In the trainings I lead, discipline is not a particularly well-liked word. It seems to make some people want to hide in their closets for fear that they have none. It sounds punitive, rigid, unyielding. This is not my personal experience. To me, discipline is a sweet release from the deadening effects of self-absorption. It is what liberates is from the tyranny of our feelings and allows us to live a life of generosity and service - which turns out to be the greatest joy that life has to offer. (At least as far as I can tell.)
I got lost in my late 20s and early 30s - waylaid by the beasts of depression and anxiety - and spent a lot of time thinking about myself. It was like getting sucked into a black hole.
We don’t think our way into feeling better. We ACT our way into feeling better. Oftentimes at the beginning this involves doing a lot of what we don’t feel like doing. But the rewards come swiftly and we quickly build momentum. There’s a lot of power in Nike’s simple phrase: “Just do it.”
If I made a choice each morning about whether or not to roll out my mat based on how I feel, I’d end up cheating myself out of yoga’s bounty. If I talked myself out of practice every time I felt stiff or tired or sore or didn’t get a good night’s sleep, or ate too heavy a meal the night before, or was too sad or wound up or jet lagged, etc., I wouldn’t feel free the way I do today. Free to live each day fully. So I just keep showing up. And I am always so glad I did.
I love the following words by Mark Divine from The Way of the Seal: “Discipline is the spark that ignites the fire of habit. Those fires must be lit daily, and discipline provides the original source energy. The word discipline literally means to be a disciple to a higher purpose. Developing the discipline to train hard everyday means you become a disciple - not to the training itself but to the higher purpose of developing yourself fully as a human being and a leader.”
Discipline begets its own momentum when we become crystal clear about our purpose. Discipline develops a deep sense of self-trust. With self-trust, our sense of possibility expands. We are free to become excited by our dreams and our ideas because we know we have what it takes to turn them into a reality. In my experience, self-discipline makes life softer, kinder, and immensely more fun.