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What Do You Truly Want Most?

disciplineddog

If a new moon isn’t enough to get you rebooted, maybe a Chinese New Year will help?  We just entered the year of the Red Fire Monkey and I have a feeling it will be a butt kicker!

So, since you’re going to get kicked into gear anyway, how can you be sure you’re in the right gear and heading in the best direction?

One word:  DISCIPLINE.

Before you tune out on a topic you prejudge as boring or unwanted, let me explain what discipline is.  It comes from Latin and means instruction, knowledge, or informed decision about behavior.

To me that means discipline is all about making conscious choices, not just the intellectual ones, but the ones that naturally spring from our trust in our intuition or gut, the ones we know in our hearts to be right.  “Discipline is doing what you want most versus what you want now.”  I have no idea who said that, but I like it.

Today Stephen and I chose not to go skiing because we knew that a day of housekeeping—and writing—would ultimately serve our goals better than a day of powdered bliss.

Our short term goal?  To get our house back in order, finally, from college breaks, travel, and holidays.  Our long term goal?  Freedom.

We knew we needed to rebuild and strengthen our life infrastructure, much like a skeleton, in order to really be able to flex and stretch, contract and expand without injury to our daily lives, relationships and businesses.  And we did that by choosing to do some necessary exercises that weren’t all that blissfully fun.  But we felt healthier for it, and, ultimately, it will make us happier than the memory of a few thrilling downhill runs.

Discipline is not the same as unconsciously or rigidly following a path that someone else sets out.  Nor is it a fixed habit that takes over our lives or energy.  These behaviors, which sometimes are characterized as “overly disciplined,” aren’t truly conscious, informed, integrated decisions, and thus aren’t a result of genuine discipline.

We know that the best thing for maintaining strong healthy bones is strong supple muscles.  So exercising our muscles, both flexing and stretching them, is what keeps our skeleton solid.  Similarly, we exercise our discipline by maintaining a conscious balance between expansive and contractive activities.

An expansive activity would be one in which we extend ourselves out to community or friends, taking the risk of moving beyond our safety zone of regular patterned behaviors.  This might include learning to ski, going on a first date, or starting a new business.

A contracting activity might be staying home with a sick child, nursing our own illness or injury, or consciously resting at home after a week of travel.

Just as extension and flexion are equally crucial for strong muscles and healthy bones, a healthy balance of expansive and contracting activities is essential for maintaining a healthy life with the discipline to move forward toward our goals.

So how does this apply to you and how do you know if you have a healthy balance of self-discipline?

If you’re too rigid or contracted, you might feel tense, overwhelmed, overworked, or inflexible.  Do you get thrown or upset by change or obstacles?  Do you find it difficult to feel or know what you want?  Being stuck in a rigid pattern is not discipline; it’s unconscious busyness.  Maybe you’re too focused on the future and not living now.  You might need to allow yourself some less structured time and activities.

If you’re too open or expansive, you might be flexible but you might lack the focus to connect with people or activities, or to make commitments.  Or you might be unmotivated or unable to complete things.  This may be a sign that you need to pull in more and engage in more focused activities.  This kind of focus will also help you to develop conscious habits that will get you closer to your goals.

A complete lack of discipline may lead some to addiction as their intense craving for that one substance or activity makes them believe it’s what they want most.  This kind of self-deception can completely eclipse any sense of future or greater meaning.

The key to finding and maintaining balance and discipline is in knowing what is important to you.  My goal is freedom—not the freedom to live without discipline, but the freedom to live consciously from my own priorities and choices.  And to attain this freedom, it will take discipline to build the financial and time freedom to support my dreams.

 

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