Discipline? Do we need it?

Sohail Mohammed
7 min readApr 6, 2020

Uncertain times

We are currently in a very different world right now. The COVID-19 virus has changed the way that we live and go about our daily routine than just a few months ago. A normal weekday for me would start at 5:30 in the morning and out of the house by 7:20. I would also be in bed by 10:30, max! On the other hand, a normal weekend would most likely be me waking up at 8:30 and getting things done on my own time and filled with lots of family time. But now that we have this virus around us, every single day feels like a weekend.

Photo by Irene Kredenets on Unsplash

Constantly living with your family, only interacting with your friends virtually and so much time on our hands! It seems so attractive to watch that tv show all day, while eating a bowl of ice cream while curled up in your warm bed. But is this the right choice? It doesn’t seem that bad, does it? I mean, it seems like your body is loving it, at the moment…

Choices

In our life we are constantly faced with many choices. As soon as we wake up, we have a choice. Hit that snooze button? Or get on that treadmill?

Or maybe when getting breakfast. Krispy Kreme? Yummy!!! Or how about a spinach smoothie? Eww

Even at work! Should I just do what I’m told? That seems easy enough. Or… Lets go above and beyond and help this company grow!

Or when you come home. Netflix? Yessss, Can’t wait to see what happens next!!! Or read? Nahhh thats too much work.

These are just a few examples of what we might face in a day. But I think it is obviously to say that we face many, many choices in our lives, almost every single moment.

But how do we know what is the right choice?

Napoleon Hill is the author to one of the greatest books that talk about reaching successes and making the right choices. He has interviewed some of the world richest people, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison and even John D. Rockefeller. John D. Rockefeller was the one of the world richest people, even more than Jeff Bezos!

It is reasonable to say that his advice is credible. In his book “Think and Grow Rich” he says

“If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self.” Napoleon Hill

Now what does this mean? Well for starters there is a huge lesson on discipline here. Everyday we come across these choices, and we have the freedom to chose between them. But one choice is sounds comforting, where as the other choice may be better for you. This is a tough decision. But we need to take control of yourselves. If we are able to suppress our desire to go after what “feels good” then that means we have conquered our selves. This is slightly different than BEING conqured by ourselves. When we have control over our body, we have defeated our desires.

Odin is a widely revered god in Germanic mythology. His story of sacrifice

Long term vs short term

Well in most choices we have there is a clear distinction in things that are good for us and things that make us feel good.

Take for example watching netflix vs. listening to a podcast.

Watching netflix definitely sounds exciting. You might have been told by your friends to watch a specific show but is this the best choice for us.

Well, lets look at the other side. Listening to a podcast. That sounds boring but I think you know that this will help you get smarter and better at life.

Here we can see a long term and short term benefit. Watching netflix sounds really good but will watching the show right now help you in one week? Well guess what, listening to that podcast will! Infact, the podcast will not only be helpful to you in a week but your whole life!!! This knowledge will most likely be with you and you will find an instance where you use this knowledge you gained. However, I can’t say the same for a episode on Netflix.

Let's look at one of the most famous long term thinkers…Warren Buffett. Buffett is one of the world best investors and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. He is also one of the worlds riches people. He constatly speaks about always thinking and planning for the long term.

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago” -Warren Buffett

When you pant a tree, you have to be honest with yourself. A tree takes time to grow and there isnt any real way you can rush it or get quick success. But once it's grown, you have something that can not only give you shade, but provides fresh oxygen, and if you're lucky some fruit.

This is long term thinking.

If we take a dive into history we can also see some examples of how discipline had played its part

Odin is a widely revered god in Germanic mythology. He sacrificed his eye in order to gain wisdom.

Or in Christianity, where Adam and eve followed their desire and took a bite of the apple.

Even Pandora, in Greek mythology, she could not control her curiosity and ended up opening the box.

There are usually consequences for your short term thinking, where we see them or not. Long term thinking will allow you to buld your knowledge. Since this knowledge does not go away, it will be with you your whole life. This way your knowledge is compounding as you learn something new everyday and get better everyday since you are building of old good habits.

Examples

Some of the world’s greatest leaders have had the utmost discipline in their life.

Take for example, Abraham Lincoln.

Photo by Joshua Bedford on Unsplash

He had arguably one of the hardest jobs as president of the United States. He in fact had to bring a whole nation that was on the verge of splitting.

“Discipline is choosing between what you want now, and what you want most.”

Take Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. He is one of the hardest working people in this earth.

“All success begins with self-discipline. It starts with you.”

But why is it so difficult?

Photo by John Baker on Unsplash

Lets go a little deeper.

As stated above, discipline is a decision on how to act. You are making choice between getting gratification now or where to receive it in the future. This is the main obstacle, whether to delay your gratification.

Now the reason you don't act impulsively is due to many reasons, like hormones, genes, evolution, social environment, physical environment, past experience and context of the situation. But the most immediate cause can be traced back to your brain. Specifically the neurotransmitter dopamine. In his book “Behave” Robert Sapolsky talks about how, contradictory to popular belief, dopamine is actually more about anticipation.

Now back to short term vs long term. What is the role of dopamine when you make a short term decision vs. a long term decision. We depending on your decision dopamine is actully sent to different parts of your brian. If you are looking for immediate gratification, the harmon is sent to what is know as limbic targets whereas your are anticipating delayed reward, dopamine is sent to frontocortical targets.

Self discipline is more of a environmental problem than a individual one. A study sone by neuroscientist Car Hart found that when meth addicts were given a choice between five dollars and 50mg of meth, 5 dollars was chosen half the time. But when he increased the amount to 20 dollars, the addicts almost never took the drug. Hart suggest that addicts are actually rational decision makers and will chose not to take the drug when they are offered alternative reinforces.

Now…

We need to be more aware of the time that we are using. Once time is gone, it will not come back. The choices we make have the ability to make an impact throughout our whole life.

Over this pandemic we are experiencing, try to have more discipline and make the right choices. I guarantee you that your body will thank you.

For example, sleep. There have been many studies that have shown that sleep is a crucial necessity of our lives. But lack of discipline can really effect that. Using your phone at night has been shown and linked to insomnia. By discipling ourselves and making sure we are controlling our phone time, we will be able to get better sleep and this will lead to better LONG-TERM results!

Better sleep then can led you to have a more productive day, where you are also making more better long-term decisions. This can lead you to make better decisions about your diet, which also help you in the LONG-TERM!!!

The simple disciplined decision to control our phone usage had lead to a compounded list of good decision that all help us the LONG-TERM!!!!

Action!

Make a list of three things you want to change everyday and make sure you do it for at least a week. Record how you feel and changes you experience. If you like something keep it ;). Try another three things next week. This way you can compound your way into becoming a better version of yourself where you feel like your on top of a mountain.

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