You don’t need spirituality or faith to be disciplined, but can spirituality and faith help self-discipline? Yes, tremendously.
Spirituality almost always fosters values such as integrity, compassion, patience, forgiveness, self-control, determination, awareness, and morality. It requires honest self-reflection and certain regular practices. All of that requires self-discipline.
A spiritual path also offers inspiration from peers, mentors, community, mystical experiences, and sacred texts to support you.
Spirituality deepens peace of mind, calms impulses, and builds resilience. It strengthens self-worth, because you see yourself as something greater than your body and personality—sometimes called Self, Awareness, Spirit, Soul, or Buddha Mind. It enhances self-forgiveness for mistakes and the practice self-compassion, because you see failures as just hiccups along the lifelong journey of personal expansion/purification/transcendence.
The Power of Faith
Faith is taking as truth something that cannot be scientifically proven or dismissed, but which feels true, good, and meaningful. It makes sense of life, and is a foundation upon which a good life can be built.
Faith is picking out, from the sea of unknowables, the one hypothesis that makes it all come alive for you; that makes it all worth it for you. Then you choose to see the world through those lenses, navigate uncertainty with that map, and experience the benefits—until you find something better.
Faith is a decision, a feeling, or an experience from within. It is not the end-result of analytical thinking—it is trans-rational. It is not foolish; it is wise. And it is not the exclusive domain of religion.
You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. —Steve Jobs
The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe. —Albert Einstein
When Tony Robbins was asked what was the core belief that has been most helpful in his life, he replied: “That life is happening for you, not to you.” The same message is echoed by many other voices in the personal development world, under different forms. And it is a belief, an act of faith. It is something that you cannot prove true or false, but it is definitely helpful and empowering.
If you believe that you are a soul or spirit, then you will naturally believe that there is great wisdom and power within you; that means you will be able to tap into that in times of need, and persevere. If you believe in God, you can tap into that unlimited power through prayer. If you believe in the existence of supportive non-material entities, you can ask for their help, and feel the hope and peace of mind that comes from knowing that you don’t need to go through this alone. If you believe in an intelligent and compassionate universe you may, like Tony Robbins, have the resilience and resourcefulness of knowing that all happens for your greater benefit.
At the very least, you need unwavering faith in yourself. So you stand like a mountain that no wind can move; so you are a light unto yourself. As Swami Vivekananda once said: “You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself”.
Self-discipline is the art of prioritizing long-term goals. Spirituality empowers self-discipline because its outlook is really long-term. Whether in the context of the “Judgment Day” (in Abrahamic religions) or of karma (in Eastern religions), what you say and do here and now matters now and beyond your current lifetime. With this worldview, you tend to live more mindfully and thoughtfully.
Another benefit of this longer timescale is less worry. As someone who believes in reincarnation, the broader timescale has helped me many, many times to get perspective on difficulties I was facing. Every challenge looks incredibly small from that 100,000-foot view. There is no reason to fear, and every reason to get up every time you fall.
Stronger Sense of Purpose
Many spiritual philosophies emphasize a sense of purpose or duty, that we are here to grow and contribute, each of us with unique gifts and perspectives.
To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. —Matthew 25:14-30
I sit at the core of all beings and pull the strings of their heart according to their destiny. —Bhagavad Gita
Hindu spirituality teaches the concept of Dharma—our sacred duties and roles in life, what we were born to do. They are the way we express ourselves and polish our soul. And they are seen as the way that the higher consciousness expresses itself through us.
When we cultivate a sense of purpose and duty, a natural force within pushes us to make the best use of our time and life. It becomes easier to focus on what matters, to overcome procrastination, and to persevere.
Self-discipline empowers you to achieve your goals, whatever they are. Picking the right goals, on the other hand, is the role of wisdom. And spirituality nurtures wisdom.
As you cultivate your spirituality, through both practices and contemplation, your deeper intuition will awaken. With this new wisdom and depth, you’ll choose better goals—more authentic and compelling goals. These will be goals that will be easier for you to be more self-disciplined in.
If you have discipline without wisdom, you may end up at the top of a ladder that you didn’t really need to climb. If you have wisdom without discipline, you will know the right ladder to climb but won’t go past the first few rungs. To live fully, you need both wisdom and discipline.