By Christopher Cudworth
The world’s greatest wisdom comes from sources as seemingly polarized opposites. We’re talking about the worlds of both scripture and science.
For example, the Bible shares this gem about self-discipline.
[ The Need for Self-Discipline ] Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Cut and dried. Clean and simple, right?
Yet we study our bodies through science and tests to understand how it is that we perform our best. We do FPT threshold tests on the bike. We do intervals on the track. We test swimsuits that help us move more smoothly through the water.
Our science affirms our desire to do better. Our self-discipline makes us want to understand the manner in which we succeed as well.
There is a crux to all this, a psychology that everyone must understand in order to succeed. Because… the morning we wake up determined not to fail… does not emanate from the same source of self-respect as the morning we wake up determined to succeed.
Self-respect and self-discipline
My niece Victoria Cudworth knows the balance of science and faith in action
This is no indictment of the general will to succeed. It is simply an observation on the order of that scriptural quote above. Having real faith in your success starts with belief and a love for what you are doing. But it is also confirmed and achieved through hard work and self-discipline. You can pray all you want to ask God to help you run a 2:22 marathon. But unless you put in the miles, eat right, manage your risk of injury and build the endurance to achieve that goal, it will literally never happen.
Real faith in your performance comes from belief not just in your goals, but in the process. That’s where it gets interesting. I have long counseled my children to “enjoy the process.” That means loving what you do. If that’s not happening, then it is wise to take a step back and analyze the source of your concern. Are you overcommitted? Working for reasons other than your own? Conflicted by some other issue? All these are legitimate human experiences. They do not mean you are a failure of any sort. Yet they can put you in a position where you’re more determined not to fail than excited to succeed.
When you’re truly loving what you do, you develop a different sort of belief system than just wanting not to fail. You find yourself waking up in the morning determined to succeed.
Personally, I’ve taken some risks the last few years to push my career and life in a direction that aligns more with the will to succeed in my own way. Going to work at jobs where I was determined not to fail was not a satisfying proposition.
The change has required some investment and risk, and a few “failed” experiments, including investment of some real money in a content marketing technology that turned out not to be scaled to my needs or ability. Sometimes we force ourselves to think that we don’t have the real answer within us.
But like they say, if you’re not failing your way forward, you’re likely not trying hard enough. My running, riding and swimming all these years have taught me that.
This is where the example of sports really works in our lives. If you engage in an effort like running a marathon or doing an Ironman, and things don’t go exactly the way you planned, then the (b)right thing to do is learn from that. You already know what it’s like to fail, and it didn’t kill you. It may have shaken your faith a bit, or made you question your methods. But that’s how we all grow.
The greatest tests of faith in history all exhibit these challenges in action and belief. When the Israelites were wandering the wilderness under the guidance of Moses, the Bible says God provided enough food to help them survive. But the people were not satisfied. They lost discipline. And in the result, they lost faith as well.
They woke up fearful, dissatisfied, and less than determined not to fail. But the determination of Moses was to succeed. That meant salvation. And Moses had to be a social scientist of a sort. He told the people to eat what was provided, and keep it simple. That’s what gets you through. Think about it: that trial of people surviving in the wilderness was all about the discipline of sustainability. We’re still learning these lessons to this day.
Greater forces in the universe
It’s true that if we show ourselves enough respect to be self-disciplined, it seems as if the greatest forces in the universe align with our goals. That’s why science is no contradiction to our faith when it is put to good use. Modern medicine is a result of that alignment. Medicine is a direct example of the fact that society wakes up with a will to succeed rather than the determination not to fail. It is the hope of a cure and a will to succeed that encourages athletes to run and ride to raise money towards a good cause.
So we reiterate: Self-discipline is waking up with the will to succeed rather than the determination not to fail. It is perhaps a subtle distinction, but it is all important in all that we do. It is a sign of self-respect to abide with both the faith and science of our endeavors. That is the secret of success.