4 Insights on Self-Discipline (re-post)

Neil Bascomb wrote a book called The Perfect Mile in which he tells the story of Roger Bannister, John Landy, and Wes Santee, three men who committed themselves to run the mile in less than four minutes. He writes:

“All three runners endured thousands of hours of training to shape their bodies and minds. They ran more miles in a year than many of us walk in a lifetime. They spent large parts of their youth struggling for breath. They trained week after week to the point of collapse, all to shave off a second, maybe two, during a mile race – the time it takes to snap one’s fingers and register the sound. There were sleepless nights and training sessions in rain, sleet, snow and scorching heat.There were times when they wanted to go out for a beer or a date yet they knew they couldn’t. They understood that life was somehow different for them, that idle happiness eluded them. If they weren’t training or racing or gathering the will required for these efforts, they were trying not to think about training or racing at all.”

Thomas Merton, in his book New Seeds of Contemplation, writes:

“No one who simply eats or drinks when he feels like eating or drinking or smokes whenever he feels the urge to light a cigarette, or gratifies his curiosity and sensuality whenever they are stimulated, can consider himself a free person. He has renounced his spiritual freedom and become the servant of bodily impulse. Therefore his mind and his will are not fully his own. They are under the power of his appetites, and through the medium of his appetites they are under the control of those who gratify his appetites.”

Elton Trueblood writes, in The Company of the Committed:

Acceptance of discipline is the price of freedom. The pole vaulter is not free to go over the high bar except as he disciplines himself rigorously day after day. The freedom of the surgeon to use his drill to cut away the bony structure, close to a tiny nerve without severing it, arises from similar discipline.It is doubtful if excellence in any field comes in any other way. John Milton was revealing something of his own creative power when he wrote, ‘There is nothing in the world of more grave and urgent importance throughout the whole life of man than is discipline.”

And finally, Gordon MacDonald in his book A Resilient Life (from which these quotes have been taken) writes of the discipline of the author:

Many people would love to have their names on the cover of a book. Admittedly, it is a marvelous feeling of accomplishment. But no one except the writer knows of the lonely hours spent before a keyboard testing thoughts and concepts through words on a page. The joy, the freedom that comes with the finished product is exhilarating. But the road of disciplinary activity that led to the finished product is fraught with struggle.”

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