Randomly On Discipline – Nothing to do with Sandy or the election – I promise

You bro… you mad?

Dear my valiant 3 readers,
I know my posts here in the last few weeks have been few and far between. I apologize. The hurricane and the elections really sapped all of my attention. This morning I am thinking about discipline, so here it goes…

Since I have a had a lack of this wonderful attribute in relation to this blog, I end up thinking about it a lot. This morning I woke up (after 7 hours of sleep) and could barely open my eyes. I looked at the clock, shut the alarm off, and almost rolled over to go back to sleep. Instead I got up and told myself if it is too snowy I will get back in bed and not go to the gym. I wondered to the front window, the road was clear. So I kept moving and was out the door in 15 minutes on my bike heading to the gym.

I don’t call this discipline. Sure there were multiple points where I had to make decisions that countered my inertia: the inertia to stay sleeping, the inertia to stay in my warm apartment, the inertia to not move more than I have to. But ultimately I like working out, in fact I love it (I know shocking – considering this blog).

I love working out so much I’ve created a whole identity around it. I have touted all sorts of justifications for working out, and luckily there are plenty that are already socially aceptable ones: it is good for you, it makes you look good, it is good for society (me being healthy means other have to care for me less) etc. I can talk about all these things as much as I want, but when it comes down to it I just really love the feeling of putting 200 pounds of steel on my back and squatting, or flowing through a rock climbing problem (even when it inside a crowded Brooklyn warehouse), or running over bridges, or riding my bike to work. I can’t adequately how it makes me feel, but some combination of happy, giddy, focused, present, satiated etc.

Doing something you love does not take discipline.  What does take discipline is making sure you don’t waste time in other parts of your life so you can actually have time to do the things you enjoy.

I have read (please readers if you know where tell me, – cuz I don’t remember where) that we have a limited pool of discipline in us, as individuals. The idea goes something like this, if you use all of your discipline in one place early in the day, later in the day it will be hard to maintain discipline. For example, if I use all of my discipline getting out of bed when I really don’t want to, and I go to the gym even if I really don’t want to, then later in the day it will be harder to call on my discipline to not eat the donut a co-worker left in the kitchen.

Throughout history there are examples of people who have exhibited extreme levels of discipline doing things that seemed contrary to what others around them were doing. Buddha sat under a tree after leaving a cush life, that must have taken discipline, right? But what if he just really enjoyed sitting there under the tree? What if Buddha’s sitting is to my working out. The thing is Buddha was able to justify his favorite thing to do and sell it to others as virtuous.

But is discipline virtuos all by itself? Or is it only virtuous when applied to activities or practices we have some how consensed on?

I will be returning to the idea of discipline over and over in the blog. I find it interesting, especially because I am often (mistakenly) painted as having a lot of it by friends who do not enjoy working out.


About JTP

An occasional reader, an occasional writer, an occasional podcast producer, an occasional strategist.
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