When you hear the word "discipline," does it feel light or heavy? Even though it's a core behavior for reaching our goals, discipline tends to get a bad wrap. The most notable associations are being subject to a rigorous routine, having to deprive ourselves of pleasure, and grinding out effort in an overly aggressive way.
In Patañjali's Yoga Sutras one of the five niyamas, or self-discipline practices, is known as Tapas. The practice of Tapas encompasses disciplines such as fasting or taking a vow of silence, which seems to comply with our restrictive definition of discipline. But take a closer look and you'll see that these practices are meant to purify, renew, and restore our vitality.
Discipline is where you find the sweet spot between effort and ease, and walking that edge is the secret that really successful people have mastered. It's their secret sauce, if you will.
But it's not something you're just born with. Discipline can be learned. Here's how to start incorporating discipline into your life in an expansive, nurturing way.
1. Respond rather than reacting.
Acting from a place of balance keeps hasty decisions, depleted willpower, and self-sabotage at bay. Reactions tend to originate from a place of fear and uncertainty while responses grow from honorable values. John C. Maxwell writes, "If vision is the head and mission is the heart, then values are the soul." When you respond in accordance with your values, you avoid the trap of shrinking back, playing small, and living from fear.
2. Commit to doing the hard thing first.
We are wired to move away from discomfort, even if it's meant to better us. This simple inner working misleads us to do easy tasks first and put off things that, in the moment, seem much harder to accomplish. So, we tackle the low-hanging fruit first and allow the stress, anxiety, and weight of the bigger actions to fester. When you commit to doing the hard thing first, your day, week, month, and year become easier. On the flip-side, when you do the easy things first, your experience becomes one of difficulty and struggle.
3. Adopt a morning meditation practice to increase awareness.
Meditating first thing in the morning puts you immediately into your higher mind. From this elevated vantage point, you're free from the trappings of patterned behavior. Increasing your awareness gives you the freedom to make new choices based in the here and now. As you become more present you gain the superpower of creating new habits with ease.
4. Surround yourself with reminders of why you're doing what you're doing.
Getting clear on why you've committed to a certain path can be more important than the path itself. Danielle LaPorte, author of The Desire Map, writes, "Everything we do is driven by the desire to feel a certain way. You're not chasing the goal itself; you're chasing a feeling." We're far more likely to know what actions to take and which ones to toss if we focus on how we want to feel rather than what we will get. This puts us in a place of service to the highest vision for ourselves, rather than a state of constant striving. Remind yourself of your core desired feelings daily by placing inspiring images and words in plain sight.
As you embrace discipline, you'll tap into more power and rely less on forcing things to come together. If you're ever struggling to reach your goals, remember these guiding principles for creating success:
- Surrender emotional reactions and adopt principled responses.
- Fiercely commit to do the seemingly hard things first.
- Ritualize your morning to increase your awareness.
- When in doubt, reconnect with how you want to feel.