I’ve always wondered about the word “discipline.” On the one hand, it’s got a pretty negative connotation stemming from those childhood memories of when you did something wrong and you got into Trouble. You know, the big one, with the capital “T.” I tried to avoid that as much as possible. I would torture myself up in my bedroom, wondering what my parents had in store for me, my Catholic-sized guilt (and heaven knows how I got that since I’m not Catholic) squeezing my heart. Then I would march myself downstairs to find my parents, my head held high.
“I was really bad,” I would start. (You have to acknowledge it, after all.) “But now, I’m changed. I am a new girl. I am the new Margie and I am Good.” Of course, “good” in my mind also had a capital “G,” to balance everything out.
As I recall, in the many instances I did this—and the practice goes back to my earliest memories—I never escaped being disciplined. I do remember, because I believed what I was saying so much, that the guilt became more manageable. After all, I wasn’t that terrible little girl any more. I can only imagine my parents sitting downstairs with one another, smiling and wondering when “New Margie” would make her appearance.
Well, we’re all grown up now, and for the most part I avoid being disciplined. But, I do hear people use “discipline” as it relates to doing something on a regular basis that they believe they’re supposed to do. Like exercise, or following a dietary regimen, or journaling.
So, my question is: are we doing this because we’re being punished for something? Were we bad?
In some instances, I think that answer, at least in a person’s mind, is “yes.” Discipline is a self-improvement exercise, related to something you believe you should have been doing, but you weren’t. Until now. Because you are being “disciplined.”
See my conundrum?
I’ve talked about negative words before in the context of a healthy lifestyle. “I’m cheating,” “I’m being bad,” “Oh, I really shouldn’t,” or “Oh, I really should.” I am going to add “discipline” to that list.
Isn’t life tough enough without our deciding to “discipline” ourselves into something we really don’t want to do? Let’s change the dialogue and talk instead about pursuing new habits.
When I go down into the basement to do my daily exercise regime, I don’t feel at all like I’m paying the troll under the bridge. It is true that it’s hard work, and I’m sometimes less enthusiastic about working hard than other times.
But. I do this for me. I did this because I wanted to get strong; I do this because I want to stay strong. Of all the things that fill up my days, exercising is probably my most selfish. It has redefined me, making me look at myself with new and kinder eyes.
As for my dietary habits, I really do mostly eat what I want, albeit that is often a balance of what tastes good and what I believe is good for me. I don’t eat large amounts because I don’t like the way I feel when I’m too full. I don’t eat between meals and I don’t have starches at dinner because those are such firmly ingrained habits I don’t have to think about them.
There are times when my old ingrained habits rear their ugly heads, and I have to face wanting a lot of empty calories—be it salt or fats or sweets—that I just don’t need. That has happened to me every three or four months and it lasts a week or two before my appetite adjusts back to my new habits. During those times, I know what’s working for me and I stick to it. In the long run, it’s easier to do what I know works then to panic and try to make adjustments to fight the old “monster-habits.”
Frankly, we don’t think too much about our daily habits, we just do them. Brushing our teeth, getting cleaned up, taking care of the car or the house, working, taking care of the kids, getting toilet paper—we do all this because it makes our lives and the lives of those we care about better.
Follow a healthy lifestyle because you love yourself. Discover a new habit and do it until it is so ingrained you wouldn’t think about not doing it.
We each have one life to live—let’s make it the very best it can be. I, frankly, would rather do that with a smile on my face rather than an imaginary club poised over my head!