Self-discipline, despite being an essential skill, is not really a popular topic. Many people have misconceptions and resist the idea. Let’s look at what Mindful Self-Discipline is not—and what it really is.
FOCUS, Not Restriction
One mistaken belief is that discipline means a restrictive lifestyle, full of rules, with no room for freedom, spontaneity, or fun.
Actually, self-discipline doesn’t ask you to do anything you don’t want to do. It only asks you to do things you do want to do. You focus on what matters most to you. Yes, that means tradeoffs, and that’s a fact of life—whenever you say yes to one thing, you say no to many other things.
Self-discipline is you choosing your values and goals. It is something you do for yourself, accepting that there is sometimes a price to pay.
Not having discipline is what really limits you. Without discipline, you live a reactive life; you become who you were conditioned to be. Bad habits and addictions reign. Your energies are scattered, and your future is a repetition of your past. Having no discipline places a low ceiling above your head.
With discipline you can live your designed life. Your aspirations and values run the show. Your energy is focused, and your future is molded by your goals.
Studies show that higher levels of self-control are linked to higher levels of satisfaction in life. When you practice self-discipline, you feel more confident and get more of what you really want. Self-discipline doesn’t kill your joy—it give you a deeper joy.
AWARENESS, Not Repression
Another misconception is that self-discipline must involve beating yourself with the whip of willpower, suppressing desires, and punishing or shaming yourself whenever you give in.
Actually, Mindful Self-Discipline is about self-love. It’s choosing and living in accordance with your highest goals and values. It’s letting go of smaller pleasures now for greater gains later.
Mindful Self-Discipline is not about denying or suppressing the desire for the donuts, but about remembering who you are, who you want to be, and focusing on your deeper desires.
With awareness also comes self-acceptance: you know and accept that sometimes you will choose the donuts. When that happens, you just notice it and gently refocus on your goal. No shame, guilt, or self-blame required! In fact, these negative emotions only harm your self-discipline.
POWER, Not Inflexibility
Mindful-Self Discipline is not about being a slave to yourself, to time, or to rules. Slavery is when you cannot do what you want; discipline gives you freedom and power to do what you really want to do.
Self-discipline is freedom from your temptations. It is being the author of your own life, with the power to reach your goals and ideals. You decide what you will and won’t do; your rules are just an expression of your values.
When designing your ideal routine, you choose every element of it—and it is wise to keep a balance between effort and relaxation, work and fun, chasing goals and cultivating relationships. If you decide you want to meditate every morning at 7am for twenty minutes, you do so because you want to, because it is who you aspire to be. Self-discipline gives you the power to keep that commitment to yourself.
Mindful Self-Discipline is not punishment, repression or limitation. It is a power. A virtue.