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Discipline: is it controlling or is it a path to freedom?

People tell me I’m disciplined and I used to resist this quality, but now I'm learning to embrace the beauty of discipline.

Often discipline is viewed in a negative connotation – like it’s a punishment or a restrictive way of being; that it’s about “making” us do something versus wanting to do something.

Is this true?

To help me answer this question I did a bit of internet research and came across an article in the Huff Post that talked about how thousands of years ago, the sages of ancient India formulated the Dharma Code, a system for making enlightened choices in everyday life. The fourth Dharma principle is discipline and the way the ancient sages defined discipline is the "focused effort that leads to personal transformation". I love this definition!

For me, personal transformation is about reaching our goals, getting what we desire, creating the life we want, and upleveling ourselves, our careers, our health, and our relationships. And this personal transformation leads to us to feeling good about our choices, feeling in alignment with ourselves, and, a deep inner knowing that we are doing the right thing for us

The other part of the Dharma principle of discipline is “focused effort”. What does this mean? I look at it as creating structures in our life that will help us bring about personal transformation. If this sounds constricting to you, I’d like to offer that’s the opposite. Structures provide us a way of doing things; they’re a mental construct for organizing our brains and all the thoughts going through it. Structures give us a way to organize the chaos around us. I know when I’m in chaos, I feel overwhelmed, anxious, self-doubt, frustrated, irritable, or resentful.

Structures help in the formation and keeping of habits which in turn lead toward a way of being. When we have a certain way of being every day, when we follow the structures we have created for ourselves – this leads to a disciplined approach to doing things. And a disciplined approach to doing things leads to personal transformation.

Discipline allows us to gain control of our own lives. I believe we all have agency over our own lives and a disciplined approach to things will help us achieve that agency.

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says “discipline generates great freedom in our life, allowing us to manifest our purpose”. Purpose – isn’t that what we’re all here to find and do?

And that leads me to the most important part of my thoughts on discipline. In order to obtain personal transformation and commit to focused effort, we need to be in tune with our WHY, or our purpose. We need to keep going back to “why” we want something. Whatever that why is, that’s the critical piece.

Interestingly, the Latin etymology of discipline comes from the word discipulus, which means ‘pupil’. I love this because to me this means becoming a pupil of ourselves. I think tapping into our why enables us to learn about ourselves. Creating structures and habits and discipline in our lives provides us with new ways of looking at ourselves, of determining what is important to us, of showing us what we are capable of! Being pupils of ourselves, being aware of how we respond to things, looking to create a better version of ourselves, learning new and different things about our bodies, our minds, our spirituality – this is the best gift we can give ourselves.

If you are looking to create more discipline in your life, and more importantly want to be clear on your purpose, then I invite you to book a discovery call with me to learn about how I can help you live a genuine, fulfilled and aligned life.

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