Discipline

I'd like to introduce the topic of discipline. Discipline has it's value. But I have something far better. I am a Lord of Discipline. This has been proven countless times and is simply a cold fact. But discipline fails. I know a technique that does not fail. Ever. But before we get to that, let's take a deeper look at discipline.

I first would like to make a comment about abstinence over discipline. For those that believe that it is harder to control something with discipline than to simply avoid it all together by abstinence, I must ask you to consider that abstinence is a form of running away from the problem. Be careful with this strategy because it will never actually give you the strength to deal with whatever it is you are running from. Abstinence has its place in certain circumstances of course. But if you find yourself using abstinence in place of the discipline of control you are cheating yourself the opportunity to grow and master the problem. Therefore I put abstinence at the very bottom of the hierarchy of tackling a challenge.

The effective use of discipline is one step above this. And there is no doubt that discipline can get you a long way. It is well worth your time to develop good habits in discipline. But you must remember this: discipline is not a substitute for strength. Often times the lack of discipline is blamed for what is actually weakness. The only cure for weakness is strength.

One obvious example is the American diet. People say all too often that they have no discipline in dieting. This may be true or not. But all the discipline in the world will not make up for weakness in any area. It is a stopgap measure at best. Like taping an aspirin to a broken leg. It really doesn't help. The weakness must be made strong. And no matter what it is that one is weak in, the method of strengthening that area is the same. Slow and steady improvements over time. Small steps incrementally taken with great perseverance. Whatever it is you wish to be stronger at, there is a well-worn path that others have walked before you.

You simply need to get on the path and take one step at a time.
Strength in any Arena is always accomplished the same way. The point here is that you cannot substitute discipline for strength. They are not interchangeable nor equivalent. Discipline is its own animal. But much the same as strength the development of discipline is remarkably similar. Discipline has close ties to confidence in oneself. There is only one way to build confidence. And that is by a series of successes. You cannot just say to someone that they must believe in themselves. They already know that. It's axiomatic. But how are they going to begin to believe in themselves? Simply by choosing to is not going to get the job done. They can say it louder and louder but it does not ring true inside them. The advice of telling someone that they have to have confidence in themselves or they must believe in themselves is about as useful as telling somebody who has anxiety that they have to calm down. No shit. Thanks for nothing.

The only way to begin believing in oneself is to experience success. A good coach or parent will engineer small challenges that grow harder and harder over time. It is important that each challenge is overcome and each success builds on the next. After a long line of small successes that build into bigger successes, the person has evidence and reason to be confident in themselves. Without success experience there is no reason to believe in oneself. Arbitrarily believing in oneself is simply hubris. And the Greeks are fond of showing us what that leads to. Just as confidence can be built much like strength can be built, in slow progressive small steps, discipline is no different.

To exercise discipline and make it stronger you must practice. You must challenge yourself to show discipline and then you must succeed and begin to build trust in your discipline. I call this method setting your mind. To actually begin to improve your discipline, you must set a small challenge that will be difficult but far short of impossible. Then you set your mind to the task. This is an involved technique let's suffice it here to say that setting one's mind is akin to committing oneself fully to the task.

Once someone has learned how to set their mind to a task and be fully mentally committed, it is very likely that they will succeed. The hard part is always the mental part. But discipline is mental. Do not mistake discipline with tolerance. Just because someone learns to endure does not mean they are disciplined! It means they are tough!

And that has value all in its own. But it is not discipline. In fact someone said it in a song somewhere... If you're going to be dumb you better be tough. I will paraphrase and say if you are not mentally strong you had better be tough. Discipline and mental toughness are not the same. Similar yes, similarly applied and useful yes, but at the core are different. I'm not sure toughness can even be trained or improved. I suppose it's debatable. And while I'm not willing to say you either have it or you don't, toughness that is, it seems that some come already supplied with more than their fair share!

But back to the development of discipline by setting one's mind to a task and completing the task successfully. That's just another way of saying that you say what you mean and you mean what you say. You set your mind to a task and you say you are going to do X or Y or Z. Then you $#@%ing come through. It's that simple. It will always be that simple and it has always been that simple forever. Each time you say you will do X and you do X you gain confidence in yourself and you begin to trust the discipline you used to follow through in doing X. Then you say you are going to do x + 1. Then you do x + 1. Next you say you will do x + 2. Ad infinitum. Do not jump from x + 1 all the way to X + 200.

You want to do all you can to ensure success and protect yourself from failure. Take small incremental steps. Build upon each success like a snowball rolling down a hill getting bigger and bigger. It is the concept of momentum. And it is quintessential to building discipline. Each challenge must be harder than the last. I've said all this to say that there is something more powerful than discipline. There's another level of the hierarchy. Far more useful than discipline. And it goes far further than discipline can take you.

I am aware that saying that the mental part is the hard part is quite obvious. But that makes it no less true. Discipline is very mental at its core. Setting one's mind like a steel trap is a mental construction. One's strength of mind will ultimately determine one's strength of discipline. I will not belabor the often neglected encouragement to strengthen your mind. If its importance escapes you, you have missed the boat with me. Suffice it to say I cannot endorse more wholeheartedly spending as much time as you can afford strengthening your mind and learning new ideas. But what is stronger than the mind? What could I mean when I say there is something more powerful than discipline? Follow this logic: when the body quits some people have a mind that is strong enough to make it keep going. But there is something more. There are some people who after their body quits and they engage their mind to keep going take that to its extreme. At this point the mind gives out as well. But a few very exceptional people find a way to employ some other mechanism. The mind and the body are finished yet they find a way to go on! There are very few people that have exemplified this. But out of 7.2 billion people we still get our fair share examples. The truth is plenty of people have done it. Enough that we know it is not a unique facet and the purview of only a few. There are enough examples that suggest that it is a human characteristic intrinsic to us all, but quite simply rarely ever used. I believe that it is an artifact of modern civilization.

If I was a betting man, I would bet that 30000 years ago lots and lots of humans employed this deep function of survival quite frequently! But that is neither here nor there. I'm suggesting that there is a third thing. A body, a mind, and the third thing which you may call whatever you want I tend to land on the word Spirit often. when I use that word people seem to know what I'm talking about. I will not go any deeper into this here, but I am going to rely on the assumption that you will accept the premise. I am going to suggest that by using the third thing, the spirit, one can dispose of discipline all together.

So here's the payoff oh, the punchline. You can dispose of discipline if you begin to use desire in its place. Desire is not a mental construct. It has deep emotional and spiritual roots. Desire is more than wanting. It is closer to needing. And I'm not sure where it comes from. But it does not come from the body nor from the mind. You can explore it's origin on your own. My suspicion is that it comes from the third thing, spirit. If you have desire you do not need discipline. If your desire is to run a marathon, and it is a real true deep desire, then getting up at the crack of dawn and going out to run your mileage no matter what the weather holds is exciting and you actually want to do it. Because your desire to run a marathon is so strong, you want to do anything and everything that brings you closer to achieving it. It is no burden to go run your mileage. You welcome the opportunity to go run because you know it will bring you closer to the thing that you want.

The thing that you desire. You simply look at the running as a doorway or a pathway or a gate to the object of your desire. There is no need for discipline here. You do not need discipline to make yourself get up and run. Desire takes care of that before the need to force yourself to do something arises. There is never a thought in your mind about not going to run because it is raining or you are tired or anything else you can imagine which might deter you. If your desire is strong you never have to coerce yourself to do anything no matter how difficult, If It moves you closer.

Discipline is only needed when things are tough and your desire is weak. And if this happens, it is a benefit to have good work habits and strong discipline to take up the slack. But if you can find a way to keep your desire and the fire that stokes it burning, raging, and consuming, you'll never have to use discipline again. You actually want to go running. You actually want to run longer than is on your schedule. You want to give more than what is required. Each and every day this happens. Let me repeat the concept clearly. Discipline is unnecessary when desire is strong.

Discipline conclusion.

If we can embrace the idea that desire is more empowering than discipline, then we can begin to move from the mental dimension into the spiritual dimension. Finding a way to increase our desire is at the Crux of the biscuit. But I am convinced that when discipline gives out and people fail, it is because they failed to rely on their desires. They abandoned their desires. Somehow they rationalized or sacrificed or fell into denial or used some other technique to trick themselves into believing that what they wanted was okay to do without.

They gave up on themselves.

Our desires come from the deepest part of us and they may be considered to be a part of us. It's debatable I know. But consider for a moment that one of the things that makes us us are the things we desire most deeply.

I'm saying that our desires could be considered one of the things that makes us who we are. When we give up on these things we are giving up on ourselves. if it's true that our desires are that important. I tend to believe that they are.

In my life I took the development of discipline to the nth degree. I know exactly how far it goes and I know exactly where it stops. And I know there is something that goes on from there. I know there is a spiritual Force which can be employed to take one much further than discipline has the muster to. I cannot tell you exactly what it is, per se, but I will call it desire. By cultivating it and making it swell and grow and burn with white hot intensity, I believe that this is how human beings have done things that are impossible! yes they use their body yes they use their mind but that is never enough to do the impossible. It takes the third thing.

Think about what you believe concerning this. Think about how much time you spend on a project physically and mentally. Then consider the amount of time you spend on it spiritually or emotionally. Are you acting as a whole human being?

Are you engaging all three parts of yourself? At a later date I will discuss the methods that I used to increase my desire. If you read all of this, feel free to comment! I would welcome them

 

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