A Blank Statement

“I like to think that to unleash our full potential we must practice self-discipline.”

In other words, imposing actual limits on ourselves would produce an effect that is somewhat freeing – I know, something of an oxymoron. But in the same way that some believe that less is more, I believe that practicing self-control is the key to personal freedom. You may disagree with my BLANK statement or you may just turn the page and learn what I am about to school you on.

54When it comes to self-improvement and self discipline the answer is freedom. For many individuals discipline is a dirty word that is equated with the absence of freedom. In fact the exact opposite is true. The undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites, and passions. Although those may be the building blocks of personality traits and individual uniqueness, in the long term stretch they may cause some irreparable harm, as the lack of discipline would actually set the game of life to anorules mode and manipulate the way we access the freedom that comes with harnessing our skills and abilities.

Basically, for those who may have some trouble understanding this concept of juxtaposition, it would be like racing a car without a break pedal. And although it would be acceptable in some extreme scenario, like breaking a land speed record at the Bonneville Speedway, it could be reckless on a racetrack full of turns and slopes – and we all know that life is full of turns and slopes, unexpected ones at that. So, am I saying put on the brakes to win the race? Well, yes… in a way I am. Bear with me.

Self-discipline involves acting according to what we think or know instead of how we feel in a particular moment. Just about any success story out there at some point narrates how achieving a goal often involves sacrificing the pleasure and thrill of the moment for what matters most in life. It is usually the practice of self discipline that has driven successful individuals to work on an idea or project long after the initial rush of enthusiasm has faded away. To wake up early on Saturdays to work on perfecting something of a personal interest instead of sleeping in after an excruciating week at the job. To learn to say “NO” when tempted to break away from any given course of action, like a nutrition or fitness regimen. To only check your email or Facebook once or twice per day – ok I must admit, that’s a bit of a struggle. The point I’m making is that to get to that ultimate “YES” in life we must learn the way of “NO”; better yet we must master it and even strive for that life-changing “NO!”

THL-Virtual-7For some, self-discipline plays a big part in their daily routine while for others it’s never even been a factor. In my case, I have learned that when having even just a little source of discipline in my life, it has significantly contributed to my being a better individual all around. It has allowed me to bring a certain balancing element in my life that allows me to be both grounded and efficient while I prepare my dreams for flight. Trust me, there are many days when I would love nothing more than to be laying in my bed, sleeping in or watching the Muppets. But self-discipline and utter amounts of desire kick me in the ass and my inner purpose seems to always take over and come alive as a result. I suppose that’s part of what passion is, in at least one of its forms. Sure there is the passion that happens between the sheets and that fulfills certain needs, but the passion that drives us to do what we think we should, that’s the passion that requires some serious effort to keep going. So in a way I think I got the passion thing down pretty solid, any which way you want to look at it.

But for many, the passion that leads to accomplishments are just hard to come by, hard to harness, and that’s a tricky struggle to deal with. If you struggle with self-discipline, the good news is that it can be developed, over time. For example in the past ten years I have disciplined myself to get up early and get my cardio conditioning done first thing in the am, within minutes of waking up, which helps me execute better throughout the day. As a side-effect, my mind is clear and my heart is on fire. Of course it took a lot of effort and getting used to, but the trick is practiced repetition, to the point that it becomes a habit, and eventually develops into another character trait. Does it define me as an individual? Well, I wouldn’t go that far. Does it make me a better individual? Yes. It makes me a better version of what I would be otherwise and it ultimately helps me fit into the world that I envision and create for myself. And in that world I’m alive and kicking.

The following are what I have found to be five basic traits essential to promoting a good, healthy sense of self discipline.

12redcrossNUMBER 1: Know thyself… SELF KNOWLEDGE
Inarguably the founding father of discipline. Behaving according to what you have decided is best for yourself or the you, you want to be regardless of how you feel in the moment, is the first step to realizing any form of success.

redcrossNUMBER 2: I think therefore I am… CONSCIOUS
Self-discipline depends upon conscious awareness to both what you are doing and what you are not doing. Think about it. If you aren’t aware of your behavior, it is undisciplined. How will you ever know to act otherwise? Blank tip: Don’t be too hard on yourself at first. Easy does it.

redcrossNUMBER 3: Showing up is half the battle… COMMITMENT
It is not enough to simply write out your goals. You must make an internal commitment to them. I like to think of commitment as an interest-bearing rewards account. The more you put in, the more you get out.

redcrossNUMBER 4: In a word… COURAGE
It takes a lot of courage to start something new and different, to dare to dream. Make no mistake, the path you have chosen, like many before you, maps an extremely difficult journey into a sort of uncharted territory. And I won’t sugar coat it – your journey will be a chock-full of mood swings, guilty pleasure cravings, and yearning passions that can be powerful forces to overcome and they might steer you off-course. But like I mentioned before, there are rewards to be reaped at the finish line. When you make yourself commit to something and accumulate small yet significant victories, your self-discipline will grow and the courage that underpins self-discipline will come more naturally. Courage will fuel the journey.

redcrossNUMBER 5: If, and, but… INTERNAL COACHING
Self-talk is often considered harmful, but it can also be extremely beneficial if you have control of it. When you find yourself being tested, I suggest you sit with yourself for five minutes, away from everything, and simply talk to yourself. Encourage yourself and reassure yourself. What you hear may be truly profound so tune in and listen for a while.

Mandy Blank is a THL exclusive correspondent