This article is Part (1) of a series discussing the topic of discipline, its different perspectives, strengths, and weaknesses.
Life is full of intertwining webs and connections. The more you learn about something from different angles, the more likely you will master your life and have direct control of your fulfillment.
Keep in mind to take everything with a grain of salt. There is power to this perspective and it will challenge your thinking, but it is still only one perspective. Take what serves you and leave the rest.
There is an illusion that “doing whatever we please” is freedom. You might be surprised to find this is not the case!
Those who have discipline have more freedom than those who follow their desires.
When you have a vision for your future, it is not circumstances or others that will keep you from achieving it.
Not only are you your greatest strength but also your greatest limitation!
What will stop you from fulfilling your dreams in the long run will be your habits and desires, addictions and compulsions.
There may be other people that will limit you from time to time.
However, every little decision you make is like a chisel into a mountain carved by your intentions. Your choices add up!
That being said, there is one key point to get out of this article:
Discipline is freedom from our desires, the ability to act independently from circumstances and to make decisions in our life that we value the most.
We are excited to introduce this topic and we look forward to your discussion!
What is desire?
Before we talk about discipline we must ask:
- What is the fundamental nature of desire?
- Why do we have desires in the first place?
- Why do we fulfill our desires?
In order to investigate this, we will check out a few examples.
If you have the desire to scratch an itch on your back, why isn’t it the case that you say this?
“Wow, that desire feels great! I love the feeling of being itchy, alright I’m going to let that itch stay.”
How common is it to actually scratch the itch? Almost all the time?
Why do we itch?
Is it because we like the itch, or do we want the itch to go away by scratching?
Most of the time, we will scratch because we cannot bear the itchiness. In this case, desire was something we wanted to go away.
Hunger and Food Cravings
If you are hungry, you have a desire for food. Is it because you want the hunger to go away or is it because you want the food?
That is a trickier question. Some would say they are craving the food, but realize that craving is not hunger! You can crave chocolate and still not be hungry.
Regardless whether you have hunger or cravings, the food is the answer.
Have you noticed that you don’t like to have a craving sit with you?
How often do you say this?
“I could really use a hamburger, let me think about that hamburger and how much I want it, and then not go eat one.”
Highly unlikely, right?
This could be considered self-torture in a light sense, to tease yourself.
It appears that we enjoy food, but do not enjoy the thought of food.
Hot, Cold, and Comfort
Another example, notice that whenever you want cold air conditioning, it is on a hot, sweaty summer day!
If you are craving a hot shower or to bundle up under a quilt, it is probably because you are feeling cold and uncomfortable!
Desire is Slavery
A pattern that is beginning to emerge is that desire is something we want to get rid of, because desire keeps us from enjoying the present moment (the present moment is what you are experiencing right now).
If you were to sit in a room and do nothing, many desires will begin to fill your thoughts. You could think about food you want to eat, games to play, movies to watch, and people to be with.
Notice as these desires come up, it is harder to enjoy sitting and doing nothing. As more desires come up, it becomes difficult to bask in the present moment.
Our actions are to fulfill those desires, because we want them to go away!
In this case, we are a slave to our desires, a slave to react to external circumstances, whether you are feeling hot, cold, hungry, tired, or bored.
Discipline is Freedom
Discipline is freedom from our desires, the ability to act independently from circumstances, and to make decisions in our life that we truly want to make!
We despise discipline because we think it is painful, boring, and inauthentic to our desires. However, the counter-intuitive thing is that discipline is difficult because we are afraid to let our cravings stay.
That is a crucial distinction to make! We do not fear discipline, we fear not satisfying our cravings and desires.
Why do we fear this?
It is because it feels as if our cravings are permanent.
“If we never satisfy our cravings, it will stay and bother us forever. I will not be happy!”
Of course we never say this directly because this happens subtly.
I encourage you to try mindfulness meditation so you can see this for yourself!
What you may discover through observation is that with the exception of hunger, thirst, oxygen, and sleep, most of our desires and cravings are temporary and pass over a certain time.
It feels permanent, but after passing a “wall,” it will begin to recede.
Discipline may feel like the opposite of fun, but hedonism in its prime is your day bouncing from one desire to the next without having any plan that goes beyond what life and circumstances tells you to live by.
Food cravings, compulsions for music and entertainment run your life through discomfort, feeling too hot, too cold, too tired, and too bored.
We ask ourselves why does life go by so fast? We bounce from one addiction and compulsion to the next on auto pilot until we go to bed at night and ask ourselves, “What happened? Where did all the time go?”
In order to make the best use of this understanding of discipline, we must address an important question.
“If we are a slave to desires, does that mean that all desires are bad?”
That all depends on what you see as healthy and unhealthy.
Discipline (most of the time) works towards “healthy desires” such as productivity, health, and so on.
What you define as healthy or unhealthy will determine which habits and desires you free yourself from and which you make friends with.
Then, you use discipline as your tool to shape your life into the vision that matters to you the most.
Overall, the golden question is,
“How can I learn to enjoy the cravings I am avoiding?“
Observe what you avoid, you may discover that things like the feeling of craving a food, the cold, or an itch may not be so bad after all!
An even bigger mind twist would be if those feelings can actually be enjoyable! How wild is that?
Be a scientist and experiment! Share your results with us!
Lastly, whenever you are trapped in the day to day grind and you feel the urge to slip into bad habits, always remember, discipline is freedom.