I’ve spent some time in the last few weeks writing about a few of the foundational principles of any life worth living, including consistency and focus.
And now, I’d like to spend a few words writing about what I believe is the cornerstone of this foundation …
Thankfully, there’s been a lot of great writing (and podcasting and vlogging and tweeting) about discipline in recent years.
There’s a renaissance of this practice today, where once, not too long ago, the culture seemed to revere comfort, relaxation, and the pursuit of pleasure.
The word seems hard. Discipline. And it is. So why would anyone want to walk such a difficult path?
In my opinion, there’s one answer that stands above them all: as Jocko Willink has so perfectly written, I believe that discipline equals freedom.
I’ve found that the disciplined ultimately enjoy a level of freedom that the undisciplined could never imagine. Most of us actually do imagine that freedom and a good life come from doing exactly as we please.
We imagine that if we could only pursue what we think are our true desires, that things like happiness, fulfillment, and a good life would follow.
Until you’ve fully given yourself to the practice of discipline, in any or all endeavors, your life will float along, blown by every wind that comes your way. And that’s the real danger, that you’ll never find true joy — delight, rather — in the work that you’ve been put here to do.
Allow me just a few more words to show you a simple, three-step path I’ve found that’s helped me along the way …
Everything starts with discipline. Without it, this path, and anything you want to accomplish, falls apart. You have to make a decision about where you’re going, then you have to start going there.
Once the decision is made, you have to be disciplined about following through. And once you get a number of disciplined days strung together, you’ll begin to see the smallest of results, which produces desire.
Desire will then push you further and further into the commitment to discipline, bringing you even better results. Then, what do you have when you begin to look back at weeks, months, and even years worth of actual results? You’ve earned a true feeling, and existence really, of delight.
I like the word delight. To me, it’s the fullest expression of what most people would call happiness. Not merely a passing emotion, it’s the result of a life well-lived. Take a moment to look up the dictionary definition, delight is one of the true pursuits we should be on.
I’ll close out this little essay with a simple illustration of this path …
Let’s say you want to get some strength into that body of yours, so you start lifting weights. You make a decision to do it, then apply discipline to your decision. Two days in, you’re ready to quit, lifting weights isn’t fun at first. A few weeks later? You’re starting to see some definition. Your desire spikes and you keep on lifting! For six months, eight months, a year, two years! Then, one day you’re looking in the mirror at a completely different person. This brings a level of delight (not to mention strength and health!) to you that sadly, very few these days get to experience.
This illustration isn’t really about lifting weights. For you, it could be about your marriage, reading, eating, or growing a business. Apply it liberally to any area of your life that you want to improve and advance. Start with discipline, stoke the flames of desire, and earn yourself a measure of delight that could change your life forever.
Yes, discipline is a hard word. But it’s also the first step in growing and enjoying the best fruits that this life has to offer.
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