I regularly tell my two kids that the pain of discipline hurts far less than the pain of regret. Nevertheless, it appears that one must experience the pain of regret repeatedly before they realize that the pain of discipline is less agonizing. Look at the indebtedness we have today. People spend their money recklessly and foolishly without a care of the consequences. Why do some folks make more money, live happier lives, and accomplish more in the same amount of time as others? I suggest that Harry S. Truman nailed the answer when he said, “In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves. Self-discipline with all of them came first.”
I steadfastly argue that the road to financial independence is to pay you first. Sadly, most people pay themselves (invest) whatever is left over after their monthly expenses. Low income does not cause financial problems; it is self-discipline! It is the inability to delay one’s short-term gratification to enjoy greater rewards in the long-term. In other words, we must do what is perhaps painful but necessary before we do what is fun and easy. As it is said, short-term gain causes long-term pain.
The problem with maintaining self-discipline is that we have to “give up” something to get it. In other words, discipline involves attaching and detaching. We must attach to our goals and ambitions while detaching from things that obstruct it. In the end, to beat the pull of the past, we must have a strong enough “why” so that we can bear any “how”! Yes indeed, the secret sauce is stamina. Said differently, be the tortoise; not the hare. Furthermore, I unwaveringly believe in the law of accumulation, which says that every high achievement is an accumulation of many small achievements. When we believe from the depths of our souls that the path to success is through a continuum of mundane, unexciting, and sometimes painful repetitive actions and we act upon this acceptance, magical things will appear. I call this methodology, “winning by inches”. We must develop “stickability”; doing the seemingly unimportant little thing daily and forever so that it just becomes a habit, a way of life
People often comment about my ability to maintain a highly precise and structured schedule. They believe that I am naturally disciplined. This label could not be any further from the truth. Yes, I am disciplined, and I maintain strict habits, but nothing is natural. Just like most people, my rational mind wants a fabulous beach body, but my emotional mind wants the chocolate chip cookie. I fight the temptation every day with my sensitive mind, but I believe in myself, and I am willing to pay the price to overcome the roadblocks to become the person that I want to be. This is not nearly as difficult as accepting the consequences of an undisciplined lifestyle.
I put forth that, Brian Tracey, in his recently published book, No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline, is spot on when he said, “The starting point of achieving financial independence is to discipline yourself by rewiring your attitude toward money. You need to reach out into your subconscious mind and disconnect the wire linking spending and happiness. You need to reconnect then the happiness wire to the saving and investing wire.” Isn’t part of the excitement of reaching our goal looking back at all the obstacles we overcame and the pain we endured? Don’t our struggles make the victory that much more satisfying and rewarding? In the final analysis, I suggest that anything of significance requires discipline to achieve it. Moreover, I argue that self-discipline is the primary factor that separates the wealthy from the poor and the happy from the unhappy. I will conclude my rant on discipline, not desire determines our destiny, by allowing the author, Napoleon Hill, to provide you with my brief but powerful closing argument; “If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self.”
Harry Pappas Jr., CFP®
Certified Estate and Trust Specialist™
Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®
Pappas Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors
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