Are We Not Disciplined Anymore?

Do people not have discipline anymore? I think I can understand why people would think so.

People quite easily give in to temptation. Sometimes it is the temptation of food. Someone might be on a diet, perhaps trying to lose weight or perhaps trying to cut down on his or her sugar, salt, etc. but by seeing a succulent slice of chocolate cake, there’s a good chance that they’ll give in and devour it.

One of the biggest temptations is the temptation to be lazy and not be active. It’s almost always easier to do nothing, even if you have the desire to achieve a goal or complete a task. It’s not even about a person comparing which is the better option. It’s not a logical decision. When it comes to the choice of staying at home and binge-watching a new Netflix TV show, versus going outside and engaging in a fulfilling, healthy activity, many times a person will choose to stay in and watch TV. It’s not because they necessarily enjoy Netflix more than that healthy activity. It’s that it’s easier to do.

A theory I’ve heard before is that the reasons humans have such a strong desire to be lazy is because evolutionarily speaking, it used to be really important for humans to save their energy when they were living in an environment where predators or prey could appear before them at any minute. In these situations, they would need some reserved energy to either run for their lives or chase down their next meal. As a result, the desire to conserve energy appears to us as laziness. To me, this theory sounds pretty reasonable. After all, humans are the way they are for important reasons.

It turns out though, that the desire to save energy gets us into a lot of trouble in our modern lives. We might skip important life events or choose not to visit people who are important to us. We might not fulfill even a fraction of our potential as a human being (imagine if you put even 50% of your maximum effort into something every day for 5 years). We might not even live our lives the way we actually want to live them (starting hobbies we are interested in, becoming a better person, etc.). All this because of an “I can’t be bothered” mentality.

I don’t think it’s just laziness or cake-eating, though. In several ways, we are living in a time that is many, many times better than the way the world was less than a thousand years ago. Things like poverty, disease and other unpleasant things are nowhere near as bad as they used to be. The world has arguably become a much better place to live in. I’d rather be alive now than in any other point in previous human history. Things are pretty sweet. We have the aforementioned Netflix, great medical technology, and a largely peaceful society. I think that by living in such times of comfort and ease, it has caused many people to become undisciplined, because they don’t need so much discipline to get by in their lives. If life punished people much more for being lazy, we might see a rise in discipline for fear of that punishment.

So, I do agree that in these ways and more, discipline has started escaping us, however it’s not the only side to this. In my next essay, I would like to discuss how people can actually be quite disciplined.



succulent (adjective) – tender, juicy, tasty
devour (verb) – eat in a very wild or aggressive way
run for one’s life (idiom) – to run away from something very quickly with maximum effort
can’t be bothered (phrase) – not feeling the energy or will to do something
aforementioned (adjective) – mentioned or stated previously