Waste not your days in idleness

“Ye lads whose age is fitted for reading,” Alcuin said, “learn! The years go by like running water. Waste not the teachable days in idleness!” 

The years do pass by like an ever-flowing stream. 

And you're faced with one sobering reality—your days are numbered and you don’t how many you’ll get. 

So why waste them? 

Why spend them binging on entertainment and frivolous pursuits, when bigger, better and greater things are calling? 

You want to squeeze every drop you can out of life. To be the best and most remarkable version of yourself you can muster. 

You don’t slack and take your eye off the ball on purpose, it’s just the easiest thing to do.

One compromise here or there, and you slowly drift into idleness. 

You must fight compromise and idleness at every turn, especially on things that seem insignificant. That’s where your battle is won or lost. 

Big things are easy. It’s the small things that don’t appear the matter that in the end matter most of all. 

Reading is like that. It is a small habit that avoiding or forgetting doesn’t appear to impact your life today. And one day without reading doesn’t set your course for destruction and ruin. The problem comes when one day turns into two, and two becomes three, and so on and so forth until you look up one fine day and realize all the opportunities to learn and grow you've missed. 

It’s the same with what diet, exercise and a whole host of tiny habits and routines that don’t appear important on the surface. Their magic isn’t found in the days work, but in the compounding effect, they’ll have if you’re consistent over time. 

So stick to the path. 

Stay the course. 

Don’t allow slack and idleness to creep into your easy chair. In fact, throw out your easy chair and get after it because seizing the day ain’t easy. 

It takes constant vigilance to hold the line on even the tiniest of things.    

Setting The Tone

Your alarm sounds in the early morning hours and you rouse from your slumber to turn it off. 

That’s your first action of the day—to make the incessant beeping stop. 

But what’s your next move?

Rolling back over to for a little extra rest? 

Telling yourself, “Just ten more minutes?” 

Or do you spring to action? 

Do you climb out of bed and start your day? 

Truth be told, there’s nothing inherently wrong with sleeping in. 

No one is going to look down on you because you choose to get up at the last possible moment before having to leave for work. 

So why do it? 

If sleeping in isn’t wrong, why give up the extra sleep?

You give up the comfort and warmth of your bed because among other things it sets the tone for your day. 

How you respond to that first test sets you on a path. A path towards strength, action, and victory. Or a path towards timidity, reaction, and weakness. 

There are two paths and the one you choose determines a great deal. 

Discipline Without Direction Equals Drudgery

Several years ago I decided I was going to be a morning person. I’d read a ton of articles and blog posts that made me feel like a slouch for not getting up early enough. They had valid reasons why I should and warned of the opportunities I would be leaving on the table if I didn’t. I didn’t want to be one of those nuts that get up at 4 am, but I did want to start getting up earlier. 

I set my alarm for 15 minutes earlier each day throughout the week, trying to train myself to get up at an earlier time. It was successful, at first. I had moved my wake up time back an hour after one week. Things were flying high and going well. No worries, no problems, and no obstacles. The first several weeks were a breeze. 

I slowly crept back towards my previous wake up time as time past. I’d hit the snooze a time or two, or stay up too late the night before and have a good excuse for why I needed extra sleep. After a few months, I was back in my old routine without even noticing it. 

How many times have we endeavored to establish better and more disciplined habits that didn’t take? How many times have we set goals to get up earlier, workout more or eat healthy without following through? 

It’s been an all too regular occurrence in my life. I’ll set a goal, and even come up with a plan on how I’m going to make it happen, but too many of them end up as stories of failure. They haunt me. If I let them they tell me I’m a failure as well, and that I shouldn’t try to make changes to the life I lead. I should accept the status quo. 

I can’t listen to those voices. I can’t listen to the weakness. They’re not telling the whole truth. There may be a kernel of truth in there somewhere, but it’s covered with lies. The truth is that I failed because I was missing the most important piece to the puzzle. Have you put together a puzzle only to realize you’re missing a few important pieces? 

Unless you have kids, it may not happen to you often. But I’d lay down big money it happens all the time in the real world. You decide you’re going to do something, you consider the cost, and come up with a plan to get there. You invest time and work hard to see change occur, but it’s short lived. What happened? What was the missing piece to your puzzle?  

You must know why you’re doing it in the first place if you’re going to have a chance at real lasting change. “Discipline without direction,” Donald Whitney said, “is drudgery.” 

You must have a compelling reason and purpose for change to stick. ‘Want to’ isn’t enough, there must be a real, and powerful reason why you are endeavoring to change. It has to be a reason that forces you forward and pulls you through the hard times. 

The vague promise of productivity wasn’t enough to get me out of bed, but getting up to workout and write has been. I’m actually getting up even earlier than I’d thought possible because I’ve found an irresistible motive. 

Spend some time this week, thinking about the why behind your biggest goals. What would your life look like if you reached them? Move beyond the vague and focus on the specific. I trust that if you find a powerful purpose behind your goal, it’ll become that much easier to hit your target.