Thoughts on Discipline in Society

This morning out of the norm I could not sleep and was thinking about what to do about it. I decided to go to the gym and get some laps done in the pool. As I was doing my laps I got to thinking about people’s views on discipline and how it can affect our lives for the better. I know for myself I tend to try to focus myself and my discipline when doing physical things (mental too, but that is another post).

Again this morning in the pool it is evident in my mind when I push myself to 5 or 10 more laps. Especially when I start to get tiered and the body is trying to trick the mind into stopping. It is saying you have already done enough, or don’t push it, or the 1000 other things that go through one’s mind when it wants you to stop. However, it is the discipline to move forward and refocus on your goal of 25 or 30 or whatever number you are aiming for. This discipline is what tempers your mind into quietness and acceptance that you will finish what objects you set forth and will not stop unless something important stops you (electricity in the pool =), injury, etc).

As I went through this process that I have been going through my whole 23+ years in my Aikido training of one more repetition of the technique. Or why I should train tonight even though I am tiered I thought again, why is it as adults do we shy away from the disciplined life? Why does society tell us you need to relax and you work hard and you should go have a beer or ice cream to reward yourself? Could it be that we live our childhood always on schedules for school, soccer practice, and homework that we just need to relax and un-regiment ourselves as we get older? I am not sure. Trust me I understand relaxing and the need to decompress our lives from work and stress. However, I believe a lot of our stress, unhealthy lifestyle, and unnecessary pain is from having an un-disciplined life.

I have been doing Aikido for a little over 23 years at this point. Almost every week I have done at least 1-2 classes a week, and when younger and in college I was going to 2+4 classes six days a week. Was this time wasted. For me I feel that it was not, but I do not think twice about missing a certain class or not going down to the dojo on the nights that I practice. It is just part of who I am. There is probably a happy medium where you can build some discipline into your life by starting a martial art, swimming, or using your gym membership at least once a week. Once you get onto that you can start to see the results quickly and appreciate the added benefits of having healthy choices for your free time. This type of discipline can be good I believe into your older years and will pay you back double or triple what you put into it. Just my opinion. Try it out.


Comments (1)

Kara StewartOctober 16th, 2008 at 5:21 am

This is a great topic. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on it.

Just for fun, I looked up the definition of discipline. It’s both “activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill” and “punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.”

I don’t know if this rather common trait of avoiding discipline because it feels like punishment is a Western cultural thing or a generational thing (seems like the older generations seem to work harder/have more discipline) or what. Perhaps some of it stems from our society’s insistence on quick results and the “I want it all; I want it now” mentality.

Long-term approaches — regarding health, investing, living within ones means as a way to build wealth, etc. — seem to be discounted as old-fashioned and not worth the time. Yet I wonder if we’d be in the economic troubles we are in if there had been a little more collective restraint and a little more collective discipline in general. I digress.

Rewarding ourselves with doing nothing is an interesting notion. I have had times of lots of stress at work and just came home every night and watched TV. It’s like I thought that the mental stress would be eliminated by sitting on my behind vegging out. But that stress was still there in the morning, month after month. Sitting on the couch felt good. It felt like I was rewarding myself and alleviating the stress I was under, but was it?

If I’m all stressed out and I have the choice to sit on the couch or go get some exercise or do a project, which will benefit me more tomorrow and next month and next year? Probably anything but sitting on the couch.

As a writer, there are times when I’d rather do other things than turn on the computer and start an article that’s due in two weeks. But this “relaxing” isn’t doing me any good. In a lot of ways, chosing to relax at those times is actually punishment, as the deadline gets closer and I haven’t done any work on the project.

A book I find interesting is “Everyday Enlightenment” by Dan Millman. In it, he describes 12 gates to work through, each a progressive step and principle toward living an effective life. The second step is reclaiming your will. Here’s an excerpt that speaks especially strongly to me.

Do It or Don’t — But Hold the Excuses

Don’t be a master of “If Only” — if only I had more time, more money, a better opportunity, different parents, a more understanding spouse, no children.

Life is tough. Be tougher.

Reclaiming your will isn’t easy. but life is not about easy; it’s about finding inner strength you didn’t know you had. And remember that you didn’t come here for “easy.”

It would be nice if we could master life from our armchairs — achieving our goals through positive thinking or creative visualization alone. But the power to change depends not on on what you hope or wish or think or feel or even believe; it depends on what you DO. Doing can be tough, and life can be difficult. It’s supposed to be, at least some of the time, because life develops in us only what it demands of us. Daily life is a form of spiritual weighlifting, and you are here to strenghten your spirit.

If your purpose in life is to make life easier, don’t get married, don’t have children, avoid responsibilities, work minimally for basic subsistence needs, and learn to live cheaply. Don’t commit and never volunteer. Don’t own things, because they break. Hitchhike through life. Rely on the goodwill, charity, or tolerance of others. If you run out of family or friends to help, there’s always the government.”


If something is hard or it challenges us (whether it’s our ego, physically, or mentally), that’s it. We often quit. It’s too hard, it’s painful, and life is supposed to be easy, fun, no stress. Right? 🙂 In my experience, I don’t make much progress or find many rewards in life without working for them and toward them, yet so many times we want to take the easy path of relaxing…not actively taking the next step forward.

Maybe if we could put a different spin on discipline — see it as the joy resulting from pain, the gifts coming from hard work — it would help all of us and our society as a whole lead a collectively more productive life.

As Millman shares in his book, “When you are drilling for water, it is better to drill one hole a hundred feet deep than ten holes ten feet deep each.”

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