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Thursday, June 13, 2024
The Observer

Discipline for freedom

Growing up, I always resonated strongly with the common sentiment: “Why would I willingly do something that I don’t enjoy?”

To be honest, it can be difficult to argue against this reasoning at times. When considering the two options of walking 10 minutes in the snow to lift weights for an hour or sitting in your bed and enjoying a TV show, there’s no doubt in my mind that the TV show would be more enjoyable. This can also be applied perfectly to diet. If I can choose between dry dining hall grilled chicken or some Taco Bell, I will obviously prefer the taste of Taco Bell.

With this rationale, I ate a lot of crap and I watched a lot of TV throughout middle and high school. However, as I reached college, I began reevaluating decisions of this nature. In this evaluation, I came to realize a key factor in these decisions is the scope of time you are evaluating for your choice. Yes, a TV show is a more enjoyable, relaxing hour. And yes, Taco Bell will taste significantly better. However, once you expand the timeframe of your decision to include the effect years down the road, it gets more interesting.

When thinking about the effects down the line, I struggled to conceive how I could align my decisions towards a clear overarching goal or vision. As a young college student, it is virtually impossible to envision a crystal-clear end goal for your decisions to lead towards. Not only is it hard to know what you want your life to look like down the road, it is impossible to predict changes in your preferences or outside variables that will affect you by chance. Because of my unclear future, I have often struggled to win the “don’t watch TV because going to the gym is better for you” argument.

This decisionmaking dilemma can extend from health to work ethic in the classroom to how you spend your time on the weekends. For years, I’ve gone back and forth trying to carve out a clear enough vision to fix this issue, but I’ve failed time and time again. If you’re able to see a clear enough vision, good for you. However, if you’re in the same boat as me, I was recently exposed to a solution to this dilemma.

Similar to my last column, a former Navy SEAL provided me with a fantastic mindset to adopt. While David Goggins lights the fire in your soul, Jocko Willink provides the rationale for a life of discipline. In his ramblings on YouTube, Willink addresses the question of why he continues being extremely regimented after his life in the Navy. He answers that being disciplined must come from the desire for freedom.

At first, I could not wrap my head around this reasoning. How would discipline relate in any way to freedom? However, after watching more of his videos, it became clear. By becoming more and more disciplined, you gain greater control over your actions and can direct yourself towards a variety of higher ends. This “freedom” is then captured in many ways. Through discipline, you have the freedom to do what you believe is best for you in spite of outside pressure or immediate desires. Because of this self-direction, you then have the freedom to reach heights you want to get to most in life. Instead of wasting time on frivolous pursuits, discipline allows you to align all of your actions towards actual goals. 

Now relating to my point on being unsure of where you want your life to end up, these goals do not need to be permanent or 20 years down the road. They can be for freeing up time to spend with friends the next week or learning about a career you think could be the right future for you.

In addition, while discipline is key, I’m not saying you should never enjoy the present. That would be ridiculous. However, I believe that discipline is what ultimately gives life purpose. Without discipline, you would be a blob watching TV until you died. You would accomplish nothing and your life would have no meaning behind it.

As dreary as it sounds, it’s true. With so many forces pulling you in different directions in life, discipline is what allows you to control the path. And when difficult events occur in your life (they will), discipline is what forces you to keep it together, be strong for your friends and family and continue pursuing higher ends. Now with that said, I urge you to practice discipline to gain freedom in your life. I’m trying to do the same and it’s a process. However, with time, it can bring a drastic change to your life.

Mikey Colgan is a sophomore from Boston, Massachusetts, studying finance and Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics (ACMS). He is an avid college basketball fan and resides in Morrissey Hall. He can be reached at or @Mikeycolgs15 on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.