One day recently Dennis Prager, nationally syndicated radio talk show host, was asked to name the source of his wisdom, excluding the Bible. He described an incident when he was a young boy in school. As the time for afternoon prayer approached, Dennis told his teacher, “I don’t feel like saying my prayers today.”
He recounted how the teacher responded by saying, “So what? Mr. Prager doesn’t feel like saying his prayers? What has that got to do with anything?”
The teacher’s point was clear: We have certain responsibilities that must be met whether we like it or not. Prager said that the wisdom imparted to him with that one response has stayed with him all his life.
That little story struck a chord with me, because I had just finished reading a book by Matthew Kelly, a noted motivational speaker and business consultant. Kelly is a devout Catholic, and in his book, Rediscover Catholicism, he talks about the three prevailing philosophies of our age today.
The first is individualism, which is an all-consuming concern for self. The individual is larger than the community. Let one person object to prayer in school, and prayer will be banned.
The second is hedonism, the belief that pleasure is the supreme good. The hedonist says, If it feels good, do it!
The last is minimalism, the desire to put forth the minimal effort in order to get the maximum reward. Kelly says that minimalism perfectly complements the greed of individualism and the lust of hedonism in the demise of human character.
These prevailing philosophies are diametrically opposed to the concept of self-discipline. The wisdom Prager found in his youth is at odds with general tendency. Prager’s “so what?” has been echoing in my head for awhile now. It has somehow crept into my mind, and I hear the words whenever I think I’m too tired to do something.
So what does this have to do with business? Everything. Ask yourself this question: What kind of business would you have if you could develop “so what” self-discipline? How much more would you be able to do? What if you lived each moment of you life with purpose?
How much more loving would you be if you stepped up to help others in need, whether you felt like it or not?
Would you be a better business owner or employee? A better neighbor? A better parent?
We all know what we need to do each day. The problem is that we too often rationalize our laziness.
“I’ll make some prospecting calls tomorrow when my headache goes away.”
“I just can’t get into budgeting right now. I’ll get to it later.”
“I don’t feel like writing that proposal today. I’m sure I’m not the first person to miss a deadline.”
This kind of thinking can poison our minds and weaken our resolve. Sloppy work habits don’t happen overnight. They creep into our lives slowly, over time, escorted by a single rationalization.
If you’re giving less than 100 percent to whatever your dream is, you’re cheating yourself. Maybe it’s time to bring some self-discipline into your life. Here are three very simple actions you can take to get started on a path to a more disciplined life.
1. Make a decision to live with purpose. You can’t acquire discipline passively. You have to go out and get it, and that requires a conscious decision.
2. Pick two or three easy actions to take every day to become more disciplined. For example, you might decide to get up a half hour earlier every day to read. Or you might decide to keep your checkbook balanced and your finances in order. You don’t have to conquer the world here. Just get a couple items down on paper that you can do every day.
3. Spend some time every day in complete silence. No music. No TV. No social media. Just you and your thoughts. Call it meditation, reflection, prayer, or day-dreaming – just do it every day for at least 20 minutes. I guarantee you’ll come to value this time above all other.
Lastly, I hope you’ll hear a resounding “So what?” whenever you try to rationalize your way out of doing what needs to be done. If you do, I believe you’ll find your life changing for the better. That’s been my experience.
I don’t know if Prager and Kelly know each other. But I believe they would get along great. Both have an energy that is inspiring and a passion for living that is energizing. I’d like more of what they have.
Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly
This link to the Michael Kelly book Rediscover Catholicism on Amazon is offered only for your convenience. I do not have an affiliate relationship with Amazon or anyone else.