Something happens, a wake up call. Or perhaps we wake up slowly and one day we realize that we have a longing to follow our hearts. So we decide to change. To break free from our habitual lives in order to make time for the things that strike our hearts. But how? Our habits are deeply ingrained. Without constant vigilance we fall back into self pity, television, co-dependency, drugs…whatever our personal habits are.
In order to create these changes without getting lost, without falling back into old destructive habits, we need to create a structure for ourselves. This structure helps us to create new habits, positive habits, habits that nourish and sustain us. This structure can also be called discipline.
Discipline is a word often ascribed to the virtuous. Most of us secretly know that we do not belong to this select group. We would like to be disciplined, it sounds so prestigious. But we know deep down that we are not special. Only ordinary.
Growth usually requires either challenging circumstances that force us to stretch beyond our previous capabilities or sustained, intentional effort over time. Frankly, the second method is easier. We cannot usually plan for the challenges that will force us to grow, and probably wouldn’t want to. The sanest path to personal growth is one of intention and discipline. We often think of discipline as something severe and austere. We associate it with being bad and requiring punishment. However discipline is really another way of describing a structure or container for growth.
What if the discipline I am describing was not something severe or austere? What if we looked at it as an act of love towards ourselves?
In order to create a discipline or practice that sustains us, we must first examine our intentions for doing so. If we decide to practice because we think we “should” or because we are expected to, our practice will be dry and painful. We will soon find a reason not to practice, and when we don’t we will berate ourselves for our lack of discipline.
To create a sustainable practice, we must do it for ourselves. Because somewhere deep down, we realize that we are worthy. That we were born to live our lives fully and our current habits are keeping us from feeling fully alive.
Discipline is a gift you give to yourself. Choose a practice that feels like a gift. It will still be hard to do consistently, but once you get started you will remember. Start small. Start reasonably. Take baby steps. Be kind to yourself. If you skip a day, also skip berating yourself about it.
Growth happens one baby step at a time. Change happens one baby step at a time. Take one today.