Self-discipline can manifest in a number of ways. It can be perseverance, self-control, repeatedly trying until you succeed, the drive not to give up no matter the failures, and the strength to resist temptations or distractions.
Just like anything, self-control can also express itself as too much of a good thing – consider the risk of getting obsessive about weight loss to such a degree that it overrides everything else in your life to the point of an eating disorder. Self-discipline is not inherently “good”, but rather an attribute that can have positive outcomes when it is practiced in balance.
Another example of self-discipline going too far is in the world of video games. Maybe you heard about last year’s Fortnite World Cup where a teen won $3 million for beating out competitors of all ages. That might sound like a win, but at what cost? Video game addiction facts are unnerving, with some experts estimating that up to 16 percent of video game players display addictive tendencies.
On one hand, the teen winner (and new millionaire) displayed incredible self-discipline in mastering the game – or was it just the result of addiction? Where is the line between self-discipline and addiction (or other disorders) drawn?
Self-Discipline for Good
Everyone needs and benefits from the right amount of self-discipline. Without it, you simply cannot live a full and successful life. Consider someone who really struggles to wake up in the morning, but they have class or work at 8 a.m. Their only options are to manifest enough self-discipline to get up and attend to their responsibilities in time or not.
The latter might result in getting suspended or fired, and that is a downward spiral nobody wants to experience. Ultimately, most of us do manage to inspire enough self-discipline in ourselves for at least the bare minimum in life (like getting to work!). But what if we could do more?
More self-discipline might allow a person to wake up early enough to achieve some healthy tasks or rituals before rushing out the door. Maybe they find time for a healthy, relaxed breakfast with loved ones. Perhaps they squeeze in 10 minutes of meditation each morning. Maybe they can actually enjoy their shower instead of having to rush out of it. These little joyful additions to their life are all the results of just a little more self-discipline in an area where they were lacking.
But what if they suddenly decided to get up at 4 a.m. instead of 6 a.m. every single day in order to overachieve with their goal? The results might not be what they want.
Too much self-discipline isn’t set in stone, and it’s not the same for every person. For example, there are plenty of people who do get up at 4 a.m., hours ahead of other responsibilities, because they love it, they’re morning people, and it’s what makes them happy. However, if this new wakeup time is dreaded and resented every day, no amount of self-discipline will turn it into a holistic positive.
Self-discipline should not come at the cost of your long-term wellness or joy. It’s a means of instilling more balance into your life, not wrangling control at any cost. We could all use more self-discipline in some aspects of our lives, but the trick is figuring out where and to what degree.