A quick thought experiment. I’d like for you to imagine the best version of yourself. Not the rich you, or the more attractive you. Not the version of you that went to a different school, grew up in a different country, made different choices. This isn’t the version of you that had different opportunities, or the version that invested in the right company at the right time. This isn’t the you that thought of Facebook / Twitter / Google first.

The past is gone, it can’t be changed. This is about you, as you are now, with one small but important difference: discipline.

If you decide to eat healthier, then you cut out processed food, eat more vegetables, and restrict desserts to special occasions. If you decide to get in shape, then you set up an exercise schedule and follow it religiously. If you want to learn a new subject, then you get a textbook, find a teacher, take a class, whatever, and stick with it until it’s been mastered. If you want to start a new company, or get a great job, then you put in the hard work to give yourself the best chance for success.

This isn’t magic. It isn’t some kind of alternate reality or utopia. It’s you, now, but with a radical superpower that very few people possess: self-control.

What would be different in your life? How would things change if you could do things the way you wanted, not the way your emotions, hormones, blood sugar level, etc., commanded? How much of what you consider “you” is simply the result of giving in, taking the easy way out, every day, every year of your life?

None of us are exempt – there are many ways in which I wish I had more self-control. And I wonder, what would it take to turn that “wish” into “will”? I’ve seen it happen too many times – I set up a workout schedule and stick with it for a couple of months, only to get injured or sick, miss a week or two, and end up stopping completely. I start eating healthier, then fall prey to the snacks at work. I start reading up on a new subject, then get sidetracked.

It’s easy to get fatalistic, but I don’t believe in that either. The flip side of each failure is that you tried. You didn’t accept inertia, and gave it another shot. As the great man said, it isn’t about how many times you fall down, it’s about how many times you get back up again (even if only to get knocked down again).

Change is hard, but what would you do, how would things change, if you could change you?

One thought on “Discipline

  1. A wonderful piece. Reminds me of meditation training. When you catch your own mind wandering, gently bring it back on to the meditative focus. It’s not just another shot, but a constant but forgiving bring back to focus. The transformation happens when you realize you’re more often on the horse than fallen off it.

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