The Irony of Discipline and How to Use It to Your Advantage

Over the last few days, we have been dog-sitting the family dog. When she came into our lives about 10 years ago, her and I became really close. She would follow me around the house and would almost always let me hold her. I took care of her day-to-day needs, and even had a little day bed for her in my room. Then I moved away for a few months, and when I came back, she was so cross at me. I’ve always theorized that she probably felt that I abandoned her. Our relationship has never been the same.

Nevertheless, I think that she still remembers how nice we got along, for she loves coming to our house and is cooperative here. You see, I am talking to you about a mini-pinscher/chihuahua. She has an attitude of “I will do it if it pleases me.” This has been her demise. We can’t trust her to not have “accidents” (I’ll choose to call them that but I think that she does those on purpose), so she doesn’t have free reign of the house. We have rugs in almost every room, so I am always on the lookout when she is here. I can’t let her roam around, meaning that she is behind a doggy gate most of the time. It is sad, but she refuses to reliably use the newspaper. I take her out during the day and spend some time with her outside so she gets some fresh air and can stretch out but I would really like to give her more freedom and include her in more of our activities.

I share all of this to convey to you that discipline is ironically freedom. When working towards something, it might feel like working makes us a slave, but it is quite the opposite. Work allows us to do other things, like enjoy a space to live and fun outings with our loved ones. A good diet restricts us from eating treats, but it can provide a higher quality and length of life. A budget helps us to say no to certain purchases but yes to others.

Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🇬🇧 on Unsplash

As kids we may think that having no responsibilities is the best life. We aim to live as if the weekend is every day of the week, mainly because we don’t enjoy the work or chores we do the other five days. However, even those that are living a dream still have to work hard for it. What we are exposed to on the outside is just the tip of the iceberg; we don’t see the monster of work underneath it. Think of a performer. Yes, he or she gets to perform on tour, yet this involves preparation. There is planning, practice, fittings, promotional events, and other activities that have to happen in order for the show to take place. We fall under the illusion that the rich and famous have the sweetest life ever, without taking any regard to how much is invested in the personality in order for a performance of a couple of hours to happen.

Discipline is tough, demanding and hard to tolerate. Yet it is encouraging to know that it is possible to carry on if we understand the fruits that we can reap because of it. Here are some tips to help you stay focused:

  1. Focus on one thing. Don’t try throwing your current self out of a window and bring in a brand new you tomorrow. Change takes time. Select one thing that you want to improve on, and give it all your available energy.
  2. A few small steps are worth much more than a huge one. Giving ten minutes to a new habit might not be too life-changing, but it will help you create tolerance for it. Don’t underestimate that a small investment can provide huge returns.
  3. Use the two-day rule. This is simple and flexible. Don’t go two days without working on your goal. Anything you do towards it counts on the board. Consistency will build momentum, and you will see results.
  4. Do it for you. Get in touch with your true self and support your dreams and desires. They might not be grand or what the general population will go for, but it doesn’t matter. You will make it happen if it is important to you.

Writing this list makes me think of plans that I have either applied these to or those on which I have not worked enough. I wish that I could see immediate results, but these are deceiving. Time has made me grasp that hard work forces you appreciate the journey, and even though the goal is what we go for, the journey is what makes it special.

Don’t be discouraged by your lack of success. Think of it as opportunities that showed you what does not work, and take a small step towards victory. You can do it.

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