For all that I am a big Stevie fan, I am not at all into the concept of self discipline. In fact, I’ve had the idea for a long time that self discipline is something that should be nothing less than avoided.
I consider self discipline a struggle between two parts of yourself.
See it like this.
You identify a goal which you have. To make it more graphic, let’s make an example. Say, you decide to start eating a 100% raw diet.
A little voice in you says, “I don’t want to do that.”
You use self discipline on it. In line with the concept of self discipline, you whip yourself into shape and deny the impulse to eat cooked foods.
It works fine for a few days, but eventually your will weakens – while the impulse is just as strong as ever.
Self discipline is based on a sense of struggle between you and the parts of you which you want to fall in line. Your “inner demons” if you will.
Much like the discipline a general demands from his subordinates, self discipline creates a backlash.
As in physics, anything that is resisted, resists back.
If the backlash gets too strong, you won’t be able to hold out. You will lose the battle – the general will face a mutiny.
Worse, if you or the general are powerful enough to totally overcome your “subordinates”, something even worse might happen. Your subordinates – what you call your inner demons – might do exactly what you want – and not express the wonderful purpose they came to Earth to perform.
Rather than viewing things in terms of a struggle between two parts of a whole, I prefer to think that each part of the whole has its own place.
Instead of the general demanding fealty, the *leader* should ask each part of the team what they were made to do in the first place. The wonderful purpose they came to Earth to perform.
If the team-member doesn’t want to follow directions, maybe there’s a good reason for it. Maybe the leader should take that reason into account and change their direction. Maybe the leader shouldn’t be a leader. Or maybe they should. In either case, the leader had better start the negotiations without expecting an entitlement to being the one who has the answers.
In the same way, don’t demand your inner demons to fall in line. Listen to them. Maybe your directive wasn’t right in the first place. Maybe your demons are your friends, telling you they have something that would be better for all of you to do.
Maybe – just maybe – you got so caught up demanding fealty that you forgot to listen.
So, without further ado, here are 7 holistic alternatives to self discipline which I think you can use to make you a more integrated and happy person. You may even become more effective – if you are willing to let effectiveness redefine itself as you go along.
This applies for when you are doing tasks and trying to be “productive”. Self-struggle seeps into this sort of endeavour, and before you know it most people are having a full on battle with their self… every day.
If you have a boss maybe the “discipline” is imposed from the outside. If you don’t have a boss, though, you may just invent a boss in your head which goes around telling you what to do. This is known as self discipline and should be avoided at all costs.
The remedy in this situation I’ve found is to just start. You get motivation as you go along.
Don’t get confused here. “Just starting” isn’t the same as self discipline. Self discipline involves having a struggle with yourself. “Just starting” is setting aside your internal struggle for long enough to get going. The great thing I’ve found is that once you are moving towards your chosen goals, motivation just kind of takes care of itself.
I did this this morning. I was floundering and on the verge of getting into another minor emotional low. Then I kind of realised that even my emotional lows were kind of excuses and decided to not give them power. I didn’t fight them. I just started.
And low and behold, I kept going. Now I’m still doing things that are bringing me towards my goals and I’m feeling pretty good.
2. Identify Your True Motivation
Face it: self discipline happens when you are not motivated. It makes no sense to have a struggle with yourself if you are feeling a full surge of motivation to do something.
School prepares children for their place in the Machine by actually alienating them from their motivation and sense of passion. This allows them to submit to external discipline, pretty much because they don’t have any real direction anyway. Even for people who escape the Machine and become self employed, this mindset surfaces as self-discipline.
Reverse the process and find your passion. Find something you’d really love to do, making sure that it’s within the realm of what will allow you to earn your living. And go do that thing.
For me right now it’s teaching English and writing. Thinking about my goals I feel good and energised. That gives me a good starting point for getting out and doing what I need to do.
There will be blocks, but I encourage you to find a gentle way to get through them. The passion will give you a steady fuel to draw upon, and I think the power of “just starting” can keep you moving in the right direction, too.
But one thing should be obvious – if you don’t know what you really want, or what to do to get there, you won’t get anywhere. Maybe you’ll resort to having constant battles with yourself as a way to feel busy.
3. Make Friends With Your Demons
So you’ve got some momentum but keep finding yourself blocked.
I think it’s not always the case, but many times what you might call “demons” are actually friends in disguise.
For instance, I know a lot of people who can’t get themselves to study at school. I consider that apparent demon a friend in disguise. Isn’t it natural to not want to do a meaningless activity rather than your passion? It’s also very natural to resist something that is imposed without reasons being given. It’s not healthy to live in a way where you are following orders all the time, as that removes your ability and need to make your own evaluations about what to do.
As a result of being in a very sick environment, your ability to motivate yourself to move forward stalls. Listen to the message implicit in that. Your body and soul are telling you clearly what’s going on.
You know, sometimes I think being indigo is about doing everything three times as hard. When I got to the point in my school career – about age 16 – when I began to become disillusioned with life like everyone else, I started sleeping 12 hours a day and skipping half my classes. For me, it was almost impossible to ignore that something was wrong in the whole equation. I wasn’t getting what my soul was screaming at me to find.
Don’t ignore the signal. Don’t fight it. Don’t medicate it. Go with it. If your system tells you to stop – stop. Surrender to being an utter failure at whatever you are currently trying to do. And now keep following the signal. Follow it until it takes you down some other avenue – some path that feels effortless to follow and is filled with joy.
4. Grow in Consciousness
I believe that life is an exercise in growing in consciousness, and I marvel at how many goals can be achieved simply by working to do so. Simply put, when you resonate at a lower consciousness, problems and lack are abundant. When you elevate yourself, however, these problems tend to disappear of their own accord. Your desire to achieve a goal can tie in very nicely to your spiritual path in this way. Earth and Spirit are not at war with each other: the very opposite.
First, you will need to identify if your goal resonates in Spirit or not. A goal which is aligned with your spirit – which is you by the way – will be achieved effortlessly by raising your consciousness. Actually it won’t even be achieved. It will be a state of being.
On the other hand, a goal which is not aligned with your spirit is likely to be ridden with struggle, not least struggle against yourself (i.e. against your spirit). If you find yourself working towards one of these goals, I suggest you use the tip #3 and surrender to the urge to give up. This very act will allow you to grow in consciousness.
Now, find more ways to grow in consciousness using your goal as a focus point, and your life will shift to a better equilibrium, seemingly of its own volition.
Let’s get concrete here. For me following the raw food diet is an important goal which I feel is aligned with my spirit. I came to it by raising my consciousness and seeing how incredibly different it was to eat something with living energy in it as opposed to something that had been killed by heat. It was part of a more general path that involved letting go of different foods as I got more and more aware of what my body was telling me.
So after some rather terrific failures in self discipline I decided to let myself eat whatever I wanted. Unlike in the previous example, though, I knew eating raw was a positive goal for me. The blocks came from resonating in lower consciousness, so I decided to raise my consciousness.
I did this by meditating in what I was eating. I would go out and eat whatever – and really eat whatever, go all the way. I’d feel the experience fully, before, during and after. I’d feel the impulse, and watch meditatively as my mental patterns drew me to following it. I’d feel what I felt as I ate, and how my body and soul was speaking to me. And after, I attempted to take full note of how my body was responding to the food. I was meditating all the way through my negative impulse and really feeling what I was doing to myself.
I didn’t need self discipline to know not to eat something. I just need to know my motivation. I’ve found that where our motivation fails to bring us to follow a path, it means in some way you’re hiding from the truth of what that path will mean to you. By meditating in your acts, you disengage from the mental impulse that will do anything to get you to follow the old path. And when you finally have clarity, you will see that it makes no sense to follow the old path. You feel the pain that the old path holds for you, and avoid it in the same way your hand avoids fire. There’s no effort involved – effort would be needed to do the opposite thing.
So now when I think about my dietary choices, I realise, with the consciousness I’ve gained from meditation on my acts, that the desire to eat the old “favourite food” is nothing more than an empty attachment. I see clearly the long and short term discord my act involves, and naturally reach for the alternative. It’s effortless.
5. Ration Effort
I’ve defined discipline so far as a struggle with yourself. It can also refer to plain old effort, though.
What do I think about effort? I think that it’s fine to use effort, though it’s also good to look for ways you can have your life flow and feel “effortless”. I do think, though, that we have a limited amount of effort-energy we can use at any one time. It doesn’t make sense to be using it all the time.
Imagine trying to get up every day early. You can use effort for that, and if you’re sufficiently inspired it’ll work for a while. But eventually you’ll just not feel like using that much effort.
It’s much better if you can use your effort where there will be the most leverage: to change habits and structures in your life. Once you achieve that, the change will be on autopilot and not depend on the application of continued effort.
Growing in consciousness, as detailed above, can be gained from effort. You can push forward a change which doesn’t come easily at first. You move into a way of living that you know is consistent with a higher vibration, or a more positive way of being.
When you’ve been living in a higher vibe from your effortful actions, though, after a while you’ll begin to resonate at that higher vibe. So this is one way how the application of effort can make your goal effortless to sustain.
6. Let yourself be unbusy
I’m still working this – and lots of other stuff I’ve written in this article – out, but I do believe that a lot of busy-ness is just not necessary. They say that most employees only have 2 hours of productive work per day. I believe that.
I also believe that working towards meaningful goals can be a wonderful experience and add meaning to your life. I believe that we all have a drive to do things in life, and even get depressed when we’re not doing things.
I think it’s much better to make sure that these things come from the soul and are not imposed by others, but that’s another story.
Maybe your lack of self discipline is because you don’t want to be doing something which has been imposed. Or maybe you don’t want to do it because it’s meaningless or too punishing on your system. Maybe you want more time to do things which you prefer to do. Or to relax (God forbid!)
If so, make friends with those demons and allow yourself to be unbusy. Maybe it’s not so bad after all.
7. Love Yourself
If you love yourself, you don’t need to do violence against yourself, whether it’s mental or physical.
When you know that self-discipline is a lie, you’ll no longer have to beat yourself up. And that’s very positive.
So, self-discipline… Discipline, meaning submitting to an external authority. Self, meaning you do the whole masochistic pattern in the comfort of your own tortured psyche. Avoid the whole mess, and be nice to yourself.
What alternatives do you have to using self discipline?