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The Talent of Discipline
When I was about 5 or 6, I heard a story about two boys who decided to have a contest to see who could walk the straightest 100 yard line in knee deep snow. When they had both traveled the 100 yards, one line was going pretty much everywhere, and the other was straight. The one boy watched his every step; the other picked a fence post in the distance and kept his eye on it. You can probably guess which one walked the straight line.
I am beginning to believe that self mastery and discipline have more to do with our happiness than anything else. I think most people have a set of personal values and core beliefs which they believe will bring them happiness (and I when I say that I mean things like honesty, charity, love, etc not greed or ambition)- the question is: to what degree they are able to adhere to these values? So often we become pre-occupied with each step of the journey that we take our eyes off our long term goals and our standards of excellence are compromised by short term distractions.
Every year we set these new years resolutions, long term goals which we believe will bring us more happiness. We follow our own rules for a short time, and then, for whatever reason, we make an exception for a short term gain- Early morning exercise and sleeping in are good examples. We might do it for a while, but one day, that bed is feeling nice and warm and just one day of not working out early wont hurt. This is especially true when no one is monitoring you and you are left to your own mind.
Discipline is a talent in that it can be practiced and improved upon. There are a number of ways to practice discipline, but in most cases what it comes down to is the ability to control your thoughts and physical desires. The Bible, in James 3 says that a person who offends no one in speech is perfect. Many religions practice fasting to exercise control over their hunger. Most sports and exercise require mental as well as physical training to streamline performance.
I have always been fascinated with “free-diving”, where they ride these speed sleds hundreds of feet below the ocean on a single breath, we are talking about humans who can hold their breath for nearly 7 minutes. A late women’s record holder (who died breaking her own record) said free diving was the best way she knew of “to know yourself”. Its crazy to me that these athletes train to control when they will allow themselves to breathe…and if they “mess up” they will drown. Still, it is an extreme example of what is possible to a disciplined mind.
Much of your happiness in life will not come from having a set standard of goals which you believe are important, but your ability to be disciplined in following those standards. Don’t sweat the little stuff, keep your eyes on the goal and move forward.