Friday, January 17, 2014

Discipline, Happiness, Selfishness and Purpose

“Discipline is wisdom and vice versa.”

When we teach ourselves and our children discipline, we are teaching them and ourselves how to suffer and also how to grow.

It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually.

M. Scott Peck

I have about four hours completely to myself.  In that time I want to do the following:
·      Write
·      Study
·      Eat breakfast
·      Take a shower
·      Clean my place

In addition, I have some things I need to do later and I’m sure that as I’m writing or studying more ideas will occur.
            With regard to studying I want to read The Brothers Karamazov, Sol Stein on Writing and one book on finance.  (I’m in the middle of three finance books now.)  Whatever happens and whatever I do, by 1:20 p.m. I want to be able to look back and feel happy about how I used my time.   That’s the most important thing.  And maybe that should be my priority – feeling happy.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I fell into great disfavor with people I was once close with because I said, “My goal in life is to be happy.” 
Without saying anything to me, the listener became very upset with me and told several other people what I had said.  They too were upset with me, though no one told me.  I could tell something had shifted in the relationship, but I couldn’t understand why and no one was talking.  Finally one day someone told me.  Two things shocked me about this incident:
1.     Not one person in the group cared enough about me to discuss this with me; and
2.     Everyone in the group immediately equated happiness with selfishness and they assumed I was going to start acting selfishly and hurtfully.

I’ve shared this story and I’ve shared my beliefs on happiness in other blogs, (, but I will reiterate.  Happiness, true happiness, is a noble and worthy goal, because the thing that makes most people happy requires love.  When I am happy, it comes from being in sync with someone I love, or doing something I love.  Happiness is not selfish.  I’ve been selfish and I’ve been happy and I know the difference.
Once I spent the day at a comic convention.  Normally I love comic cons, but on this particular day, I had made a choice to make that a priority over helping someone else who needed my help.  So the whole time I was at the comic con, I was miserable.  I had made a bad choice.   In addition, there was a weird energy about me that created more pain.  Someone stole a bag of merchandise I had just paid $70 for.   Then when I was attempting to purchase something else for $20 with a check, the saleswoman, while glaring at me, said to her coworker in a very loud voice, “Don’t take a check from this guy!  You don’t know who he is!  He could be anybody!” 
Needless to say, I wasn’t able to make the purchase.
I don’t like to use the term “the universe,” because I don’t believe the universe is a sentient creative being, but rather a creation.  However, in this case I will use the term to describe how I felt that day.
It was as if the universe knew how unhappy I was about my selfishness and chose to put other selfish and unhappy people around me to keep me company. 
I don’t think God was punishing me for my choice, but He wasn’t exactly blessing that day either.  It was a bad day because of a bad choice.  Sometimes we make bad choices and we hurt others.
Sometimes, however, we make good choices and we still hurt others.   What then are the criteria for an unselfish choice?
If I am choosing for the ultimate good for others or myself, then my choice is probably a good one.  The ultimate good may not always be the easiest or the most convenient.  It may even be painful.  For example, if a child tells a parent she doesn’t want the parent to go to work, an ultimate good would be to go so that the parent can provide and demonstrate the value of honoring commitments.  This is not convenient and it may even hurt both parent and child.  However, if I let the child know that I am suffering too, then this is an act of love because we share that suffering.  Just to make this more complicated, there might be times when the most loving thing would be to stay home and spend time with the child.
Self-care and care for others are not selfish, because they require discipline.  M. Scott Peck says in The Road Less Traveled that discipline is a hallmark of love.  There are four aspects to discipline;
         Delaying gratification: Sacrificing present comfort for future gains.
         Acceptance of responsibility: Accepting responsibility for one's own decisions.
         Dedication to truth: Honesty, both in word and deed.
         Balancing: Handling conflicting requirements.

Here are ways I can practice self-discipline.
·      Exercise
·      Taking care of my health
·      Writing every day, and usually two times per day
·      Saving money
·      Studying
·      Smiling
·      Monitoring my thoughts and judgments
·      Using my time well
·      Working on things that are meaningful
·      Putting aside my work to be with people I love

These choices can be inconvenient.  Honestly, on a day like today when I have no commitments, I’d love to spend the whole morning reading comic books or going back to bed, instead of writing or studying.   Both selfishness and self-discipline have rewards.  When I am selfish, I have immediate gratification, but it’s tainted and a little (or very) unpleasant, like eating stale candy.   However, I am rewarded twice when I discipline myself.  I am rewarded after I have completed a task or commitment with a sense of relief for having the task done.  Then, as I habitually make similar choices, I am rewarded with a sense of accomplishment.  Today I was looking at the list of blogs I’ve written.  I’ve written almost 400!  That amazes me and tells me I am capable of doing great things. 
To do great things, however, requires constant self-discipline.  I cannot emphasize the word “constant” enough.   Self-discipline is a daily battle, sometimes even an hourly one.  In the end, however, all I have are choices, and my life, at this very moment, good and bad, is the result or the consequence of all the choices I have made.
So today, I’ve mad the choice to Get Started and Keep Going.  I can look back on the last hour and say I’m happy with how I’ve spent it.