Over the last year, I worked too much and lost all sense of balance.
I lost my yoga practice after a nagging wrist injury made me lazy.
I struggled to eat healthy without a regular schedule that included time for self-care.
I ended up tired and scary burned out after too many nights burning the midnight oil.
The root of all of it: I lost discipline.
Discipline often has negative connotations, like it's boring or a punishment. I think of a nun tapping a ruler against her palm while grouchily eyeing mischievous children.
But discipline activates our latent potential, so we can live our destiny. It creates balance.
Discipline is devotion. It's a commitment to the unfolding of your greatest self.
Discipline is often the missing link in transformation.
For example, one of the practices that completely changed my life was a 40-day yoga practice, which is the basis of my program The Big Shift.
It’s said that our habits create our life and practicing the same set of postures for 40 days creates new habits, which creates new life.
People always ask me 800 times — is it really the same yoga practice for 40 days? It's like, what’s the point?
But the point is to become so bored, so annoyed by doing the same freaking practice every day that you want to quit. But you don’t. You keep going. You dig deep and find the discipline, the fire inside to persevere.
If the little voice in your mind telling you to quit when it's hard no longer controlled you, what would be possible?
And sure, you get the full benefits of the postures after 40 days of practice, but a big part of the transformation is overcoming the mental obstacle of wanting to quit. It's learning to sit with discomfort. It's finding the time to do the practice, which creates balance in other areas of life.
Discipline is not only doing a little more than you'd like, but it's also stopping before you've done too much.
We can be disciplined about self-care too — getting enough sleep, eating the right foods and reading good books instead of blowing brain cells on social media. (Guilty!)
The point is to activate your destiny.
Destiny is not a promise, but mere potential. A lot of times we may cut ourselves slack thinking if something is meant to be, it will be.
In some cases this is true, but often things we care about the most like creating peace or achieving a certain goal, we must dedicate ourselves through discipline and become stronger through doing the things we don’t always want to do.
For instance, many people say “time heals all wounds,” but this isn’t entirely true. The passage of time guarantees nothing. Some people never heal. It’s an active endeavor.
We must participate in our own healing, our own transformation, our own evolution. We must cultivate the courage to sit with what pains us. Some people never find that courage. Some never summon the strength to withstand the turbulence of great risk in return for great reward.
We must have faith in the process and in ourselves. We must release fear and find the courage to persevere along with the courage to let go when the time is right.
This is discipline. It's also patience.
How you do one thing is how you do everything.
In the early days of learning to face my feelings, when I first began creating space for the immense pain that sat inside my heart, I wanted nothing more than to run away. But I didn’t. I’d already spent my whole life running. The time had come to sit.
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It was discipline, fueled by hope that the future could be better than the past, that pushed me further than I wanted to go but still allowed me to stop when I needed to.
This transformed my life because I used to be a big slacker who never stuck with anything, who always ran away. I'm completely different now and it's because I chose to change. I chose to activate my potential through cultivating discipline. And you can, too.
(This fire of transformation through discipline is known as tapas in yoga. This fire burns away all impurities and makes your willpower stronger than your mind.)
Even in the past little while, as I've fallen off balance, I've experienced a bit more emotional pain than I've become used to. Discipline gave me the ability to continue to sit with that pain even when I didn't feel like it.
Without discipline helping you do things you don't want to do, evolution is not possible.
Back to yoga, it was through discipline that non-athletic me, who never played a sport in her life, was finally able to touch her foot to her head in eka pada raja kapotasana, king pigeon.
Along the way, it seems like nothing is happening. But you keep going because why the heck not and then one day, bam. Your foot touches your head.
And at that point, it’s not achieving the pose that feels so good. It’s knowing that you stuck with it until it you got it. Discipline.
Discipline is about going a little deeper, doing a little more than you want to. Again, finding that balance between effort and ease. It’s not forcing, but connecting to a goal deep within your heart and working with the ever-flowing universe to create space to receive it in your life.
How to develop discipline
You practice by practicing, there is no other way to prepare. The practice starts the moment you feel like quitting.
Because how you do one thing is how you do everything, cultivating discipline in one area of life will help you develop it in others.
It's not about forcing the flow. Think of a canoe. If you row the boat upstream, it'll be really hard work to get to where you want to go. But if you don't row at all, you'll end up in a pile of bushes, not at all where you want to be.
It's about rowing, but with the stream. Exerting effort, but solid, kind effort that aligns you with what's most true to you.
How does it feel? Sometimes what's easiest isn't the best. Sometimes when things flow too easily, it's not that it's meant to be, but that it's a well-trotted path and time to explore new terrain.
There is no right or wrong answer. It's all about exploring and seeing what works for you.
I hope this resonated with you!
All the best,
Suzanne Heyn is a spirituality teacher and online course creator. Her life-changing online course experiences and popular blog help people heal their hearts and love who they are. With an online community of more than 20,000 people, Suzanne is known for her practical, authentic take on spirituality that creates space for deep healing and heartfelt connection.
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