[June 28, 2022] Discipline is the key to a good life. But, we don’t often ask the question, “What is discipline?” Dr. Jordan Peterson1 does a great job of discussing the issue of ‘discipline’ and walks us through what he sees in the concept.
Discipline, according to Peterson, means that you are capable of making sacrifices. You are not disciplined if you just do something you want more, rather than something that you should be doing. Maybe that works for you (that would be convenient), but that is not discipline. Discipline is when you want to do something right now, and instead, you think, no, I will do something else. I’m going to forestall my gratification, maybe forever or maybe for a very long period of time, and I will concentrate on something that will bear fruit in the long run.
Discipline means looking into the future and deciding that by making today a little less impulsively pleasurable. We set ourselves straight to make tomorrow a bit more secure and productive, and then you actually do it, too. And that isn’t easy.
People have watched the successful succeed, and the unsuccessful fail for thousands of years and collectively and individually thought it over. We drew a conclusion. The successful among us sacrifice; they delay gratification. As Dr. Peterson says, the successful among us bargain with the future.
If we could sit down with ourselves and be honest, then we could probably identify a dozen stupid things that I could quit doing that are making my life (and those around me) more wretched. We could think, what are those things. And if you really want to know, you may not want to hear it, but it’s true, and you already knew it in some sense. Then you can see that it is terrible, miserable, and not good for you. Ask, is there one of those things I would be willing to do something about that?
As soon as you get an answer to your question, then you have a responsibility. Your responsibility tells you that you have to do it. And it’s something you don’t want to do. But then you do it. That’s a kind of humility. And you keep doing it. That, my friends, is discipline.
Dr. Peterson compares this to the Cain and Abel story. If you cannot be disciplined, it will make you bitter and vengeful and make you want to hurt people around you – or at least not help them, which is the same thing – and we all know this to be true. Fail at being disciplined and see what happens if you think that isn’t true.
That is accepting responsibility; that is discipline.
Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).