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The Power of Discipline

Discipline is more essential and valuable than ever. As when the stock market is going up and all investors can look like a genius, it is during volatile market times that the disciplined investors shine. It is equally true, when the world is throwing challenges at us from all directions, that those with a penchant for acting in ways which do not serve their long term interest, tend to do this even more. Meanwhile, those who live a disciplined life will further separate themselves from others physically, financially, spiritually and otherwise.

You do not have to look far; witness the behaviors of many who recklessly flock to large mass gatherings where alcohol consumption accentuates the already inherent risks associated with being in close proximity to others. Inhibitions decline, voices raise, and risks are heightened. If you interviewed the individuals participating in such gatherings away from the scene, I’m sure the vast majority would know intellectually that they are taking risks, however they simply can’t help themselves in the moment. They lack discipline.

Most people associate discipline with suffering and doing things you really don’t want to do. But I take the opposite view. Discipline to me is simply aligning your actions with what you deep down believe is in your best interest. When you do this, there is no suffering at all, rather there is peace and confidence and true joy. Those who sit on the couch drinking wine and watching the same Netflix show for the 3rd time rather than going for a walk followed by a glass of water may feel superficial ‘pleasure’ in that moment, but deep down there is a sense of conflict as their subconscious knows their actions are not consistent with their true goals of being healthy, etc. To combat this guilt and unease, they suppress their emotions with more alcohol and the vicious downward spiral continues.

In the beginning as you modify your ways for the better, it is true that it may take discipline in the traditional sense – choosing something you don’t feel like doing but that you know is very good for you over something that is easy in the near term but not in your interest. But very quickly a positive feedback loop forms and you find yourself wanting to live a healthy lifestyle. This creates a virtuous upward cycle quite the opposite of that described above. In my case when it comes to working out, I actually need discipline to not exercise each day. Daily activity is such an ingrained part of my life and the positive feelings associated with a great workout are hard to forgo – even for a day. But I know rest is good for my mind and body, so I find clever ways to take days off, e.g. on days I travel.

We are the sum of our choices in life over time. If you strip 2 people down to their undies and one is overweight and the other lean, you can tell with certainty what nutrition and workout choices each makes. You don’t even need to ask. The great thing is that: 1) your health is largely within your control, and 2) once you get some momentum with your workouts or improved nutrition plan, the need for discipline fades away and the positive feelings associated with experiencing the results takes over. This is a great state to be in – where your daily actions align with your goals and your deep-down interests. Then life becomes a lot easier on myriad fronts – physical, financial, relationship wise, etc. As the old saying goes, “Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.” The only enhancement I would make is that once you make the hard choices for a period of time – often very little time at all – then both the choices and life become easy – more interesting, healthy, fun, and joyful…..

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