough, then - over time - the amounts of self discipline required are minimal.
Once you understand the simple compounding math of self discipline; small amounts deposited over longer time frames result in exponential amounts of freedom, then, you don’t give this up easily. Self interest is a powerful force. This is what former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating understood.
He once said words to the effect of ‘in the race of life always back self interest because if nothing else you always know that self interest is trying hard.’
Self interest is why those who have moved to following the beat of self discipline don’t go back to the old ways of doing things. The simple truth is you win. Over time self discipline plays out in your favour. In my quarter century as a TV documentary cameraman meeting successful people from all walks of life, self discipline was the common denominator to each and every one.
Reflect upon self discipline the next time you are driving. Consider that little-to-no effort is required to stay on your side. Think too, that without an engine, your car goes nowhere and without self discipline your dreams will never arrive at their destination. The light just went green. GO.
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