Choose A Life of Disciplined Excellence

Discipline is essential if you wish to be free, live well, enjoy life and age successfully.

There are variables too numerous to list that affect success in this life, and none is more consequential than the one over which we have no control, namely, random fortune. The place and time of our birth is one example, not being on the wrong end of a lightning strike is another – there are billions of chance encounters that, for better or worse, affect how long we live, the roads we take, the jobs and professions we adopt, who we marry and so on. These are consequential occurrences that shape our fate and all are random; there is nothing logical, predictable or manageable about any of them. Crudely put, we are vastly affected by dumb luck.

Fortunately, there is much more over which we do have influence, and these are the factors that should concern us and be attended to if we wish to do well and make the most of our relatively short existence on this good Earth.

At the top of any list should be discipline, control of thoughts and actions. It is discipline that keeps us on track, enables us to manage impulses and feelings and sustains movement toward goals. Consistent success over time requires self-discipline. In a speech entitled Improved Man, Robert Green Ingersoll described nine major qualities, virtues, values, commitments and not common—enough common decencies that represent an improved version of men and women, hopefully at some time in the not-too-distant future. Each quality had multiple sub-qualities. Consider the ninth such quality, which in multiple ways touches on self-discipline as a key feature of being free, living well, enjoying life and yes, aging successfully:

The Improved Man will be self-poised, independent, candid and free. He will be a scientist. He will observe, investigate, experiment and demonstrate. He will use his sense and his senses. He will keep his mind open as the day to the hints and suggestions of nature. He will always be a student, a learner and a listener—a believer in intellectual hospitality. In the world of his brain there will be continuous summer, perpetual seedtime and harvest. Facts will be the foundation of his faith. In one hand he will carry the torch of truth, and with the other raise the fallen.

Recently, the point was also made by Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge, age 33, who said the following about this essential ingredient of success:

Only the disciplined ones in life are free. If you are undisciplined, you are a slave to your moods and your passions. It’s not about the legs; it’s about the heart and the mind.

He added what many believe to be a Chinese parable:

The best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago. The second-best time to plant a tree is today.

Kipchoge’s own discipline in life enabled him to accomplish an extraordinary feat, one that was hard for even the experts to believe. What he did rocketed him to fame on the morning of September 16, 2018, in Berlin: He shattered the world record for the marathon by running slightly over 26 consecutive miles at a pace of four minutes, 38 seconds per mile, winning the fabled event in 2:01:39. Evidently, Mr. Kipchoge is disciplined and free from his moods and passions, master of his heart and mind and well aware of the value of being self-poised. His mention of the best times to plant a tree represents an apt metaphor for aging successfully. The quote echoes Ingersoll’s words from 1890: In the world of his brain, there will be continuous summer, perpetual seedtime and harvest—in abundance.

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