Friday, June 6, 2014

Self-Discipline


"The secret of success is constancy of purpose."

Benjamin Disraeli

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

Aristotle

"In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves.  Self-discipline with all of them came first."

Harry S. Truman


           

I’m writing as an act of discipline.  That’s how Purpose works.  It’s not just passion or inspiration.  It’s not even enthusiasm or excitement.  At least not always.  It’s simply a commitment.  I like the idea of making commitments.  There are two important principles.  First, commit to the right things.  Second, honor that commitment.  I’ve made commitments in my life that I regretted.  Some I kept and some I broke.  I’m not looking for justification or blame.  What’s done is done.  Now, however, I only want to commit to things that align with my heart. 
I have many choices, but I’m going to choose sparingly and well.  I’m committed to my Muse.  I’m committed to writing.  I’m committed to getting my house on the beach.  Could I choose otherwise?   I could, but I don’t want to.  I want these things.  This is how I want to serve the world.  This is how I want to live out God’s plan for me.  If He has different ideas, I’m willing to change, but I don’t think He does.  This feels like His plan.  That’s why I have no trouble committing to these things. 
That doesn’t mean it’s easy though.  In is book Do It!  Let’s Get off Our Buts, Peter McWilliams says there’s a dark side to Purpose.  Perhaps there is.  Sometimes this gets lonely.  I feel doubtful about my abilities.  I often wonder if my time could be used better.  There are no guarantees.  Still, this is what I want to do.  All of my goals are things I want, and even need.  I don’t mean “need” as in, “I will die if I don’t get this,” but need as in, “My life will not feel right.  I will not have lived to my full potential, if I don’t do this.”
So I do this as an act of discipline and the discipline feels good.  Often that word is misused to mean punishment, but the two words aren’t even close, despite what the dictionary says.  Punishment is meant to hurt someone for a real or imagined offense. Discipline is meant to keep us from committing offenses in the first place.  What are those offenses?  Do I mean criminal offenses?  Perhaps.  But that’s just the final result.  Undisciplined lives don’t necessarily lead to criminal behaviors.  For me, they have led to laziness, purposelessness, or being overwhelmed by thoughts.
Only by applying discipline to my thoughts and actions have I been able to improve my outlook, my words, my behavior, and my life.  I define discipline as the constant and continuous practice of an activity or an attitude meant to cause improvement. 
The following activities can be disciplines:
·      Exercise
·      Prayer
·      Writing or any artistic practice
·      Waking up earlier
·      Going to bed earlier
·      Thinking before you speak
·      Staying calm
·      Smiling

There are probably many more and again I go with my definition.  If I practice is constantly and continuously and it improves my life, then it’s a discipline.  (It’s interesting that fields of study are also called disciplines.)
Without discipline I don’t think we can achieve much.  And the more discipline I apply, the more I get done.  I’ve done a lot of writing in the last year and a half.  I might have done a lot more had I started earlier.  It doesn’t help to regret.  Al l I can do is practice self-discipline now.  I can also be aware of how much I have accomplished in the last year and practice the discipline of gratitude and humility.  I can also Get Started and Keep Going every day…because that’s what discipline is.