Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.
Thucyidides, History of the Peloponnesian War
This month I’ve had the chance to reflect on the above quote. Early on this
month a good friend of mine reiterated to me on several occasions that it is
discipline in the small things, that allows us to accomplish difficult things.
Though it wasn’t pointed as a criticism of me, it did strike me. In what ways
had I become lax? And what was that costing me?
I’ve known and appreciated the benefits of living in a disciplined way, but I
also been willing to give into lazy attitudes. Sleeping in a day leads to
missing a workout. Missing one workout makes it easier to miss another.
Watching TV all of one evening leads to skipping doing any reading. Missing one
night leads to missing more.
None of those choices are in themselves wrong, but they do lead to a pattern of
behavior of laziness. But perhaps worse, they lead me to wonder: What decisions
that required more courage was I putting in danger by my lax lifestyle? What
difficult things was I unable to accomplish, because I had not the will to do
I recently read How to Take Smart
In the book Arhens (the author), details how an individuals willpower is a
limited resource. Because of this he recommends building systems that support us by requiring less willpower
rather than work against us by demanding the use of our willpower. In this way the
systems allow us to accomplish hard things (in Arhens example writing long,
well researched, academic papers). While this is splendid advice, I realized
this month, that just because willpower is limited, does not mean that we can’t
cultivate more of it. How can we accomplish this? My friend, and
Thucyidides would suggest that it is by exercising our willpower in the small
things. And I’m inclined to believe them.
As may be obvious from the title, this is just a thought. For now my time and thinking on this subject
have been limited, however I aim to study more on discipline and willpower in the coming months and discussing it more fully.