Discipline is something that far too many people lack. People seem to be so mesmerized by the idea of freedom, that they don’t recognize how too much freedom can lead to one’s own demise. A frequent phrase I heard growing up was, “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” and thinking about my own experience, that statement couldn’t be more accurate.
It took me a long time — well, 24 years to be exact — to understand the power of self-discipline. I always thought that it was better to be a free bird and do whatever I want, when I want, negligent of the fact that my own lack of self-discipline was making me unhappy.
Growing up in America and being subjected to its culture has its positives and negatives. What you decide to take as a positive or negative is up to you, but ultimately, it’s what you think about the culture that affects how you engage with it. I used to look at culture as some sort of script in which to follow for my own life, and I doubt that I’m alone in that sentiment. I grew up in an age where the celebrity was seen as the pinnacle of all to aspire to and fame the ultimate prize; a prize that would leave you feeling a sense of fulfillment, of self-worth that all throughout culture had agreed upon. But I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently: is it fame that we want, or is it to feel like we are valued?
The common misconception of fame and fortune is that you no longer have problems once you’ve reached that status, as if being known by the masses makes it so that you’re no longer a human, but a god. Why is it, then, that far too many celebrities suffer from mental health issues, and seem to crush under the pressure of public scrutiny? Why is it that many celebrities succumb to the ills of drug and alcohol addictions, despite their societal perception of having “made it”?
My only answer to that is that no person can escape from their own personal demons without self-discipline. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from if you lack discipline when it comes to your thoughts, at some point or another, that demonic voice in your head will lead you to your own demise. It’s sad that that’s the case, but it’s true. The earlier that you can get a handle on your mind, the better. The monkey mind only wishes to derail you from all that you can be or do, simply because we are human and that’s just how it is. Whether you decide to complain about your life or not is up to you, but ultimately, you are in control, and you alone have the power to decide what to do about it.
To take responsibility for your own life is the ultimate form of discipline; it signals to the creator and to yourself that you value your existence. It doesn’t mean that things won’t happen in your life that are out of your control, but it does mean that you are willing to put thought into how you respond to life’s challenges. Are you going to get angry when someone says something you don’t want to hear? Are you going to get high on drugs to escape reality rather than confront it? Are you going to blame outside forces when things don’t happen when you want them to? Each of us has a choice before us each day to discipline our thoughts & actions, and respond to challenges in a way that will contribute to our growth, rather than our stagnancy. It’s comforting to remain in a place — mentally, physically, and spiritually — that we’re used to, but are we suffering unnecessarily as a result? Do we retain allegiances to people and substances that don’t serve our greatest good in an effort to ignore the obvious, a lack of commitment to ourselves and our well-being?
Whether we like it or not, change is inevitable. To ignore this truth is to be ignorant of how the world works. Given that truth, are you going to ride life, or let life ride you?
How we view discipline makes all the difference in anyone’s life. If you’re disciplined in how you eat and exercise, then your likelihood of being healthy and steering clear of disease is greatly increased. If you’re disciplined in your spending, saving, and investing, then your likelihood of being financially independent is greatly increased. But above all, if you’re disciplined in the way that you think about yourself and your place in the world, then your likelihood of living a life you love is almost invariably guaranteed.
To discipline yourself is the ultimate form of love. It shows that you care about yourself and others by having the wherewithal to make sacrifices for your greater good, as well as others’. As the bible says in I John 4:18 NKJV, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” To fear discipline is to fear your own mental and spiritual growth, and ultimately, the evolution of human consciousness. Each of us has that still small voice in our head that is God, and if we choose to answer the call, we choose to trust in love and the unknown. It’s never an easy thing to do, but when you do the hard things, life gets easier; making you a rider of life, rather than being ridden by life.
As M. Scott Peck wrote in The Road Less Traveled: “The ultimate goal of life remains the spiritual growth of the individual, the solitary journey to peaks that can be climbed only alone… In this way individual growth are interdependent, but it is always and inevitably lonely out on the growing edge.”¹ While we may not enjoy discipline, it is absolutely necessary if we are to be productive members of society. Taken further, Peck points to discipline over one’s emotions as being key to self-discipline:
The proper management of one’s feelings clearly lies along a complex (and therefore not simple or easy) balanced middle path, requiring constant judgment and continuing adjustment. Here the owner treats his feelings (slaves) with respect, nurturing them with good food, shelter and medical care, listening and responding to their voices, encouraging them, inquiring as to their health, yet also organizing them, limiting them, deciding clearly between them, redirecting them and teaching them, all the while leaving no doubt to who’s boss. This is the path of healthy self-discipline.¹
By consciously choosing not to be a slave to your emotions, you are choosing to be in control of your life. That’s not to say that you won’t sometimes mess up; we are each human, after all. But discipline can be a hard thing to do, especially when we live in a culture that encourages having fun and doing whatever one wants, even though often, it’s at the expense of one’s own sanity. In essence, “Genuine love is precious, and those who are capable of genuine love know that their loving must be focused as productively as possible through self-discipline.”¹
Do you love yourself enough to practice self-discipline, or do you not esteem yourself to have enough value to do so? If the latter, then more self-evaluation is necessary, as well as most likely, the assistance of a professional to help you uncover the disconnect between how you see yourself, and how God sees you.
Whether you believe it or not, we are all connected, and when one person wakes up to their own inherent value, it raises the collective consciousness of humanity and sets humanity on a course of more love, and more discipline. A society that values people for people, rather than for their socioeconomic status or superficial characteristic. We create the culture, but it is up to us whether we want to create it consciously or unconsciously.
How do you want to play a part?
¹Peck, M. Scott. The Road Less Traveled a New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth. Simon & Schuster, 2002.