I’ve always wished I could have more discipline around doing the things that are good for me, like not eating sugar or gluten, working out more, and writing every day. I would love to have more control and drive, but in a playful, gentle and generous way, you know? What would happen if we approached structure with curiosity rather than dread? What if, instead of berating our ourselves: You must get to your writing, or else! we approached it with curiosity and wonder: I wonder what would happen with my writing and my book if I showed up every morning for three months?
What if, rather than brandishing the whip, we thought of it as giving ourselves the gift of writing each day, the gift of a completed book, the gift of productivity and health. To see these things as gifts, rather than punishments, to approach our daily chore list with hope and tenderness rather than self-loathing and discipline… ‘Self-discipline’ is such a terrible word, when you think about it. For me it conjures up images of monks with shaved heads kneeling on stone floors… And for people like me, whose childhood experiences of ‘discipline’ involved being thrown across hallways or forced to stay in a room until it was clean–well, it’s a very tricky thing to want to ‘discipline’ yourself.
We need a new word for it, a new phrase. How about showing up for yourself, or building character, or self-nurturing. Yes, maybe self-nurturing would be a better way to phrase it. To nurture good habits, to cultivate an environment for growth. Getting up early to write, keeping my environment beautiful and calm, getting enough exercise and sleep, creating the right conditions to fulfill potential: all of these things are gifts to my self, rather than self-castigations. Maybe other people have figured this out already, but I’ve always been a slow learner… Thinking about what I can give myself rather than what I require of myself–this seems, possibly, like one way to turn the dreadful idea of self-discipline on its head. Want to try it with me for a week?