I am working my triceps; I have to do ten reps with free weights. Self-discipline stares me in the face. I push myself and execute all ten. I am happy!
This small slice of a 45-minute workout with a tough trainer is a metaphor for success in life. Self-discipline, not letting yourself give in, pushing ahead, believing you can achieve a goal—all of it leads to satisfaction and happiness.
Australian best-selling author and demographer Bernard Salt says having the self-discipline to control the excesses of modern life is the secret to happiness in the 21st century. Addressing issues that specifically apply to boomers, Salt writes:
You are in control of your own happiness, you are in control of your own destiny; it comes as a result of the decisions you make.
What makes people happy later in life is the ability to make the right choices: in cultivating strong relationships, in having the ability to manage debt, to build strong friendships, and to maintain a balanced approach to exercise and weight control.
When you were a kid, discipline might have had a negative connotation. But there are positive definitions in Webster’s that Salt touches on. Now they belong to you.
Discipline or self-discipline
- gives you control and organizes your life
- perfects your mental processes and character
- helps you gain success and form good habits and behavior patterns
- brings you happiness and fulfillment.
While reading spiritual writer and thinker Deepak Chopra I found connections between happiness and self-discipline.
- the best cure for sadness is happiness
- anything that diminishes happiness should be avoided or eliminated
- don’t postpone being happy until some time in the future
- don’t expect someone else to make you happy
- don’t get stuck, allowing sad emotions to close you off from new experience
- and most of all don’t equate happiness with momentary pleasure.
Chopra warns that in our society, which is so driven by consumption, we might equate happiness with material things like food or drugs or momentary pleasures that soon evaporate.
He writes: Of course, we all live for the pleasure that life brings. No one is saying that you must deny yourself. But the most satisfying project you will ever undertake—and a mark of a complete human being—is to discover how to build a sense of happiness that no one can take away from you, because you have taken total responsibility for it. The journey to such happiness takes a long time, yet every step is one of fulfillment.
You can achieve a profound sense of well-being by employing self-discipline and forming good habits that lead you away from sadness and “poor me” thinking.
Is it hard to get started? Maybe. But you can build on small successes. And as you proceed, you will increase your feelings of well-being and that will keep you on the road to achievement.
Chopra advises: give of yourself (in other words, take care of others, and care for them); work at something you love; set worthy long-range goals that will take years to achieve; be open-minded; learn from the past and then put it behind you; plan for the future without anxiety, fear or dread; nurture close, warm social bonds; and develop emotional resilience.
A plan of action for just one day can lead to a plan of action for a week, a month, a year. Self-discipline carries your through as you take control of your destiny and achieve your goals; you are building something that truly lasts and brings permanent fulfillment.
Do you agree? Or disagree? Can you share a personal example of how self-discipline can be the key to happiness?