“D” is for Discipline

Discipline is an old-fashioned word. It belongs to the time before everyone’s shortcomings got filed under disease, disability—or better—blamed on someone else or a societal injustice. To use “discipline” in a sentence or conversation is a great way to get you branded as an anachronism.

That’s fine. There are some things that can’t be fixed without traditional approaches.

I was thinking about this as I was swimming my lengths in the YMCA pool, part of my twice-weekly routine that I’ve adopted to remain fit and flexible. I rarely am excited when I wake up at 4:30 to be in the car by 5:15 (that’s AM, not PM!) to do something that three years ago I considered impossible. But when I’m done, I’m thankful for the intrinsic motivation that got me up and out the door.

Discipline means having your own personal drill sergeant.

Discipline means having your own personal drill sergeant.

This summer, despite my best intentions, I was lugging around an extra 20 pounds that I couldn’t shed. This was despite an activity level much more intense than probably 90 percent of the population that fits my demographic. I say “couldn’t,” because my diet wouldn’t allow it. In August, I decided to embrace a Paleo-style diet.

Over the past three months, I’ve shed that excess weight. More important, I feel better than I have for a decade, or longer. My energy level also amazes me. All because I decided to look back to a previous age (Paleo=Paleolithic) when our forebears were hunters and gatherers and didn’t try to make every meal about grain.

I also have continued a routine that’s self-imposed; that one involves adding two new blog posts to the JBE every week. There’s no other reason for doing it other than it’s part of a discipline I’ve adopted as a writer. Writers write—or at least they should.

This is actually the third potential post I’ve written over the past two very hectic, and intense days. Why? Because the first one about attending a book reading last Thursday was covered by Aunt Tomato, and I didn’t want to seem like I was following her lead. The second one, composed last night when I was pretty bleary-eyed really sucked, and was a retread of Tuesday’s post.

So, while in the pool, I got thinking about why I do what I do.

Let me offer just one caveat about discipline. Discipline doesn’t guarantee you anything.

What do I mean by this? It’s simple. You can be disciplined as hell and the results may not be quick to show up. Discipline isn’t some talisman you rub and expect to win the lottery.

I’m throwing that in because we also live in an age where everyone requires immediate gratification. Sorry, you’re SOL on that one with discipline. Fame and fortune with little pain or adversity isn’t a recipe I’m in possession of.  If you have one, please send it along.

Blogging by ritual hasn’t magically brought me thousands of readers and fans, or a stream of income. I rarely have more than 40 to 50 people reading the JBE, daily. And I don’t receive a dime from this kind of personal writing. The payback for me is that it affords me a platform of sorts, and it contributes to the enhancement of my craft.

So even if others rue the usage of discipline in your vocabulary, if you are scuffling along, you might want to check “d” for discipline. It’s a good companion for any meaningful journey.

3 thoughts on ““D” is for Discipline

  1. I am disciplined but not in the way that is always best for me….this is a helpful blog to me today. I am going to be thinking about what discipline means to me.

  2. I loved this post! You are the second most disciplined person I know, the first one being Saint Helen. It would have been fun to be a little birdie in the back seat of the JBE1 on your ride to Portland with her on Friday afternoon.

    I was watching an old movie with Fred Astaire the other day, marveling at his talent. I said to Handy “can you imagine the hours and hours he practiced that dance number to make it look so effortless?” According to Wikipedia, “His perfectionism was legendary; however, his relentless insistence on rehearsals and retakes was a burden to some.” And while it’s true that perfectionism is not quite the same as discipline, discipline is necessary (IMHO) in doing things with excellence.

    Thank you for this thoughtful post.

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