Thursday, 7 January 2016


Self discipline seems to be out of fashion. It's a dirty word almost. The big thing right now is to go with the flow. Follow your instincts. Let it all hang out.

People all around me are doing exactly that and it's embarrassing. They get impossibly drunk. They shout at shop assistants. They jump queues. They chuck rubbish everywhere.

Supposedly self discipline crushes the life out of you, puts you in a psychological corset. It makes you a party-pooper.

What utter nonsense. I have huge self discipline and huge will power, and I think my life is much the better for it. I've achieved things I wouldn't have achieved otherwise. By controlling my behaviour, not going to extremes, making more of an effort, I've made the most of my abilities and the opportunities I've been given. I don't feel my life has been remotely crushed.

There are plenty of people moaning that they're not getting what they want out of life, that they've been short-changed, that others are leaping ahead of them. Well, okay, maybe they've just had a lot of bad luck. Maybe things simply haven't gone their way. Perhaps they had crap parents and crap schools. But I can't help feeling that somewhere along the line they might have achieved more if they'd taken themselves in hand and pushed themselves a bit.

But that's not a popular sentiment. "Let it all rip" is the preferred attitude these days. I fear it can only end in tears.


  1. I've found that the majority of problems people face in this regards are with eating, exercise and spending money (that you don't have).

  2. Bijoux: Interesting. Also, there's very little self discipline now when it comes to hurling personal abuse at other people - the twitter trolls go to every extreme imaginable.

  3. Oh for the days of a bit of decent reticence...

  4. Fly: Indeed. We seem to have hurtled from decent reticence to verbal and emotional diarrhoea at lightning speed. I don't really want to know what X had for breakfast or how many people hate celebrity Y or who cheated Z out of a parking space. A bit more quiet personal rumination wouldn't go amiss.

  5. I agree that a lot of people think "discipline" is a bad thing. I think it just means making good choices. Mostly I've been pretty good at that, and it has worked well for me.

  6. It seems to come down to one simple problem - lack of respect.
    Those of us who have it are rapidly becoming a minority.

  7. Jean: I think it's more than that. It's a matter of making good choices even if those choices mean a bit of hard work and persistence and facing up to something difficult.

    Dave: Lack of respect is definitely part of it. Not caring what other people think but just doing what the hell you want and too bad if anyone objects.

  8. Note to self: I will not comment from my android, comment gets lost in the ether.

    I can't quite agree with you as I believe your post comes from a position of privilege.

    The inability to take responsibility and "man up" or "bootstraps" is rooted in the psyche far too deeply to be dismissed like this.

    I guess I know too many people who have fallen through the cracks through no fault of their own.


  9. It's interesting how some of these folks who have a lack of respect for others can get so fired up when things don't go their way and complain, "He (or she or they) disrespected me." It's a very annoying and grating phrase to me, kind of like nails on a blackboard.

  10. www: I suppose a certain amount of privilege comes into it, given that I'm a white male with a posh English accent. But then again, despite the apparent privilege, my twenties were pretty dismal and it was only in my thirties that my life started to improve. And despite my apparent privilege, I've never had any prestigious jobs or prestigious salaries.

    I think good luck has been the big factor in my life, especially the good luck to get on the property ladder at a time when house prices were soaring.

    I'm very aware that many people fall through the cracks and their lives collapse through no fault of their own. And of course self discipline, however strong, is no guarantee against disastrous personal misfortune.

  11. Mike: I know, the hypocrisy is stunning, isn't it? And yes, this constant cry of being disrespected/ insulted/ offended, often over utterly trivial remarks, is absurd. I think a lot of the time it's just an attempt to control other people.

  12. Rachel: Me too. Complete lack of self discipline all round. Violence, rape, murder, child abuse - it's sickening.

  13. I dont know where you get your information from, Nick but it really seems to be very skewed.
    You are beginning to sound like one of those cranky old buggers shouting at the local kids.

  14. the gap in our country is widening ever more each year.
    I don't know if it's a generational thing or a strictly monetary thing. it's hard to tell.
    there are people who seem to always have some sort of chip on their shoulder toward everything and everybody.
    reminds me of the line in the marlon brando classic...
    "what are you rebelling against?" his reply ... "what have ya got?"
    customer service in all areas comes to mind.
    the attitude is "just blow it off. you have me confused with somebody who cares."
    and yet everyone is complaining there are no jobs!!!
    how do those people even get a job in the first place!!!
    uh oh. the misleading little box. and now another comment like war and peace. sorry nick!

  15. I resolved years ago that I would never let the standards I set myself ever slip. I have lived alone for 20 years, and very rarely get a visitor. It would be so easy to become lazy and not bother with looking after myself, but I resolved that would never happen while I'm still able.

    Every morning when I get up I wash and shave, make the bed, cook a breakfast and wash up after, clean the house, put everything away in it's proper place, etc. I know no-one will ever see in my house, but if I stop bothering and live in a messy house and just not care anymore then I would be doomed and finish up a smelly old man with a beard sleeping in filth like my next door neighbour, who is the same age as me, 78. I look at him and think "There, but for the grace of the Gods go I"

  16. Kylie: A cranky old bugger? Not quite yet, I hope. I certainly don't shout at the local kids. In fact I'm constantly amazed at all those people who make a song and dance over something that seems to me amazingly trivial. I don't enjoy complaining, and only something very upsetting or very important will get me to take a stand.

  17. Tammy: Oh, I'm very tolerant towards shop assistants and anyone in "customer service", as I've been in some kind of customer service most of my working life. If someone gives you bad service, it's probably because they're badly treated, badly trained and badly paid by their employer and not surprisingly couldn't give a shit. But if the staff are treated well, they'll probably give you excellent service.

  18. Keith: I'm very impressed. As you say, it would be very easy to let yourself go and descend into the sort of squalor your neighbour lives in. Especially as you live on your own and there's no one to pick you up on slovenly habits. I hope I'd be as rigorous with myself if I was ever in the same situation.

  19. Mind you, Jenny sees me very differently. She thinks I have very little self discipline and I'm just shamelessly bigging myself up.

  20. And I bet that all these people with aberrant behaviour patterns are much younger. And there lies the answer to your puzzle.

  21. Ramana: Not necessarily. I've seen oldies hopelessly drunk, shrieking with laughter and disturbing everyone around them. I've also seen oldies not picking up dog shit and hogging coffee-shop tables. On the other hand youngsters can be very polite and considerate.

  22. fair point nick!
    i too was in customer service for at least 25 years.
    reservations and information... over the phone no less!
    i think i was mainly referring to the little effort at any kind of personality really. not particularly the service itself.
    there's a sort of vacant stare here that makes you think
    'nobody's home in there!' LOLOL
    i live in a university town. and they just seem to do the bare minimum of 'getting by' in their jobs.
    i'm sure it's simply our age difference. . . theirs and mine.
    the old fashioned work ethic is not being drilled into them so much.
    but who knows? maybe that's a good thing. the world changes!

  23. Tammy: True, a bit more personality and warmth wouldn't come amiss sometimes. But then again, as long as they give me good service, that's all I can reasonably expect. If they happen to be going through some major personal crisis, I don't expect them to be a bundle of sunshine for my benefit.

  24. Nick,
    You wrote, "Jean: I think it's more than that. It's a matter of making good choices even if those choices mean a bit of hard work and persistence and facing up to something difficult."

    Oh, yeah. I do have a lot of commitment and persistence. I suppose I was taking that for granted. The point is, if you really know what you want then you're not sacrificing by working for it. The people who attack us for having discipline think we're missing out on life. Not at all, we're just not attracted to what they think is fun. It's not that meaningful to us.

  25. Nick,
    You seem to take a dim view if people. I'm thinking that if you started looking around for kindness, discipline andpatience you would see it in spades. It's just like how you see red cars everywhere when you buy a red car: you see what you look for.

  26. Jean: You're right, if you know what you want, then it's no sacrifice to work for it. But then I don't think in terms of sacrifice anyway. I choose what I want to do, and if that means not doing something else, that's not a sacrifice it's just my preference. You can't have everything.

    And that's it exactly, we're not necessarily attracted to what other people think is fun.

  27. Kylie: If you think I take a dim view of people, you must have fundamentally misread me somewhere. I have a very positive view of people, many of whom are much smarter and harder-working and talented than I am. But it's also true that people can be selfish and inconsiderate at times. And that includes me.

  28. And on Eastenders again, it created a whole generation who think that it is alright to answer back, a thing that we would never be allowed to do either by our parents or our teachers.

  29. Rachel: Very true about answering back. What's worse though is this compulsion to criticise anything and everything, as if accepting something makes you some kind of wuss.

    Mind you, the fact that I never answered my father back when I was a kid was probably quite damaging. I should have told him what I thought of his habitual bad temper and his authoritarian behaviour.