Discipline (from Merriam-Webster's): "A system of rules governing conduct or activity."
Most children associate discipline with punishment or correction (like when they've done or said something wrong). For most adults, discipline is not so much about punishment as it is about some measure of self-imposition, meaning a rule (or set of rules) imposed by themselves upon themselves because they think it will make their lives more happy, peaceful, or meaningful (or, as is often the case, less painful). The imposition could stem from any number of things, like the desire to eat more greens, get out of debt, go to bed earlier, exercise more regularly, or arrive on-time for appointments and scheduled events.
In this post, I want to write about this self-imposition aspect of discipline, but I want to do so in a way I hope reframes the concept.
I prefer to think of discipline not as a self-aggressive approach to the way one lives one's life but rather as a long-term practice of making small promises to oneself and then following-through on those promises. By making small promises and then delivering on them, one can begin to create a foundation of significant integratedness (or undividedness) in one's life. When viewing things in this way, a disciplined person is really nothing more than a person who, over time, has become more undivided in his (or her) approach to life. Meaning, through a lifetime of making and keeping small promises to himself, he's developed a single-minded (or less conflicted) way of living. James writes of this very concept in James 1.
Surveying some of the changes you'd like to make in your life, what's one small promise you could make to yourself that if you delivered on it consistently would bring about huge dividends? Take a few minutes to think upon this. Once you've decided on the promise you'd like to make, take the leap and make it today, and then follow-through by delivering on it immediately.
Becoming good at making small promises to yourself and then delivering on them is largely dependent on how well you can extend compassion toward yourself (and to do so again and again and again). Without self-compassion, it can be very hard to face failure and not give-up either out of frustration, guilt, self-pity, or all the above.
As most of us have experienced, falling short on a promise can feel horrible (especially if it's in a life-arena we believe to be really important). Extending self-forgiveness is one way to stay with and ultimately move past such feelings and begin to connect once again with the excitement of pursuing something worthwhile. Why? Because single-mindedness doesn't just fall from the sky; it's built over a long period of time by making promises, keeping them, failing to keep them, forgiving oneself for not keeping them, and then starting over again right where you are—often many times.
Even if you've failed just once or a million times before, your past doesn't have to determine your present or future. In each moment, you have the ability to chose differently than you did before. By keeping your promises small and by giving yourself room (through self-compassion) to work at things until you're able to deliver fully and completely on what you promised, integrity and undividedness will come. I PROMISE!
God's peace to you...
IKIGAI Weekly Blog Schedule (per The Training Trinity):
Mondays: Meditative Prayer
Wednesdays: Holistic Discipline
Fridays: Martial Arts Practice