What an awful and inhumane concept. Discipline is like expectations; they can rarely be met. One's need for discipline often comes with a host of insecurities about one's self, including shame. So why bother with such a defeatist concept?

But so that you don't think I'm attacking you, I get it. I had a mentor many years ago who I now see as a bully. One of his accusations of me was that I lacked discipline. And I stuggled, thinking he was correct.

Here's what I have learned from neuroscience and in my coaching: Discipline most often leads to diminishing returns. It's like willpower; you only have so much of it in a day and then you run out and need to recharge. It's also a concept that makes one feel like they are a cog in a machine; a slave or a prisoner at a work camp forced into 12-hours of monotonous work.

So what's the alternative?

Attention, intention, repetition. This is a principle I use in coaching. You choose to put your attention on what it is you want (a habit or a goal to be very broad). Then you need to get clarity about your intentions. Why did you want to do this? What positive, empowering emotions will keep you on track and self-motivated? And finally, repetition. Keep working on that thing, that habit, that behaviour, until the basal ganglia part of your brain accepts these patterns as important and adds them to your programming.

My invitation to you is to consider the emotional reasons why you want something to happen and compare that with the imposition and power-over dynamic of discipline. How does each one feel? Which feels better, lighter, more humane?

I could be wrong! :-) But I am curious if this would be a useful reframing of the need to be disciplined.

A parting thought: can your life appear to be disciplined, say from an outsider looking in, without having to force or practice discipline?

Coach for deep thinkers and creatives. Developing a moral philosophy inspired by the Tao Te Ching. 🎙 ThinkQueerlyPodcast.com. Home is DarrenStehle.com.

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