What is self-discipline and how does it broadly express itself through your life? Discipline, as defined by the apparatus of your life, is, roughly, the commitment to healthy consistency in your daily life, and the accumulation of the wisdom therein – attaining the knowledge of what is healthy for your forward progression in life and the principles learned as a result.
Discipline is the development of mental and emotional strength to stay a course you know to be fruitful and to not pivot toward certain calamity. For example, to not drink heavily hours before performing surgery or reading to your children.
Self-discipline is something generally gathered throughout one’s formative years and becomes reinforced by the events that tend to happen in early adulthood.
During childhood we hear: ‘Don’t eat all the sweets you got during a Halloween night in one sitting; you’ll be sick to your stomach and you’ll have no delayed reward for the fruits of your labor nor experience the joy of the act itself.’
During adulthood we hear: ‘Don’t spend your entire paycheck on things that bear little transferable value. Don’t neglect the healthy allocation of funds towards the necessities of life and the logical philosophy of saving funds for emergencies or situations to enrich your life, such as the joy of a vacation or investments to better your particular position in life.’
So what do you do if you haven’t been exposed to or grasped the importance of these wisdom-gaining moments in your formative years? Well, not unlike a child, your entry to such wisdom must happen slowly and at a pace that isn’t terribly frantic but rather at a measured and comprehensible speed. If you weren’t disciplined in maintining cleanliness during your childhood, start by cleaning your bedroom. Essentially, start with something that can be built up daily or weekly:
- Week 1: Make your bed.
- Week 2: Make your bed and fold your laundry the moment it is finished and put it away in an organised fashion.
- Week 3: Make your bed, fold and organise your clothes, organise the next area nearest your bedroom’s living space, etc.
Over the span of several months you’ll become more disciplined in how to begin your day, and, if you are more disciplined in how your day begins, well, you’re statistically (and psychologically) more likely to manifest this discipline into the rest of your day at: school, work, and your relationships.
At some point you’ll begin to see your productivity skyrocket – be it the time you begin to use for more progressive challenges and enlightening activities or how you are suddenly easier to work with, live with, be in love with, and interact with. I mean, those are rather important for the ‘average’ person, in that your predestined biological goal is to climb social hierarchies at home, in school, at work, in society, and within the life you build as a result of these social endeavours. That’s the aim of life, in a nutshell of course.
So where is the divinity in discipline? Well, ask yourself what is life without discipline? It is absolute chaos. Remember, you arrived here as a result of the accumulative manifested order passed down generation by generation. The inverse of this accumulated order is seen distinctly in the lives of those who exist in chaos: hardened criminals, addicts, and those who have accepted abnormality as normal – those who accept a position in life that isn’t healthy for them or their progeny. I mean, what could possibly be a better example of someone who truly lives in chaos than the madness found in the lives of people who simply don’t care about the future of their progeny – or their own, if they haven’t created another human being. Honestly, what is more chaotic than that?
So, how do you steer clear of such desolate and unforgiving terrain? Well, start small and adjust your life daily. Small gains that are improved each day can be absolutely empowering. Think of how you’d rear a child you want the very best for. First, accept that you simply do not know yourself as much as you think you may – regardless of how ‘secure’ you feel or how others may feel about you. You are wrought with unknowns that can creep from the unconscious and wreak havoc on your life and the live of those around you.
You are not complete and you never will be, but you are capable of reconciling your demons and carving something divinely habitable out of that cold, untenable wilderness that is disorder and chaos.
Again, start with the immediate space around you – it is the most intimate space you have in life. Next, move onward to whatever is nearest – those you live and work with and those you share a progressive path with (such as fellow students or those within your community). And most of all, accept that you are far from perfect (which is okay). But the pursuit of perfection, while realising perfection isn’t achievable, is a healthier path in life (it is a forward path) than the stagnant realm of undisciplined survival. In other words, life without discipline is something approximate to existing. Life with minimal discipline and no forward progression is akin to survival, but a life built on a foundation of cumulative discipline and progressive manifestations of inherited wisdom … well, that is thriving – in our current understanding of life.
Thrive, don’t survive. Thrive, rather than exist. Arrange the life you desire by summoning the strength to leave the familiar and unchallenged confines of the ‘Cave’, and venture forward into the unknown and thrive as a result.
An earlier version of this article was published in Gainsay
Image credit: Freepik
Lance Moye is an expert in neuroscience and an author.
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