There are five hills on my usual running route. Four of them are only 100-200 meters in length with a moderate incline. When I get to these hills, I attack. I pick up my pace and run them as fast as I can. The fifth hill is different. It is about four times longer and has just a slight, barely noticeable incline. This hill is deceptive. It is stealthy. The end isn’t visible at the beginning. Running up this hill, I find that my intensity wavers. My focus will drift, and soon I will notice my pace has slowed down.
There are some battles that are easily won. They are not drawn out, and the damage is minimal. Then there are some battles that have no end in sight. They drag on and the attrition begins to affect the mind. The long drawn out battles are dangerous as the intensity wavers.
We don’t decide to be weak. We allow it to creep into our lives. We justify small decisions without considering the long-term consequences. In his book, Discipline Equals Freedom, Jocko Willink explains this well:
We are defeated one tiny, seemingly insignificant surrender at a time that chips away at who we should really be. It isn’t that you wake up one day and decide that’s it: I am going to be weak. No. It is a slow incremental process. It chips away at our will- it chips away at our discipline. We sleep in a little later. We miss a workout, then another. We start to eat what we shouldn’t eat and drink what we shouldn’t drink. And, without realizing it- one day, you wake up and you become something that you never would have allowed.
That one hill is a reminder to be ever vigilant. It reminds me that without a constant focus on every action, I am susceptible to allowing weakness to creep into my life. Some of those choices may seem miniscule, a mere drop in the water. But who is to know the lasting ramifications they can have? Who is to say that slight detour doesn’t take you along a path just slightly different than the one you should be on? As Miyamoto Musashi said, “There is no end to the path of discipline.”