Why Discipline (Not the Spanking Kind!) is Necessary

“I’m exhausted but I said I’d do it, so I have to do it!”
“I’m just not feeling it right now, so I’m going to have to cancel on you.”
Which of the above represents you? Are you into strict discipline of the self? Or do you make choices only through the lens of self-nurturing?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the balance between discipline and self-nurturing, or discipline and compassion. One of my intentions for the new year was to actively create a more mindful life, and one of my commitments in that regard is taking an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course through UCSD’s Center for Mindfulness. I am several weeks in, and am exploring the course for both personal and professional growth.
I have participated in some courses with a heavy emphasis on discipline, to the point that participants seemed scared to share dissenting views. I’ve experienced programs with so much emphasis on self-nurturing, that it allows for wallowing but not growth. I like the balance in the MBSR course. We have homework assignments of both formal and informal practices to cultivate mindfulness. However, within the structure of the practice, anything goes, even distractions and falling asleep. Mindfulness is not about “doing” anything, but about noticing all the nuances of being, including our reactions and judgments.
It is difficult to break ingrained habits, and it can be difficult to create new patterns. This is why discipline is necessary in the personal growth process. We need some structure and accountability to consistently practice doing new things, and being in new ways. On the flip side, discipline without compassion can keep our walls up. We can go through the motions without opening to feel the process. Compassion towards ourselves is important to stop us from beating ourselves up in the personal growth process, and learning to accept "what is" without judgment.
Do you have a “personal growth” project that has been a struggle? This could be exercise, more mindfulness, taking down time, being kinder to your kids, finding a passion, speaking your truth, etc. Look at how you can strike a balance between discipline and nurturing. How can you create a structure to commit yourself to this new practice, but grant compassion for yourself within that practice? I think this balance is invaluable in the realm of personal growth, and is foundational to creating sustainable growth.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Sexologist, College Sexual Health Speaker

(Image source: http://askdaguru1.blogspot.com/2012/01/discipline-gives-freedom.html)