“Discipline” or “Supported, Consistent Effort?”

I have always had trouble with the word “discipline”.  As a younger man, people often described me as being quite disciplined.  I never felt the word accurately applied to me even though by external appearances, I appeared to lead a disciplined life.  By comparison, my life now, as a middle-aged man is much, much busier and I suppose, requires a sort of discipline to maintain it.  But, what is discipline?

By definition, discipline means, “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.” 

The word in old French means “punishment or chastisement.”   The Latin origin refers to “knowledge or science or instruction.”  It seems that neither of these etymologies match our current meaning of the word.  When we describe somebody who is disciplined, we often think of them as doggedly focused on achieving their goals.  Self-help gurus often speak of the need for discipline to achieve goals.  Perhaps part of the reason people shy away from leading a disciplined life or even a goal-setting life is that the word “discipline” scares people.

As we enter 2018, maybe an attainable and less pejorative word is required to help us attain our goals.  The essence of what most people describe as a “disciplined” person may be better described using words such as “consistent effort.”  There is no getting around it, attainment of any worthwhile goal will take some effort.  For some, the goal might be to exercise every day for twenty minutes.  If this person has never done daily, consistent exercise, this will require some effort. 

Maybe for 2018 we just need to think about trying to be consistent.  For our family, we decided to implement the “Marken/Wade 4M Plan.”  This plan is an effort to make sure we all work on these four things every day: 1) Meditation; 2) Mind work (math, reading, chess, Sudoku, etc.); 3) Music (practice playing an instrument); and 4) Move your muscles (yoga, walking, playing outside, weights, etc.)  We actually started this about a month ago.  We made a little sign and placed it in the kitchen for everyone to see.  Every day check in with each other and ask, “Have you done your 4M’s today?” 

That might be the other word that can be used to replace discipline, “support.”  Consistent effort with the support of friends and family in the pursuit of your own goals may be a better replacement for trying lead a disciplined life. 

Wishing you a Supported, Consistent, an Effortful 2018.