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The Discipline of Getting What You Want

What do you want? And do you have the discipline to achieve it?

What do I want? A dangerous question. Sometimes, it leads to shortcuts and temptations. The extra drink, the second or third or fifth TV show, a new jacket to match your dark pants on cold days, a magic elixir that promises to substitute for nutrition and exercise. Once you wade through the muck, though, there are precious stones resting at the bottom of the wishing pool. I want to be happy. I want to be fit. I want to be fulfilled. Getting through the muck, to the real answers, calls for discipline — a word that has fallen out of style like baggy cargo pants — the ability to control one’s behavior. To arrive at the precious stones, we must swim to the bottom of the pool, holding our breath to the point of discomfort, refusing the urge to stop short and return to the surface.

Many readers may anticipate a tirade against social media and online shopping, a podium slamming lecture urging you not to fill the voids in your life with quick fixes and fool’s gold. Not today. Today, I have two questions. What do you want? And do you have the discipline to achieve it? This has become a bit of a mantra for me, at least the answer to the first question. I want to be a good father. I want to be a good husband. I want to be a good son. I want to be a good brother. I want to be a good friend. I want to be a good person. I want to be a good leader. I want to be a good athlete. I want to be a good writer.

On some days, I may want to be more. Others less. It may depend on where I am, who I’m with, and what I’m doing. Whatever the pursuit, the second question now comes into play. Do you have the discipline? This is a simple yes or no — like a firm gut check — and other questions beg asking. Can I put my phone in a drawer for the next hour with my family? Will I get up and refill my water bottle so that I am hydrated enough to perform at my best? Will I sneak in 30 minutes of writing this morning or watch the new episode that aired last night? Which path will I travel?

Enough about me. If you haven’t asked yourself those two questions, I hope you can spare a moment to reflect, even put your thoughts on paper, or to a mantra, anything that will remind you why the air you breathe is stoking a beautiful flame. You don’t have to dig too deep to answer the first one. It’s the second one, the one that involves pushing through the muck, that will test your fortitude. It’s also the one that stokes your inner fire and inspires the pen that will write your obituary. I mean to say it matters little where your journey ends and more how you lived your life — and for what you lived.


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