Self Discipline


What if I tell you that discipline is 90% bullshit?
I know what you must be thinking right now, probably that I am blabbing or I must be mad but if you stick with me for the next two minutes, I promise it will be worth it.

What most of us want is actually some technique with which we can force ourselves to do what we would like ourselves to do. We want more leverage on that raging, wild animal that dwells within us. But if you think about it, isn’t that what most of us have been trying to do our entire lives?

From a very early age, your parents started enforcing how you should feel and behave in different situations. I’ll bet you – like all the rest of us – raged against their myriad of rules. In school, you were told to conform further still. You were told where to be, when, for what topic, what to think, where to sit, and in some cases even what to wear, and you were disciplined and graded on how well you conformed. In many ways, your whole life has been trying to cram this uncontrollable, whimsy energy that you are into a straight and narrow way of thinking and behaving.

But what if another way, you’ve been trying to straighten out that magnificently messy, contradictory, and beautiful thing that you are into, a dead box drawn with rulers? And because you haven’t quite managed to tame your inner fire, you are now here asking for stronger weapons and more leverage against yourself? Luckily, your inner fire cannot be extinguished, the beast cannot be tamed, and your beauty cannot be spoiled. I say luckily because who you are is that wild, unwieldy, and often messy beast. Why on earth would you want to tame that? In order to become someone else? In order to get the results someone else got?

Well, I have some news for you: You will never make a very good someone else at best, you will be a cheap imitation, always somewhat uncomfortable in your own skin. At best, you may get the same results – although it is likely not attainable – but they will not really fulfill you because they’re not what you really wanted deep down. You are fortunate that all your efforts to cram yourself into a mold haven’t worked, because you can’t turn what you are into something you are not without losing your essence in the process.

So, here’s the deal: Self-discipline is bullshit when you try to force it upon yourself. The key to discipline is to want what you already naturally, genuinely want. In fact, if you study almost any master in their field of expertise, you will discover that the topic was something that naturally captured their curiosity and drew them in they read/practiced/worked for hours upon hours not because it was the smart idea to do or because they were so disciplined, but because they couldn’t help themselves. The key to discipline is to find something you enjoy doing so much that it gives you energy rather than drains it from you.

Now this is where the missing 10% comes in: Everyone has bad days and off days and moments where you just don’t want to do what you need to do. In those moments, you need to push yourself to keep going. You need to suck it up and get yourself to the practice court, the typewriter, the gym, or the laboratory but like with all pushing, you can only push yourself for so long. You of all people already know that you wouldn’t get a heavy horse cart on a horse and expect to be able to push it for mile after mile without breaking down. It’s just common sense that after a while, the horse would get too tired to keep going. Then why not you?

The same is true of motivation and discipline. The biggest reward of life is not what we accomplish, but rather that we find our own path that aligns with our deepest truth. You know, that wild, untamable animating presence that you are underneath this sack of skin and bones. Once you find your path, every step upon is its own reward to others, it may look like dedication and discipline, but to you, it will feel like a deeply natural and satisfying expression of who you truly are and have always been.

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