If I eat this donut, my doctor won’t know.
If I do two fewer pushups, my coach won’t know.
If I lie to my family just this once, they won’t know.
If I skip this self-directed homework, my tutor won’t know.
If I slack off while working from home, my boss won’t know.
Stop worrying about fooling anyone else, you’re fooling yourself.
It doesn’t matter in the slightest if others can’t see your lack of self-discipline. They don’t care – they’re too busy with their own lives. Some would even be happy at your shortcomings as it would make them feel better about theirs.
Don’t give them that empty satisfaction.
You need to be the one who cares about you.
That self-discipline is one of the four cardinal virtues of Stoicism shows how important it was to the Stoics.
Donald Robertson includes the Platonist definition of the virtue in his What do the Stoic Virtues Mean? article:
“Moderation of the soul concerning the desires and pleasures that normally occur in it; harmony and good discipline in the soul in respect of normal pleasures and pains; concord of the soul in respect of ruling and being ruled; normal personal independence; good discipline in the soul; rational agreement within the soul about what is admirable and contemptible; the state by which its possessor chooses and is cautious about what he should.”
It’s guarding against excess, it’s knowing when to stop and when to keep going, it’s good discipline in the soul.
It’s the virtue that opens up space for so much in life.
But self-discipline limits me, restrains me, how could it open up space?
Think about it:
Discipline in diet makes you healthier.
Discipline in exercise makes you stronger.
Discipline in relationships makes you happier.
Discipline in learning makes you smarter.
Discipline in work makes you reliable.
Discipline now leads to space later.
The space of having more time because you didn’t hit snooze, the space of trying more activities because you need to see the doctor less, the space of having more opportunities because you have gained wisdom and trust.
The space of having less to worry about because the bad choices are no longer considered. The space of being happier.
Keep going with what will benefit you, reject what will damage you. Whether you know it right now or not, you hold within you a vast well of inner strength that allows you to make these commitments.
“Dig deep within yourself, for there is a fountain of goodness ever ready to flow if you will keep digging.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.59
Challenge yourself and you will surprise yourself.
Don’t fool yourself, be honest with yourself.
No one else will know, but you will – and that’s what is most important.
You’ll be proud of your efforts. And who knows, the space that opens up could lead to great things.