I have a problem with discipline. Up until a certain point in my life, no one ever made me stick with something I didn’t want to do. I played soccer in middle school, but after I got hit in the face with a ball I told my parents I didn’t want to go anymore, and so I didn’t. I practiced piano for exactly one year, found it difficult, and quit. Social interactions never came easily to me, so more and more my parents let me stay home rather than hang out with strangers who might have become friends. I narrowed my life into the things I wanted to do and the things I wanted to avoid.
Fortunately, I recognized the essential wrongness of this at some point. College and the years that followed were mostly a game of remaking myself into someone I could respect, but I still have those initial tendencies baked into my brain. I wasted a lot of really good opportunities in my life because they required difficult things, and I had spent too much time ducking out of my responsibilities.
The turning point was my writing career. I have a certain amount of inherent talent that let me coast through my college writing courses. But when it comes to writing professionally and commercially, that talent is only worth so much. It takes discipline to actually make it in this business, and discipline was a thing that I sorely lacked.
I found that discipline in two ways. First, I took up various physical activities. My father is especially derisive of the life of the body, preferring to focus on the life of the mind, and so in my childhood whenever I expressed an interest in sports or exercise he was, to put it politely, disdainful. In those cases I wasn’t just given an opportunity to quit, I was given an argument for it. So once I got serious about writing, I also got serious about my physical well being, because the discipline learned in the one form aided the other.
The second thing that I did was stop making excuses. I have a history of giving up, whether that’s something in my psyche, or something that I was trained to do as a child. Having a history of it makes it easier to give up in the future, too, because I’ve already come to expect it of myself. The people close to me can just roll their eyes and write it off. I can blame my schedule, or my depression, or my upbringing. It’s easy. And people are so empathetic to quitters. We’re a generation of wasted potential and legitimate excuses.
But each and every time that I’ve given up on something, it’s been a decision that I made. There was a point where I could have kept on going, and instead I stopped. When I’m running, it’s each and every step. When I’m writing, it’s each and every word. I can blame my history, but at the core, I am the only one who can overcome my own failings.
I have excuses, but none of them are reasons. I have failings, but none of them are failure. I have successes, and each one is hard won and hardly notable.
In the end, I overcome myself.