When I arrive at seasons of my life that I feel disconnected from myself, I have to take a step back to reassess. The aimless, directionless existence can be exhausting and make the days feel lacking true purpose. I find in moments like this, leaning into discipline helps get me back on track.
Types of Disciplines
We may have experienced various types of corrective disciplines growing up from our parents, teachers, mentors, coaches, and from ourselves. These punishments to correct disobedience may have worked to some extent, but likely left a sour taste in our mouth. But this does not mean that discipline has to be associated with a negative experience. Corrective discipline is just one of three main types of disciplines. Though often we need corrective measures to form disciplines, there are also two other types of discipline: supportive and preventative
Supportive disciplines help us build our own ability to self-regulate and have self-control. Things like the ability to recognize when we get off tasks and when we are feeling weaker and tempted to abandon our healthy disciplines and habits. Supportive disciplines involved building our self-awareness to take notice of what places, spaces, people, environments, attitudes, and exposures do not support the way we would like to experience ourselves in the world.
Preventative disciplines serve to keep us engaged and help circumvent the need for corrective discipline measures. When we are experiencing joy and engaging in our world with purpose, we feel empowered to be our best selves. So creating an environment that we want to be in and living in a way that brings us life can help curtail the need for any type of corrective actions. We are simply living in harmony, flow, and know how live out habits and disciplines to create the circumstances that will keep us in this state.
We often have to work from corrective first, and go backwards. After having corrective disciplines in place, we build supportive disciplines, and then when at our highest level of functioning we can maintain by living out our preventative disciplines.
Discipline does not have to be viewed as just a corrective slap on the wrist, or a consequence to our poor actions. It doesn’t not have to be seen as failure or rejection when we implement it. But discipline can be a gentle and loving hand, especially when we serve it to ourselves. It is the quiet whisper accessing in each moment “does doing this bring peace and harmony to my life?” “Does doing this bring vitality to my experience of living?”
How do we know what disciplines we want to have?
Self-discipline is different than just creating habits or abstaining from things that feel misaligned. It’s defined in Oxford dictionary as “the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.” And in a world where so much feels out of our control, self-discipline is an incredibly empowering tool.
So how do we know what disciplines to start or practice? You can start by asking yourself these questions:
- What are you currently doing that doesn’t bring harmony?
- What habits and behaviors do you engage in that no longer serve you?
- What things bring you the most peace?
- Where are you when you feel most connected to yourself?
- What activities make you feel alive?
Only you can know your purest and truest answers to these questions…and you have to be honest with yourself. Dig in deep and get real. The overarching question above all of these is What bring you back to connection? Connection to self, others, and your spirituality.
There is something incredibly empowering about being able to overcome one’s feelings and pursue what feels right in my heart even when surrounded by temptations. For me, self-discipline is the ultimate self-efficacy. “I am capable and in control.” When I behave from my discipline instead of reactively or impulsively, I align to myself. The reward of the discipline is alignment or re-alignment. It’s reconnection to myself. And mostly, it’s the feeling that life isn’t just happening to me, but that I have the power to manage certain outcomes.
Losing versus letting go
When we think of the idea of abstinence or abstaining from something we often correlate this with the idea of missing out or losing out. We perceive the lack as something that produced a void within us. Loss is something that happens to us, letting go is something we actively do. Letting go provides us with the power and control. Letting go involves willingness. It’s a choice, not a happening. Distinguishing the between losing something and letting go of something provides a deep power to support disciplines. I have lost my grandfathers, I let go of my Pilates studio. Neither was easy, but only one was a choice.
When you think of a behavior or something in your life that is no longer serving you do you still view giving it up as losing? If so, change will be harder to come by. Instead of focusing on what you think you’re losing, think about what you gain by letting it go. Also, what parts of yourself are you losing by continuing that habit or behavior? Are losing those parts of yourself greater than the actual loss of that habit or behavior? We need to channel the willingness to let it go, and this starts with developing disciplines. Think of the empowerment that comes from making the choice to let it go in order to serve your higher self.
What areas in your life could you use some discipline?
Think or write on this question “what area of my life do I feel most disconnected?” This can serve as a great launching point. Some areas for developing self-disciplines may include: physical, mental, spiritual, interpersonal/relational, greater self or purpose.
Building a discipline can involve actively doing something or actively abstaining from something that misaligns. Start right there. Pick one area that you feel most disconnected. What is one thing you could actively do in order to bring more connection in that area of your life? Establish how frequently you’d like to do that thing. Then, what is one thing that you could abstain from doing that would support you feeling more connected? Work to build supportive disciplines to help you abstain from that. With time and practice before you know it you’ll be in a place of alignment that preventatives disciplines will support your newfound self-discipline in that area of you life. And a deeper connection to self awaits you around the corner, when you are willing to let go.
Discipline is difficult. Do not be discouraged. Discipline is not a one-and-done doing. Discipline is the strength to continually choose the habits that support your highest connection to self. It’s an active choice of letting go of that which no longer serves you, and engaging in world in a way that enlivens you most. It makes deep connection possible and invites us to be the purest version of our unique selves. And when you live your life in this deep connection, let me tell you…there’s no amount of losing that I’m afraid of…I’m ready to let it go.