Self-Care Series, Part 1: Re-Thinking Discipline

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cat pictureMariam Webster defines discipline as “control that is gained by requiring that rules or order be obeyed, as the punishing of bad behavior, and as behavior that is judged by how well it follows a set of rules and orders.”

Discipline originates from the Latin: Disciplina, which translates as “teaching and learning”.

In its origin, the word discipline never implied severe control, strictness, or punishment. So then, without internal strictness, what does it mean to discipline ourselves to be healthier, to eat well, exercise, not smoke, etc.?

Wikipedia reminds us that in its original sense, “discipline is a systematic instruction intended to train a person, sometimes literally called a disciple, in a craft, trade, or other activity.” It goes on to state, “discipline is a course of actions leading to a greater goal than the satisfaction of the immediate. Self-discipline is a substitute for motivation, when one uses reason to determine the best course of action that opposes ones’ immediate desires.”

So, whereas sometimes we need to challenge our automatic satisfaction of cravings and desires and move toward healthier things, I think the challenge lies in doing this without self-hate or punishment. If we follow out the original intent of discipline as a teaching and learning experience, then maybe we can actually enjoy the challenge of our own healing.

Several months ago I visited a Naturopathic doctor to address some health concerns. The doctor suggested a radical change in diet with the addition of several herbal supplements taken at various times of the day. I have a lot of experience with changes in my diet, and while I have been successful at following most of the plan, I have noticed how challenging some of the food restrictions are… for example, sugar, and especially chocolate.

I was brought up on sugar and it is glaring to me now how incredibly addictive it is. I can’t stop using it. So for me a harm reduction model is what’s needed. For the most part, I don’t use white sugar. I pay a lot more attention to the ingredients in sweet products and challenge myself when I automatically go after satisfaction of the craving. Sometimes I just breathe and give myself space to have my feelings or play my guitar, and sometimes it’s impossible to challenge the force of the craving and I give in.

Are you wiling to share some thoughts about what works and does not work for you in relation to discipline, motivation, etc.? Thanks.


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