The One Thing I Would Tell My Younger Self

Sometimes we all want to go back, sit down with our past selves and give the benefit of the wisdom we've learnt since then.

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Sometimes we all want to go back, sit down with our past selves and give the benefit of the wisdom we’ve learnt since then.

Whilst regret is pointless, reflection is powerful. To this end, it’s valuable to think of the things that we would pass back down the line because sometimes by thinking of those ideas we can pay it forward to those in a position who haven’t had the opportunity to learn those lessons yet.

Personally, if I could go back to my high school, pre-university self, I’d sit me down and talk about the power of daily discipline. Discipline is something that I have learnt post university and in the world of work that drives improvement and achievement.

In all the things that I did in school, from studying to athletic endeavours, I procrastinated. I never even realised that this was what I did until I watched that now famous TED talk by Tim Urban. Then it clicked with me. So if I could bring something with me to start the conversation, that video would be it. His humorous references to submitting papers minutes from the deadline would hit home even to the 15 year old me.

Discipline is a healthy antidote to procrastination. The discipline of starting something whether you feel like it or not is almost the polar opposite of procrastination. Many times I wouldn’t start something until the conditions were 100% correct. I’ve put off starting projects due to not having all of the tools I needed. I’ve delayed writing until I’ve had the perfect topic. I’ve postponed exercising until I had the energy and I’ve skipped completing a morning journal until I had the time.

Discipline makes the times for things. Discipline sets the schedule that ensure that you protect that time. Discipline pushes you past the low energy phases and gets you exercising until suddenly you develop the energy from the workout.

Discipline – to quote Jock Willink – is Freedom.

It’s freedom from the stress of all nighters studying for exams or submitted coursework. Freedom from the racing mind at night preventing sleep until the early hours of the morning and freedom to enjoy a life truly in balance rather than swinging to the last minute priority that’s needed to overcome my youthful procrastination.

I would also remind myself of the ability for discipline to improve things over time. We probably all know the story of the frog in the pot being boiled slowly and the same applies to the improvements that discipline brings. When I was younger I was always demotivated by a lack of results after starting something and, looking back, I now feel that I would benefit from understanding the wisdom behind the quote that “people overestimate what can be done in one year, and underestimate what can be done in ten.” This would have applied to my goals in both the gym and my guitar playing. I always practiced the guitar but I failed to understand the long term benefits of disciplined, deliberate practice.

Time machines unfortunately don’t exist, but while I’ve been reflecting on what I would tell my younger self, I realise that my current self needs to hear these things too. I guess I can never have too many reminders of the best piece of wisdom that I would shout back through the ages.

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