Books That Can Change Your Life: “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck

Yesterday I had good cause to look up M. Scott Peck, the author of one of the most important (and best) books of the last 50 years: “The Road Less Traveled”.

This part straight from the M. Scott Peck Wikipedia page is very relevant to someone who is very, very close to me. Right now.

Discipline

In The Road Less Traveled, Peck talked of the importance of discipline. He described four aspects of discipline:

  • Delaying gratification: Sacrificing present comfort for future gains.
  • Acceptance of responsibility: Accepting responsibility for ones own decisions.
  • Dedication to truth: Honesty, both in word and deed.
  • Balancing: Handling conflicting requirements. Scott Peck talks of an important skill to prioritize between different requirements — bracketing.

Peck’s book begins with the profound truth that “Life is difficult”. We must attest to the fact that life was never meant to be easy, and that it is nothing but a battlefield of problems. We can either moan about them or solve them. It is here that the vital role of discipline assumes significance.

Peck defines discipline as the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems. These tools are delaying gratification, assuming responsibility, dedication to the truth, and balancing. These are techniques of suffering, means by which we experience the pain of problems in such a way as to work through them and solve them successfully, learning and growing in the process. Most of us do not want to wrestle with our problems because of the pain involved. Yet, it is only in grappling with our problems that life has its meaning.

The book has the potential to change your life, if you let it. It will change the way you look at your own life, and the lives of others, and the choices that we all make, and the rationalizations we tell ourselves and others.

It’s hard to comprehend for some people, but we all encounter trouble in our lives, somewhere along the way. I know I have, multiple times. There have been times when I’ve felt like I was hanging on by just a thread. Everybody fights off demons of one kind or another, at one age or another. Like it says above, “Life is difficult”.

But the one thing that shines through all of that is the power of attitude.

And I didn’t fully understand this as a young person. Or even a thirty-something married man with kids. It seems too trite and “yeah, I know, DUH”. But it is true: everything we do, think, and say, is in some way informed by our attitudes and reactions to the events in our lives.

When faced with situations we don’t like or don’t understand, we can try to adapt, or give up. Some of us give up right away, and some of us try to adapt for a while, and then run out of energy or ideas on how to deal with it all. But some of us push through, all the time, always trying to adapt (even after painful setbacks), never giving up on themselves, or losing faith that they can find a way out, someday.

There is remarkable power in this ability to adapt, to push forward no matter what.

Young people can’t be expected to understand this, really, but Life is really about never giving up. Live to fight another day. Keep your attitude good and you can accomplish great things. Don’t dwell on mistakes or errors – learn from them and move on. God knows, I’ve made some mistakes of my own, and I still beat myself up over them, though less than I used to. You can’t fix what you already did by beating yourself up, so it accomplishes nothing useful but does kill your spirit and energy that you need to face today and tomorrow.

So to my cherished loved one, I say, hang in there and keep plugging away and life will get better. Treat mistakes as lessons learned, try not to repeat them, and slowly, life will get better.

And to everybody, I say read “The Road Less Traveled”. Buy it, read it, lend it to friends, read it again every year or two.

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