Discipline.

This + pizza = Friday nights from 1993-2000, give or take.

Over the weekend, I stumbled upon a Boy Meets World marathon, which, obviously, made my world a better place.

The sitcom, starring Ben Savage as Cory Matthews, was the best part of the Friday nights of my youth (perhaps second and third only to pizza and being allowed to stay up to 11, respectively).

After I saw the show this weekend, I like it even more. This is in part because I get way more of the jokes now, and in part because it is a wellspring of wisdom.*

In one of the episodes I saw Saturday, Cory turned for help to Mr. Turner, his seventh grade teacher, when he had to make a decision. Cory made his choice, it backfired on him and he returned to Mr. Turner. Allow me to reenact:

Cory: “I made the wrong decision.”

Mr. Turner: “I could’ve told you that.”

Cory [agitated]: “Why didn’t you?”

Mr. Turner: “You don’t listen in class, you’re gonna listen in life?”

PREACH.

The important part of Mr. Turner’s point is this: selectivity hurts us.

We tell ourselves it’s ok to be selective.

That we can slack off in one context and our willingness to work hard won’t suffer in others.
That we can be be dishonest in one context and our willingness to be honest in others won’t waver.
That we can tune out in one context and our willingness to listen won’t deteriorate in others.

But if an aspiring entrepreneur will not work hard when she’s flipping burgers, is she really gonna work hard when she’s starting a business?

If a guy will not be honest with his friends, is he really gonna tell his wife the truth?

If a boy will not follow directions in the classroom, is he really gonna follow directions in life?

Deciding to embody a particular quality does not determine whether you will. Discipline does.

And we live in a discipline resistant world. A culture captivated by uninterrupted contentment and effortless gratification is not interested in self mastery. It isn’t interested in always working hard, or always being honest, or always listening. It would rather work hard and be honest and listen only on its own terms, when the social and self-focused rewards for it are instant.

Which is why people who grow up in this culture pout while they wait in line, or when the Wi-Fi is slow (or there isn’t any), or when the cable goes out, or the call gets dropped, for instance.

But if we can’t wait in line (or wait at all) without complaining, how good will we be at waiting in other contexts?

Like waiting for the dream job opp to arise while we flip burgers in the meantime.

Waiting for what we want to buy to go on sale (and not paying more for it than we should).

Waiting to meet the right kind of guy or girl (and not shifting our standards so the wrong one starts to look right).

Waiting until we are married to have sex.

But there’s a bright side. If we work hard, and tell the truth, and listen, and wait when we don’t want to, we will be better equipped to do so when we want to.

Jon Acuff puts it this way:

“…discipline begets discipline. When you step up to a challenge before you, your ramped-up resources rub off on other areas of your life. You wouldn’t think eating less ‘fat’ would impact how closely you monitor your family’s financial budget, but it’s all tied together. Discipline and focus are contagious and they tend to spread their benefits all around.”**

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*It’s a wellspring of wisdom when compared with what’s new on TV today.

**This quote comes from page 22 of Acuff’s book Quitter.

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  • Thanks for this; I love Boy Meets World and I totally agree with your plea for coherence and connectedness. You do sound like a “good ol’ girl” sometimes though and I feel like you’re too young for that haha. For example, there are good shows on TV today that “beget wisdom”! They’re rare, for sure. Ever seen Friday Night Lights?

    • Lol! Most days, I’m 80% sure I’m an old person in a 26-year-old body. I haven’t seen Friday Night Lights. Is it comedy, drama? When I think about “TV today,” what pops up for me first is stuff like 16 and Pregnant, and various housewives, and the Kardashians. Ugh. (But for full disclosure, I totally watch 16 and Pregnant when I stumble upon it.) I read a post on your blog somewhere once about how your family didn’t have a TV when you were a kid. Totally jealous! Ha. I gave up TV for Lent this year, and it was fabulous.

  • I did grow up without TV, and it was quite a gift. The shows I do watch, though, I tend to be quiet loyal to. There are good ones out there. FNLs is drama mostly.

  • SVB

    Mr. Turner was a hottie.

  • That is so true! I like to think I can lack discipline in one place and not others, but it doesn’t work.

    • It’s such a challenge to remember that in our culture, isn’t it?