“Discipline” is Not a Bad Word
I acknowledge that discipline is essential to success in any endeavor. That awareness, however, has not stopped me from struggling with self-discipline. Just now, I looked up the word in Wikipedia:
“In its original sense, discipline is systematic instruction intended to train a person, sometimes literally called a disciple, in a craft, trade or other activity, or to follow a particular code of conduct or “order”. Often, the phrase ‘to discipline’ carries a negative connotation. This is because enforcement of order–that is, ensuring instructions are carried out–is often regulated through punishment.”
Reading that was illuminating, because punishment is not motivating for me. If something is punishing, I tend to move away from it. What I’m learning these days is that the alternative to punishment-based discipline is heart-centered discipline. When action comes from the heart, discipline flows naturally. If you are struggling to be disciplined in a particular endeavor, instead of punishing yourself, check in with your heart’s true desire.
I just finished reading a fabulous book called, Fourth Uncle in the Mountain: A Memoir of a Barefoot Doctor in Vietnam, the story of a young man trained by his father to be a traditional doctor and spiritual healer. As a child, he didn’t have much interest in his studies, and he was routinely beaten by his teachers. After getting in particularly bad trouble as a teenager, his father took him to be trained by a spiritual master living in a cave. The “fourth uncle,” or the master in the cave didn’t try to coerce him. He was free to practice his meditation or not. At first he rebelled, because he had to live in a cave. Ultimately, he tried to meditate as he was instructed. As the doors of perception opened, he discovered that he was happy, and he went deeper into his training. The three years he spent in the cave were the most fulling and disciplined years of his life. Inside a damp cave, his heart heart blossomed.
There is a big difference between having to do something and wanting to do something. When you are forced to do something–when you are punished into submission–it is natural to resist. Self-flagellation and guilt can be powerful motivators in life, but they don’t make for happiness. Action born of an innate desire flowering is far more powerful and fulfilling.