They say that when the lesson is required, the teacher will appear.

This week I was reading (yet another, charity shop purchased) personal development tome entitled, “You Can Have What You Want,” by Michael Neill, whose best friend Paul McKenna wrote a lovely blurb to describe said book. (I confess the cynic in me has observed how various PD authors’ works are feted by their mates.) I had previously listened to a Neill audio programme and thought, “Meh” but the book is very, very good. I must listen with a new eye. (Eh?)

This particular insight provided this weeks’ “AHA!” moment.

He wrote of a minister he was coaching, and Neill asked, “Do you think God wants you to be unhappy?” The minister replied, “No, but I do think God wants me to be willing to sacrifice some of my own wants if that would be for the greater good.” Neill went on, “If you knew that by giving up some of your own comforts you would benefit mankind, would you want to do that?”

The minister said, “It would be an honour to do that.”

“Then when you sacrifice your desires,” Neill continued, “you ARE doing what you love and want to do in that moment.”

This paragraph and lesson illustrated exactly what I have been trying to apply to me. Like many, I find that the application of self-discipline is immensely hard. (Cue tears and violins.) But, occasionally, I do something that is compliant with the First Resolution and feel absolutely epic. Which raises the question – why can’t I feel like that before I execute some self-discipline or self-denial, and therefore do it more often, or more consistently? Why, instead, do I grudgingly do those things I know will make me happy immediately I have executed? One solution to the reluctance is to read my Mission Statement and push through to execution, but I would give a month’s pay – sorry, pension – to overcome that reluctance to act and not have to feel the need to push in the first place.

But then – would the ‘epic’ feeling leave if I just did it without overcoming that reluctance? Would a desire to be better and to overcome challenge die of it just became a simple to-do list entry ticked off as a matter of routine? Would ‘becoming more’ become so routine as to become boring, and in becoming boring lose any sense of challenge, and thereafter just not get done at all?

Wow. If I am reading my own words correctly, the challenge, the reluctance and the emotional drag of self-discipline are a requirement of the First Resolution; not something to be overcome so much as something to be embraced.

Maybe, after all, the lesson in Neill’s example isn’t that we should accept that a sacrifice is what makes us happy, and therefore be happy about having to make the sacrifice before taking action.

Maybe the lesson is that the emotional challenge is a wonderful thing precisely because we feel unhappy about what we ‘have to do’, and we have to overcome that emotion to execute the deed in order to achieve our real, underlying desire. And then be happy as a result.

Hmmmm. Is pre-action acceptance a form of denial of our true feeling, and overcoming reluctance the thing we should be seeking after all? Would our greatest athletes be as great if they didn’t find it hard/challenging to overcome their own reluctance to train?

Go ask one. I need the answer.