The pain of discipline or the pain of regret

There are 2 types of pain; The pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Which one will you choose?

Quote provided by Paul Jeffrey ZDK Black Belt (Thanks Paul)

It’s really interesting that this quote landed on my desk because about a week earlier my business mentor from the United States was talking about the very same subject matter in relation to money, diet and fitness. So here goes my take on it…

The pain of discipline

Discipline is one of those words that gets tossed around a lot in the martial arts world. There are really two types of discipline. External discipline which is basically toeing the line and doing what you’re told. And then there is self-discipline, which is to do what you know you should be doing, irrespective of how you feel about it. As most of you know, or have guessed, I am not the kind of instructor who stands out the front yelling at you until you get it right (external discipline). My role, as it relates to discipline, is to teach you how to discipline yourself. So how do you discipline yourself? You discipline yourself by deciding what end result you want. You figure out what actions it’s going to take to get there. And then you do the actions that are required - even though at times it’s hard, difficult, painful, tiresome, boring, you fill in the blank - as the quote suggests above “the pain of discipline”.  That means turning up to class when you’re tired; doing the classes that you don’t enjoy or that are challenging for you; not quitting when it gets hard or you’re sick of it; turning up to class when it’s too hot or too cold; making the time to train when you’re time poor and being a good martial arts student. All this seems silly for the average person but, if you want to be a great martial artist, that’s what it takes. You don’t become great by training like crazy for a couple of years and then quitting. You become great by consistently chipping away at your physical and mental game until the skills become ingrained and your art begins to positively influence various aspects of your life.

The pain of regret.

Regret is what we experience when we don’t follow our passions and our dreams. Or more importantly, if we do not follow-through on achieving our passions or dreams. By following through, I mean working towards what you want. Most of us are pretty clear on what we want in life but few of us actually act on it. Why? I am sure for every person who doesn’t try to achieve what they want there is a laundry list of reasons why. For most people it is the fear of failure or the perceived monstrous challenge of undertaking something way outside our perceived grasp.  There is a famous line from a book about a man on his deathbed whose last words are “what if my whole life has been wrong?” These are words of someone who had never followed his passions in life or, as Joseph Campbell would say, “a man who never followed his bliss”. The martial arts for most of us is part of that passion and part of that bliss. The confusion lies when it becomes hard. At this juncture a fair percentage of people in the martial arts think that because it’s difficult, because they are not enjoying it as much as they did when they first started or because they are in an improvement slump that martial arts is no longer for them. Yet if you asked these very same people “what if I could wave a magic wand and make you a 5th degree black belt, would you want that?” they would most likely say “yes”. So in simplistic terms they want the result and the bliss that that will bring to their life but they are trapped into thinking that because it’s hard, it’s not for them. What it really tells you however is that they want the gold at the end of the rainbow but they lack the patience and courage to do the work to make it a reality. Then later in life they sit back and say gee I wish I had of stuck with that and they are filled with regret.

Every day we make choices and form habits which effect the success of our personal and martial arts journeys. We can embrace the perceived freedom and short term relief which comes from living a life with minimal or no discipline. Alternatively, we can brave the potential drudgery and mild sacrifice associated with self discipline. Ultimately, the path of discipline will divert us from the perils of regret and deliver us the rewards of happiness, excellence and fulfilment.