Discipline – The Harbinger of Lasting Transformation
Practically everyone seems to be harried and hankering after the deceptively unknown these days.
Yet, they end up feeling exhausted, agitated, anxious, overwhelmed, and of course, chronically dissatisfied.
Amidst this entire cauldron, one thing perennially stands out tall as the shining beacon of hope as the potential gateway to hopefully, better things in life:
Discipline and Simplicity.
Like serenity and succor, these two words nurture the latent potential of transformative changes.
“If only I could lead a simpler more disciplined life”, we often find ourselves admonishing each other (and our own selves!) as we begin to fathom the endless possibilities that drift away from this attractive hinge.
Here’s the thing. Both discipline and simplicity present themselves as an omnipotent cleaver that can straddle the dichotomies of life with effortless panache. It’s almost as if we’re waiting to scream out loud:
“Just keep it simple and stay disciplined!”
It sure does, but like all worthwhile things in life, there’s more to it than meets the discerning eye.
Now while we may spend a lot of time procrastinating and fructifying the elusive dream, it’s beyond ironical that we hardly spend any time delving deep into understanding what discipline actually entails.
We myopically pursue the most accessible and gratifying ways to conquer the summit of discipline, only to feel betrayed that our days feel even more fragmented.
However, it is this conflict that we must embrace with renewed vigor. Once we’re able to go beyond the definition of discipline (and simplicity) as snippets of a lofty quote, we’ll be able to decipher its contours better.
What Does Discipline Mean?
Remember your school days when your teacher used to lament that discipline is the key to succeed at school and life? Back then, you may have rolled your eyes quite sarcastically. Just didn’t make sense, did it?
However, today, discipline has assumed far greater proportions and become as real as reality itself. And, you’re still trying to wrap your brains around mastering the key to discipline and in effect, success.
So, what is discipline all about, really? More importantly, what does it take to discipline ourselves?
At a superficial level, discipline is about internalizing some compelling causes/reasons to commit yourself to do put your heart and soul into something -on a regular & measurable basis.
But that’s not the complete picture.
In order to infuse life into discipline and maximize its outcome, you must also commit yourself to see that purpose through to the end or its logical conclusion – whatever comes first.
More specifically, leading a disciplined life requires you to hone your ability to control your banal impulses and stay focused (for as long as it takes) on whatever it is that you want to accomplish – without acquiescing to intransigence.
Put simply, self-discipline means that you commit to long-term goals without succumbing to the perils of instant gratification. It needs a heart that is in the right place, and at its core must be this all-important precondition:
Having a clear purpose.
One Step Further
As pleasing as this definition sounds, it doesn’t quite specify what it means to discipline ourselves. Thus, let’s break this down another way and tie it to the priceless process of forming habit.
Against this backdrop, discipline becomes a systematic mechanism of developing daily habits consistently over time. It’s about taking small baby steps that guide you to the path of forming habits that eventually lead you to your destination.
While this definition is much better, it still doesn’t quite give us a crystal clear picture. So let’s drill down deeper!
Contrary to popular belief, discipline isn’t merely about doing something day in and day out; it’s more about correcting, regulating and adapting your thoughts and actions to the evolving circumstances of your life. Equally, it’s about training yourself to create and comply with standards that align your thoughts and action to your current task.
The beauty of cultivating discipline is that it not only enhances your productivity, but can drastically amplify your self-confidence. It helps you stay focused for a longer period of time and imparts the unique skill of doing more with less.
Let’s cut the chase. Discipline is not something that we are born with.
It’s something that we develop over time after toiling hard and doing the unpleasant things sincerely for years together. In that sense, it’s quite similar to a muscle that develops and strengthens by being worked on and worked at, over time.
However, we know that God lies in the details. This means specific factors come into play and impel you to keep inching towards discipline. While some of these factors may be extraneous, others may be more visceral and come from within.
As a work in progress, discipline needs fuel, which finds its way in your psyche in the form of motivation or inspiration. In the absence of these two catalysts, you run the risk of losing focus and/or feeling disenchanted – which is the biggest antidote to a fulfilling life.
To find those compelling reasons that inspire you to wake up enthusiastically every morning to complete the task you’ve committed to performing, it’s a good idea to ask these four questions:
- What do I want from life?
- Why do I want this?
- Do I really want this?
- What do I need to do next?
The more heartfelt and impassioned these reasons are, the more you’ll be driven to drive your life forward – in the right direction – down the last mile.
Create a Favorable Environment
You can be in the best frame of mind, but if your immediate environment is doesn’t support or conflicts mindset, friction will inexorably imbue.
The end result?
You will perpetually struggle to tackle that environment-driven impediment first and then rely on your mental fortitude to get moving. An unhelpful environment, especially at home, leads to a lot of wasted time and energy because your efforts are directed at non-productive causes.
Given this, it is paramount that your surroundings are congruous to your daily goals. In other words, it must support the habits you’ve worked so hard to form in the overarching theme of becoming more disciplined.
Pause for a moment and look around your immediate home/work environment. Be as unbiased as you can and allow the truth to hit you hard.
Now, ask yourself these questions:
- What habits/consistent actions do I need to develop to accomplish my goal?
- Does my environment support or impede these habits and actions?
- If yes/no – how so?
What changes do I need to make to create a discipline-friendly environment?
To lead an uncompromised life, assigning priorities are imperative because they give you the much-needed structure within which you function.
By prioritizing your tasks effectively, you’re no longer befuddled as to what is it that needs to be done first. Why?
Because you already know what is most important on that given day and how you plan to go about your routine within the confines of a structure.
The importance of structure can never be overstated.
A focused mind works best with structure because there isn’t ambiguity or ambivalence stymieing your progress.
As a matter of fact, the more well-defined your structure is, the fewer decisions you need to make. And, the fewer choices you need to make, the lesser you’ll be distracted with irrelevant ‘things’ that surprisingly eat up a large part of your daily life.
Simplify, Simplify and Repeat
Let’s go back to our other friend in the list that we briefly referred to – simplicity.
When the going gets tough, it’s tempting to get frustrated and overwhelmed. Amidst these disturbing emotions, challenging ourselves can be an onerous task because it feels as if things are spiraling out of control.
In such cases, the key is to take charge of the situation and assess what’s going wrong. And the best way of doing so is to simplify.
Yes. Discipline yourself to start simplifying everything that is happening in your life. Simplify your steps, the habits you’re building, and the steps you’re taking to move forward.
By simplifying things, you progressively begin to steer your own ship – by taking control over your life and everything in it. Once that happens, you’ll find it much easier to build the momentum you need to attain your goals.
And yes, don’t stop having fun in the process because it’s much easier to remain focused when things are much more pleasurable.
Yes, discipline may not be fun in the beginning because you may need to train your mind to do things that doesn’t come naturally to you. But what it could become is an incredibly precious learning experience for life.
When we stop taking ourselves very seriously and begin to see them from a unique vantage point, we may find it easier to discipline ourselves on the things that matter most.
BY adopting this mindset, adversity becomes a game that we play with ourselves rather than against others. With this perspective, life suddenly seems like an enjoyable journey that is waiting to bless us with helpful lessons along the way.
In the end, isn’t that what’s life all about?