By fifteen, I had immersed myself deep into the personal development world. Books, videos, concepts, practical exercises – you name it, I was there. I was like a video game character, always eager for that secret unlock to get me to the next level.
As a part of this, there were many inspirational or motivational quotes I came across but they were often clichéd. Vary rarely did they resonate or hit me at a deeper level, until I chanced upon one by Jim Rohn.
Rohn’s quote took me by surprise because there was an undeniable truth to it:
“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.”
You may have seen the shortened version: the pain of discipline is far less than the pain of regret.
The quote requires you to understand that you are always going to have to face pain when taking action (pretty depressing, huh). It will either be short term pain or long-term pain, but either way, you have to decide which one you would rather suffer through.
If you don’t want regret, you need to have the ability to deploy discipline and delay gratification. You will have to choose to prioritise and take action based on your long-term goals, instead of giving into short term desires. It might seem painful in the short term, but regret is guaranteed to make you feel worse in the long term.
Once I had processed the full gravity and extent of this quote, there wasn’t a situation where it couldn’t apply: saving money for university instead of buying clothes, practicing dancing instead of watching TV, studying instead of hanging out with friends.
It became a life mantra, a full-blown obsession.
It wasn’t uncommon for me to write the shortened version of the quote on my arm as a daily reminder, and exceptionally useful when dancing. Dancing required ungodly amounts of stamina and endurance. I needed to have something to keep me disciplined, especially if I was going to have to sacrifice relaxing and push through exhaustion.
Family members or friends would ask me to take a break, come out this once, you don’t have to practice every day. I would parrot back without hesitation: I can’t – the pain of discipline is far less than the pain of regret. I was probably annoyingly obnoxious, even more so than your average 15 year old. But I didn’t care.
Don’t let that fool you into thinking it was always easy for me to make the “right’ decision. There were days that I wanted to give in, and just do what felt good in the moment. But then I would remind myself that giving in might feel good now, but it wouldn’t later. Having to face my dance teacher with reduced stamina and still making the same mistakes as last week was a pain that I would be crazy to want to put myself through. From time to time, I would still give in and skip my home practice sessions. But I did so in the full knowledge of what I was going to have to face.
Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered that much if I had skipped more sessions – enjoyed life, relaxed a little more? But I knew one session would turn into a couple of days, and before I knew it a whole week would have passed. At that point, it would make a noticeable difference, I wouldn’t be improving. Even worse, I might find myself getting worse or slipping.
Living by that quote wasn’t easy then. It’s still not easy.
Discipline will never be sexy or cool. It requires you to make hard decisions, be the boring and responsible one. It was made more challenging because I grew up in the #yolo or millennial generation, the one that wants things now and lives for their Instagram. Friends would tell me just live a little, let loose. But I would always say no because I knew that it wasn’t going to help me achieve me move in the right direction towards my goals.
As I get older, discipline seems to be cooler, or at least admired and respected by the people I look up to. I pride myself and have great satisfaction in the transferrable skill of discipline that I possess. It means I can stick to a workout programme or persist through the challenges of hooping. It still never gets easier but knowing I’ve done it before makes it at least a little more manageable. It gives me confidence that I can follow through with something new and have the discipline to keep going.