Self-Conquering: The Beautiful Victory

Stefanie Galpern

What is self discipline? Perhaps it is about perseverance, efficiency, focus, planning, will power, diligence, and even leisure. But, I am simply naming words; after all, I cannot define it. Likewise, I do not believe anyone has quite perfected the term. Yet, of course perfection is not at all what discipline is about–it is about presence and progress. Why be perfect for one second, when by showing up you can gain progress eternally. But ‘showing up’ is certainly easier said than done. True presence requires focus and diligence. Physical attendance is of nonentity without mental attendance. Applying immense focus to your craft and seriously working at it leads to growth. Nevertheless, where growth is, discipline is too. Conquering oneself is a win–as in a multiplayer game, with opponents all vying for victory. Yet, our game is vaster–with countless adversaries, as we build our strengths. It’s always the strong focused winners, who are but so aware of their strengths.. and more prominently their weaknesses. 


Self-identification is challenging and in most cases disappointing. This is normal, however. So, instead of beginning by identifying your present self–identify your ideal self. This is either beautiful and can fill you with a sense of hope–or it can feel totally overwhelming, considering how far away you are from the ideal. But, do not let this feeling defeat you–take control of it and persevere against it–a small victory, nonetheless a significant one. Amid feelings of stress, you must remind yourself that this is the first step; it is something–a start–a move closer towards the ideal you. Next, take a day and carefully record your actions–both favorable and unfavorable. At the end of the day, list your values–these will most likely align in some manner with the ‘ideal you.’ Then, reflect on your day, do your actions align with your values–which ones–if so how do those actions translate into your growth? But, of course, it is almost guaranteed that a few of your actions will entirely contradict your values, and that’s okay–because it is exactly what you are working on. 


Successful work requires a plan. Plans help with calming your stress and boosting your focus, for they provide one with a sense of stability, which translates to increased productivity and efficiency, thus leading to progression. Likewise, planning comes with priority. After all, “if you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any,” (Collins). Having numerous goals causes stress, thus leading to burnout. But instead, if we pivot our focus, we achieve more and grow more, for it is the baby steps that translate into leaps. Taking the time to plan our day allows us to feel hopeful, resulting in a better start to our day… and the only way to fully win the day, is to win the morning. But, everyone has ‘bad days,’ they are inevitable, and do not necessarily impact your character, that is as long as you have more ‘good days’ than bad. These ‘good’, well-planned, and consistent days are formed by habits. Habits may appear daunting, so what I like to do is create a pros and cons list. Start by listing all of the good (pros)–all of the gains, and by the time you go to list your cons, you will likely find that no con can compare to the pros. Then, you have to execute–take the time, effort, and discipline to create a habit. But, that’s a whole other article.


To create a habit, partially means to be able to resist temptations. To oust negative influences, commonly the solution aligns with the popular phrase, “out of sight, out of mind,” yet while this phrase is often glorified, it is immensely porous. I am a prime believer in learning from your mistakes–and not just ‘removing’ them from your life, for “out of sight” does not necessarily mean “out of mind,” and more prominently “out of sight,” or “out of mind,” certainly does not mean “out of life.” Adversity in life is inevitable, and the only way to grow beyond it is by learning how to deal with it–not by being ignorant, which as we know, is never bliss.


Habit creation is not easy. It challenges our focus, willpower, and ability to persevere. The stress we experience harrows over us, forcing us to cower down–so low that we feel like giving up is the only option. But this is only a last resort if we allow it to be. In 2010, the psychologist Veronika Job, at the University of Vienna, published a study concluding that “the participants’ mindsets about willpower, it seemed, were self-fulfilling prophecies.” Meaning that individuals who believed that after facing arduous activity, their willpower weakened–this reality was true to them. The same “self-fulfilling prophecies” are true to the individuals who believe they had unlimited willpower; after mentally exerting activities, these individuals expressed no deterioration in their focus. We are infinite. We have great power and ability, as long as we believe in ourselves enough to persevere. 


Along the way it is always helpful to have mentors, ready to give feedback–no matter how difficult it is to hear. Sometimes identifying our strengths and weaknesses takes a second opinion. The best mentors I’ve had are wise, motivating, experienced, knowledgeable, and always willing to provide me with their assistance. If you ask any great mentor, I’m sure they can agree with the statement–with hard work must come leisure. Your body is like a car–it needs fuel to operate. Accepting leisure will allow one to feel energized and vital–ready to face the hardships life presents them, as they are ready to win.


Definitionally, self-discipline is difficult to identify. It is a broad term, comprised of a plethora of attributes–nonetheless I believe Plato remarked it best–conquering oneself is “the first and best victory.”