“Discipline is remembering what you want at a very deep level.”
Zen teacher and psychologist Flint Sparks said that in a TEDx Austin talk that I watched a few days ago.
I love this definition of discipline! And I suspect it might resonate with you too. When we remember what we want at a very deep level, it’s easier to align our actions with that deep desire. But when we forget what we most truly want, that’s when the temptations of the moment have their way with us.
I’m going to give you an example of this from my own life. I’ve been acting crazy lately! Meaning, I’ve been wanting one thing (health) and taking actions that directly conflict with that (like secretly indulging in my daughter’s wheat and sugar cereal late at night when the munchies set in).
This is crazy behavior. It is illogical. It is the opposite of sane. I know that I want to get healthy, but I am intentionally eating foods that I know will contribute to the opposite outcome. Why? Because I forget, in those moments, what I most deeply want.
In the grips of temptation, I need to practice discipline. But not discipline as a noun, because that’s too vague. I mean discipline as a verb, as a choice to be made again and again, with every moment, for what I most deeply want.
I need to ask myself, “Is what I’m about to do aligned with what I want at a very deep level?” If the answer is no, then the choice to do it anyway is, literally, crazy. And these days, I find sanity to be kinda hot. So that’s what I’m shooting for.
This definition of discipline is useful to apply to every aspect of our lives. It requires an honest examination of what we most truly want in any given area and then it requires us to ask if the choice we are about to make is aligned with that deep want.
For example, if my deeper want is to get out of debt, then my choice to go on a shopping spree tonight is not rational, because it’s contributing to the opposite outcome.
I’m a big fan of this strategy because it works wonders for making us aware of our incongruent behaviors (and if you’re anything like me, you’ve got lots of those!).
So…if we want to have discipline, which is remembering what we want at a deep level, then first we must know what we want at a deep level.