How Holding Back Can Be True Discipline

How Holding Back Can Be True Discipline
Photo by benjamin lehman / Unsplash

Discipline is all about controlling what is controllable in your life. What do you have in your life that feels uncontrollable?

The discipline to hold back can be as hard as the discipline to bulldoze forward.

During my first marathon, I started off feeling great. My body was primed with adrenaline. At mile 10, I thought “I am going to make great time!”

I kept ahead of the pace that I was normally comfortable with. I thought today was my day.

Then, at mile 16, I crashed and burned. I took one step, and then all of a sudden, I felt a jolt in my calf. It was a cramp. Then, I overcompensated to my other leg, cramping again. The cramps slowly made their way up my entire leg before both my legs were locked up.

While I made it through the race but I think that it could have been less dreadful. I would have had a better time if I had the discipline to hold back.

The discipline to hold back can be applicable in many areas of our lives, areas in which we feel like we don’t have the same passion that we used to have. Holding back can give you the same appreciation as moving forward.

Spread Your Work Out

Seeing the future with 20/20 vision is impossible.

The future is an opaque image.

There is a temptation to do more now for a better future. We want to set our goals high and we should.

Shoot for the moon because if you miss, you’ll reach the stars, right?

Or maybe you’ll be lost in space?

It’s better for your body to run 5 miles a day for 10 days than to run 50 miles at once.

It’s more beneficial to work on a project at work for 30 minutes a day for 30 days than to try to do it for 15 hours straight.

Sometimes we need to take a step back to see the big picture. Don’t miss the forest for the trees.

“To procrastinate is to be entitled. It is arrogant. It assumes there will be a later. It assumes you’ll have the discipline to get to it later (despite not having the discipline now).” - Ryan Holiday, Discipline Is Destiny: The Power of Self-Control

Overcompensating for Missed Days

We’ve all procrastinated. Procrastination comes from two things: underestimating the work and being arrogant about yourself.

How many people do you know (or even yourself) who wrote a paper at the last minute? If you have done this, when did this start for you?

Did it start when you were in 7th grade and the teacher probably wasn’t going to give you a harsh grade?

Why did you think it was okay to put out something like that at the last minute? It’s a sense of arrogance.

Procrastination is rooted in arrogance. It’s a belief that your skills are so good that you can do something at the last minute to make it passable.

Why would you aim for passable? Do you not want to do better?

Wait, what does this have to do with holding back?

When you procrastinate, you end up backloading all the work that you have to do. You didn’t hold back in some areas of your life and decided to put off others.

Instead of doing the work spread out over time, you ended up leaving it all on the plate. You end up overcompensating by trying to make up 2, 3, or 4 days of work all at once.

I’m guilty of doing this. I think we all are.

I missed my running workout today, and the first thought that came to my head was, “How do I make this up?”

My first inclination was to double my running mileage for tomorrow. What good would that do me? I have a planned long run on Saturday and Sunday. Why would I want to ruin my workouts on the weekend just so I can feel good about making up for it in the present?

Manage Your Energy

If you are going to play the long game of being disciplined in your life, you need to manage your energy.

You need to know when to hold back. If you have ever watched the show "Alone" you will know who is disciplined and who is not.

Some of these people are starving. They have lost 20% of their body weight and have been alone in the woods for months.

Some of them have the discipline to not waste energy when they know there won't be a good hunt.

Others go out anyway and come back with nothing. This leads them to even lower morale, and they end up quitting.

There's a temptation to grind your ass off every day until you are ground to dust. It looks glorious, and we celebrate it in our culture.

We don't celebrate people who know how to manage themselves. People who are great at managing themselves and their energy should be celebrated.

It's the people who seem to have found balance. When they say they are going to do something, they do it. They know their priorities and understand the long-term consequences of the actions they take every day.

Discipline comes in a variety of forms. Ultimately, it is a commitment to something that leads to a long-term goal.

Remember your long-term goal.

Admit when you have lost the day. Be honest with yourself. It is okay not to win every day. You do not need to try to make up for it, especially if it is a personal goal.

Learn from your mistakes, move on, and do better moving forward.

If you are always trying to make up yesterday's work, you will never be focused on today's.

To be disciplined is to have forward thinking.

To take action toward your forward thinking is to have discipline.

Take one step today to start your journey to the art of discipline here.