“Self-discipline is a form of freedom. Freedom from laziness and lethargy, freedom from the expectations and demands of others, freedom from weakness and fear—and doubt.” — H.A. Dorfman, The Mental ABCs of Pitching
In Marine Corps bootcamp, the last thing we did every night before bed was to say this out loud, “Discipline is the instant willing obedience to orders, respect for authority, and self-reliance, Sir!” Now that may seem extreme or sound like brainwashing to some of you, maybe most of you, but I think that is because it is framed with a military backdrop.
If you frame that one phrase in terms of your own life it can maximize your success.
Discipline is a word that brings up many different meanings for most people. A lot of them are negative. Yet, I suspect there is at least one person who you secretly admire because of his (or her) ability to stick to just about anything. That’s Discipline.
A great fear and misconception about discipline, is that it eliminates your freedom, your spontaneousness. I would argue that it does the opposite. Discipline lets you be more spontaneous and have more freedom. Lets say you commit to getting exercise, or losing weight, or learning a language. Those things wont happen on their own. They take time, energy, and dedication.
The disciplined individual will do his language lesson before going out with friends because of the commitment he’s made to himself. Discipline helps him take care of his responsibilities first; then he can go out without that nagging little voice in the back of his head. Discipline allows him to be himself and to be more spontaneous when he is out, because he is not worrying about what he should be doing. He’s already done it.
Discipline is just another way of saying that you know how to master yourself.
Now Imagine you are two people. One of you is the boss and the other is the worker. As the boss you come up with a plan of what to do. You decide on the result you want and how to get it. As the worker you execute the plan. As the boss you are the authority and you give the orders. As the worker you obey the orders and you respect your own authority.
Discipline is the instant, willing obedience to orders: As the boss you have given yourself the order to learn a new language. As the worker, if you are disciplined, you willingly and instantly obey this order. You don’t waste time wondering whether or not it’s a good idea. You take action. You immediately begin to execute to achieve the desired result.
Discipline is respect for authority: As the boss you expect respect from yourself. You want to learn a new language and you expect yourself to follow-thru. As the worker when you follow-thru, you feel good about yourself. You build your self-confidence and your self-esteem every time you take action towards your goals.
Discipline is self-reliance: As the boss you rely on yourself to stick with learning a new language. As the worker, you rely on yourself to take the necessary actions to get it done. You are not dependent on outside forces, outside rewards to stay on task. The task itself and the feeling of accomplishment are reward enough.
This is how a disciplined mind creates a responsive mind. There is no wasted energy or time. Orders are given and action is taken.
As you expand this idea to your career, to parenting, or to relationships, the benefits remain the same. Discipline is founded in your conviction to achieve a certain outcome. Whether that is getting a promotion, spending more time with your children, or deepening your relationships, discipline lets you respond more openly and quickly, because you are following the orders you have given yourself.
These commitments can tyrannize us without discipline. When we fail to meet our commitments to ourselves and others, we feel guilty. Our confidence and self-esteem are eroded. We become enchained and immobilized by our own bad feelings. Without discipline our responsiveness grinds to a halt.
No one can control your behavior except yourself. When you learn to obey yourself, respect yourself, and rely on yourself, you bolster your self-confidence, increase your self-esteem, and strengthen your self-discipline. You respond to the challenges of your life instantly and willing. As a result you lead a more fulfilled, spontaneous, and freer life.
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