In 1911, two explorers, Amundsen and Scott, embarked on a race against each other to become the first known human being to set foot upon the southernmost point of Earth. It was the age of Antarctic exploration, as the South Pole represented one of the last uncharted areas in the world. Amundsen wished to plant the Norwegian flag there on behalf of his country, while Scott hoped to stake his claim for England.
The journey there and back from their base camps was about fourteen hundred miles, which is roughly equivalent to a round-trip hike from New York City to Chicago. Both men would be traveling the same distance on foot through extremely cold and harsh weather conditions. And both men were equally equipped with experience, supplies, and a supporting team of fellow explorers.
As it turned out, Amundsen and Scott took entirely different approaches to the very same challenges. Scott directed his team to hike as far as possible on the good weather days and then rest on bad weather days to conserve energy. Conversely, Amundsen directed his team to follow a strict regimen of consistent daily progress by hiking exactly twenty miles every day, regardless of weather conditions. Even on the warmest, clear-sky days, when Amundsen’s team was capable of hiking much farther, he was absolutely adamant that they travel no more than twenty miles to conserve their energy for the following day’s hike.
Which team succeeded in the end? Amundsen’s team, the one that took consistent daily action.
Why? Because what we do every day defines us. Today’s progress is always compounded by yesterday’s effort, no matter how small.
And it all comes down to the power of self-discipline. Think about the most common problems we deal with in our modern lives, from lack of presence to lack of exercise to unhealthy diets to procrastination, and so forth. In most cases, problems like these are caused not by a physically present limitation, but by a limitation of the mind—specifically, a lack of self-discipline.
We put the hard things off until tomorrow for a variety of reasons until we’ve lost our momentum. We grow accustomed to the belief that things should be easier than they are, and that waiting another day or two makes the most sense. Then one day we wake up and we’re emotionally incapable of doing the hard things that need to be done.
Let this be your wake-up call!
Your mind and body both need to be exercised to gain strength. They need to be challenged, and they need to be worked consistently, to grow and develop over time. If you haven’t pushed yourself in lots of little ways over time—if you always avoid doing the hard things—of course you’ll crumble on the inevitable days that are harder than you expected.
And if we had to guess, we’d say Scott’s team suffered in exactly this way. They tried to make things easier on themselves; the fantasy of “easier” became their mantra, their subconscious goal. But this fantasy was never going to be a reality during a fourteen-hundred-mile footrace in the South Pole.
Scott’s team lost the race, not only on the ground, but in their minds first.
Don’t follow in their footsteps!