Just so you know I have a little podcast called “Pease in a Pod” which explores whether there is a connection between technology and an increased interest in spirituality. Then again, maybe it is the other way around.
Discipline — I hate you, I love you, thank you, fuck you, I can’t stand you, I need you.
Did our ancestors, who ran across the Savanna in their Dunbar numbers, have to deal with this? Or is Discipline simply a perk of civilization?
I can tell myself over and over and over again how good discipline is for me, but I flip it the bird. I flip off calendars, reminders, lists, excel spreadsheets and anything that will demand discipline. Oh and if you are one of those people who is enthusiastic about discipline, I am flipping you off too.
Why do I have such an issue with discipline? Well for one it seems that the only things that ever require discipline are also things I don’t want to do. Things I don’t want to do never fall into the “fun” category.
Some folks declare they are disciplined when in fact they are not at all. They are simply doing what they want. It may have an element of difficulty so they unjustly place it into the discipline column.
Some folks wear the martyrdom of discipline as means to acquire admiration from their fellows. They suffer and sacrifice. These priestly folks have found the meaning of life must mean the rejection of life. They carry a heavy burden and are always excited to spend countless hours sharing that with you. As the hours go by their task lists get longer like a fishermen’s tale.
Maybe you are one of those freaks who is enthusiastic about it but who do you know says, “Hey, let’s have a party and make sure we invite discipline.” Given, folks in the BDSM community invite it but that is not what I am talking about and you know it smart ass.
I will admit, discipline is treated poorly, receives unwarranted prejudice and is shunned. I am reasonably self-aware, in yet these attitudes baffle me immensely. Gratification gets all the accolades but brings misery whereas discipline has consistent benefits.
Why on earth do I still carry around such bias even after years of experience? I believe it may have something to do with Instincts and a misperception I may be missing out on something.
Let’s start with instincts since they are super powerful, have a historical track record and are something we are all familiar with. They save and destroy. For example, in the event a black panther escapes from the zoo your instincts will tell you to run. This may appear to be a case of instincts in “save” mode but instincts are not that smart. Running will kill you on account of black panthers clock in at 50 mph and silly humans max out at 28mph. Also, the quoted mph is for a super fit in shape human so you will be seriously dead at your 8 mph sprint.
Although it is rare these days to encounter a black panther on your street, there are plenty of other ways instincts can be utilized throughout the day. The great thing about instincts is they give your prefontal cortex a break from all that hard work. Logic and reason require a ton of calories and effort. Instincts on the other hand are all about calories and no effort, unless of course the aforementioned black panther shows up. In that case, you will end up exerting a ton of calories and effort all for nothing.
Although civilization gave us discipline it sure seems to give us a mixed message about it. It demands it while at the same time sabotages. Falling off the discipline wagon is easy from lack of sleep, bad food and condiments of stress. These are a few of civilizations other perks. When these moments happen I seek salvation. The quick fix is a sugary treat. At least I have the common sense or discipline to keep sugary fatty carb infused treats out the house. Can I invoke discipline and just not eat it? Of course I can, but that requires energy and constant self-talk that can be used elsewhere, like writing a post about it.
It is also really important that you constantly beat yourself up for not being disciplined or perfect. Civilization also reinforces this behavior. This creates a constant state of salvation seeking behavior. And don’t let anyone tell you that discipline is a latent behavior on humanities timescale and is unnatural. Anthropologists must have found some prehistoric to do lists somewhere?
Everyone is different and has a unique relationship to instincts. Placed into a state of stress, salvation can be found in fast food, a bong hit, and a bottle of wine. Discipline later — cheeseburger now. This is entirely understandable. However, there is a difference between taking a life break and instincts as a lifestyle. I know because I have wrapped myself up in a fat, sugary quilt of comfort for extended periods of time. When it comes to discipline and instincts we can usually manage by making some very simple choices, but the other wall of resistance, missing out on something, requires a different understanding.
Most of us don’t enjoy being left out. In fact, we want to be invited to so many things that we have to hire an assistant to prepare all the rejections and manage our calendar. Let’s be honest — there is a direct correlation between age and your social calendar. Let’s also be honest and admit we have at times set discipline aside because we are invited to do something and don’t want to miss out on it. Most people navigate this quite well unless they have suffered a childhood trauma like I did.
The weekend was coming, I was in high-school, and my best friends parents were out of town. This scenario required one thing — a party. The night came and my mother kept me home to write a college application. Who does this to their child?
I committed to never again miss out on anything for discipline. Once I got to college (yup they let me in) I fully embraced this philosophy and shared it with the police, fire department, and admissions. They didn’t understand me and neither did my parents. My dreams, goals, and desires took a back seat while I made sure I never missed out on anything. The party ended, but that is another story. I now share the philosophy of discipline with a healthy dose of hedonism.
I know to keep hedonism fed because it is part of me. To deny it will bring peril for it will eventually make itself known. No need to keep the leash too short, but a leash is required. I am not alone in this. Many disciplined people are too and they also have another issue with discipline that I have. They have to discipline themselves to back off.
The treadmills spinning, hearts pumping, legs striding and I am killing it. I have plenty in the tank and I can take a lot. And then my deep down wise inner voice kicks in and says — “Evan, EVan, EVAn, EVAN!!! Turn the music down I have something to tell you. Ok, thank you. Pace yourself. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should”
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should
Not everyone is like that, and just like instincts, everyone has a different discipline meter. Some people at the gym seriously need to crank it up. Side note: I really don’t understand people who I see at the gym regularly but never break a sweat. I imagine they are also the kind of people who are total assholes but show up at church every Sunday. I believe this is salvation and physical fitness through the osmosis method. At any rate, I don’t go to church and discipline for me means a balanced life. It means when I am at the gym I give it my all but back off by 20%. It means I get up at 4:30 AM to write and be ok with the number of words I write that day. It means laying on the couch staring up at the ceiling is just as much a part of my mental and physical life as the doing part. It means that I take my hedonist off leash once in a while.
Meditation, relaxing, reading for enjoyment, and just staring at the wall require discipline. If I am working on something and it is not coming together working on it harder is not the answer. The answer is to have the discipline to walk away.
Our instincts will have us doing nothing and eating everything. Discipline can sometimes run really hard from those realities. That is discipline based on fear. Fear based discipline leads to dissatisfaction and burnout. Discipline is the awareness of making the right choice for yourself. Sometimes the right choice is to do nothing.
Discipline still causes me to cringe a bit, but I have developed a new relationship with it. I now understand that discipline is misunderstood. It has received unwarranted prejudice due to ignorance. Discipline is simply another word for balance, self awareness and mindfulness. Discipline is spirituality.
Here is just a little reminder of what I said at the start — “Pease in a Pod” . The number one podcast for those who are disciplined, undisciplined, struggle with discipline and/or enjoy BDSM with their discipline.
I loved this piece so much. It visually describes peace and beauty found through discipline. Atey keep making great art. Here is some contact info:
- Atey Ghailan is creating Illustrations, sketches,concept art and graphic novels | Patreon
- Atey Ghailan (@snatti89) * Instagram photos and videos
Yup, I said it… “Discipline.” was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.