I recently spent a few hours with a long time friend chatting about the stuff long time friends chat about – other friends, kids (I have none), grandchildren (it seems I have none of these either), work, business, politics, sports and the molecular structure of subatomic isotopes – you know, the usual stuff.
Right at this riveting juncture in our conversation he interjected suddenly with “I’ll be right back I just have to go outside for a quick smoke.”
I distinctly remember him telling me several months ago that he had quit smoking so as soon as he returned I asked him.
He looked at me sheepishly and said “I did quit. After years of quitting and starting, quitting and starting I finally made a decision. I quit quitting.”
I could tell I had struck a nerve and being the kind, thoughtful, caring and considerate person I know myself to be I immediately rubbed salt on his wound with this sensitive question, “what’s the problem, why can’t you quit?”
He explained that each time he tried to quit he would manage to go a few days without a cigarette and then something would trigger the urge to light up and he would fight it for a short while and then convince himself that it was ok to have just one and that was all that was necessary for him to be back to his usual pack a day habit.
He then went on to tell me of his ongoing frustration at himself in other areas of his life. He told me that he has joined three different health clubs over the past six years and has repeated the same pattern with each one.
He would attend, and work out, regularly for the first week or two, less frequently for the following two weeks and never darken the door of the club again.
He has also called Jenny, signed up with NutriSystems, consulted with Dr. Bernstein, contributed to the financial wellbeing of LA Weight Loss and counted points at Weight Watchers.
The results never varied – he always gained back every pound he lost, usually with interest.
He ended his tale with these words, “I guess I just have no discipline.”
My friend was obviously in pain and like so many of us, he hides his pain behind a mask of “everything’s great.”
He used the word Discipline.
I hear that word a lot.
What does discipline really mean?
So I checked in with Dictionary.com.
And it was defined this way:
1.training to act in accordance with rules; drill: military discipline.
2.activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training: A daily stint at the typewriter is excellent discipline for a writer.
3.punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.
4.the rigor or training effect of experience, adversity, etc.: the harsh discipline of poverty.
5.behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control: good discipline in an army.
6.a set or system of rules and regulations.
7.Ecclesiastical . the system of government regulating the practice of a church as distinguished from its doctrine.
8.an instrument of punishment, esp. a whip or scourge, used in the practice of self-mortification or as an instrument of chastisement in certain religious communities.
9.a branch of instruction or learning: the disciplines of history and economics.
–verb (used with object)
10.to train by instruction and exercise; drill.
11.to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control.
12.to punish or penalize in order to train and control; correct; chastise.
All that and they still don’t get it.
Let’s examine some of the stuff we’ve been talking about over the past year or so.
We’ve said that we only ever do one thing – we do what’s important in the moment.
We’ve talked about how that importance is determined by the pain/pleasure continuum – we do what we do in order to gain pleasure or avoid pain.
We’ve talked about how we are what we believe to be true.
And we’ve talked about how we become what we repeatedly do.
So therefore the definition of Discipline is not to be found in the above description from Dictionary.com, it is to be found by examining the four sentences above.
We won’t quit smoking, lose weight and keep it off or work out at the gym three times every week until our reason(s) for wanting to achieve these things becomes a lot bigger, deeper and emotionally stronger than our reasons for lighting that cigarette, eating that cheese cake or not going to the gym.
And we won’t quit smoking, lose weight and keep it off or work out at the gym three times every week until lighting that cigarette, eating that cheesecake or staying away from the gym becomes more painful than not lighting it, not eating that cheesecake or going to the gym or the pleasure of not lighting it, not eating it or actually lifting it exceeds the pleasure of lighting it, eating it or not lifting it.
(In the writing biz we call that a really, really poorly constructed sentence).
And finally, we will never become non-smokers until we quit smoking, never put the weight loss/gain rollercoaster behind us until we make a permanent change to our lifestyle and never get in the physical shape we want until we do what it takes to get there.
So discipline really means that if something is important enough to us we will do what we have to do to get it (or in the case of quitting smoking, not do what we shouldn’t do). We will do it (or not) when we should do it and we will do it (or not) – and this is key to the meaning of discipline – even when we don’t feel like doing it.
Discipline therefore, requires sucking it up and enduring pain at those times when it is painful to do what we must do to get what we want, especially at those times when we don’t feel like doing (not doing) it.
And that, my friends, is the true meaning of discipline.
And my friend and I spent several hours talking about this.
And he called today and said he has not smoked a cigarette in 27 days.
And has lost 7 pounds.
And been to the gym eleven times.
Even when he didn’t feel like going.
Pretty good huh?
Fortunately for me I am enormously disciplined.
I constantly discipline myself to do things I don’t feel like doing.
Like eating chocolate bars, for example.
I force myself to eat them.
Because it’s the right thing to do.
Now that’s what I call discipline.
I’m a true role model.
Till we read again.
P.S. On Wednesday, September 8th and Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 I will be having book signings at Self Connection, #125, 4611 Bowness Road NW.
I will be conducting a 20- 30 minute presentation on the teaching of my book Life Sinks or Soars – the choice is yours, followed by a group discussion and Q&A session.
There is no charge for this presentation. If you wish to attend, please call Self Connection at (403) 284-1486 to register. Hope to see you there.