When I ask my coaching clients what they’d do if they were millionaires, I ask with the understanding that really, anything they really want to be doing they could do right now.

Here’s how the conversation goes. I’ll do it for me. Like, I’m the coach and I’m the client.

What would you do if you didn’t need to work?

I’d have a Pilates teacher and a yoga teacher live in houses on the farm and they’d give me a lesson each day. Otherwise I don’t think I’d change anything. Oh. Hire a gardener. And a cleaning person to come every day.

What keeps you from doing that now?


The gardener and cleaning person are pretty cheap. You could hire them if you stopped buying stuff on eBay. And you can do Pilates and yoga on your own, with a little bit a self-discipline.

What I’m trying to get myself to see is that really, the millionaire money only buys the illusion of self-discipline — to do yoga and Pilates every day, and to not have to stop myself from buying stuff on eBay each day.

Then I think I’ll google self-discipline to see what other people are saying. Because every time I write about self-discipline I get to the same conclusion: It’s a muscle you have to exercise and I am too tired to exercise it. And also, give me a break: I homeschool, I work full-time, and I have a garden the size of a small estate. Who has more self-discipline? I’d have to give something up. And I don’t want to. Because, fine, because I’m a brat. So I need something new to say about self-discipline.

On Reddit there’s a great discussion about self-discipline. I’m a little put off by the person whose handle is shutuppussy. But I tell myself that person has a whiny cat and I keep reading.

The discussion is about whether it’s important to develop self-discipline or can you just force yourself? Like, if I pay someone to stand over me while I do Pilates each day, then do I have self-discipline? Probably not. But I do have great posture.

Reddit commenters are talking about the goal of not using Reddit. On Reddit:

Person #1 Focus on temptation instead of self-discipline.
Blocking Reddit or giving away your bong might be the boost you need to make progress, but it is not a cure-all. If you want to continue a bad habit, you’ll find a way to do it. The real self-discipline comes during the times you are tempted to go around your preventive measures. In that moment, you have to remind yourself why you want this change in your life.

Person #2 Forced discipline is a good first step.
Don’t worry about what methods you are using to improve your self-discipline. It’s difficult, so you shouldn’t feel bad about removing temptations. Doing that could be a great first step, and shows that you want to make a change. You can break self-discipline down into steps. An early step is to make the problem less likely to happen: Forced discipline. Think of anything that helps to eliminate the choice but that can be easily reversed. For example, you can ask your friend for your bong back. Or You can easily uninstall the app that keeps you away from Reddit.

Person #3 Think triage: Take care of the immediate impediment.
When discipline is forced, self-discipline is the next step. Think of how first-aid works:  you deal with immediate problems like shock, blood loss, or hypothermia first or your patient will die. This priority is regardless of whether the actual, underlying problem is related to those symptoms. If you worry about setting a broken leg and your victim dies of shock, you’ve failed. If you can keep the person alive long enough to get to a hospital, mending the broken leg becomes a lot easier to do.

Okay. So now I’m thinking about what my actual problem is. I don’t think my actual problem is that I don’t have a million dollars to pay people to force me to do stuff. After all, Oprah has a million bazillion dollars to hire a chef and a trainer and anyone else, and she still can’t force herself to keep her weight down.

So I think my actual problem is self-hatred. I am hating to say this but I actually think it’s a lot of peoples’ problems. If you spend enough time asking yourself what you really, really want to be doing and why you’re not doing it, there will be one of two answers:

A. You don’t really want to do what you are saying you want to do. You just wish you wanted to do it. (Writing a novel, earning a lot of money—these are the sorts of things that I hear often.)

B. You hate yourself. You don’t think you deserve to get what you want, so you don’t do the work to get it.

I decided to test whether my real problem is self-hatred. I told myself I have to write before I do anything else. And I have to do this long enough so that writing first thing will officially become a habit. I’ve done it five days in a row, and it feels good.

And really, writing is enough. I can’t be exercising my willpower every second of the day. (But of course every woman over 40 who is not fat is using her willpower every second of the day because after 40, a woman’s metabolism is the same as a turtle’s.)

So here we are, back where I said I did not want to go: self-discipline is a muscle you have to work on each day. And you have to pick what’s most important to you because you can’t have self-discipline to accomplish everything, and successful navigation of adult life requies us to give up a lot.

So I’m giving up doing yoga and Pilates each day.

And I guess, I’m also giving up the self-talk I do to convince myself that I would have a great life if I just had unlimited money. Because we can’t buy self-discipline and that’s what we need most to feel fulfilled.