For the past ten years I have assisted at a workshop for men. Over the course of two days, the participants develop a deeper connection to themselves as they explore a number of aspects of their lives. For me, these weekends are meaningful both for the service I am able to provide to others, and for the reflection they foster in me.
Many of the topics we address draw different responses from me at different workshops. One consistently draws the same answer. The instruction is to discuss the gifts you received from your father. While there are many, the one that is always at the fore for me: Self-Discipline.
Both of my parents worked. By the time I was in junior high school, I worked after school as a bicycle delivery boy; while I kept my tips, my earnings ($0.35 for in-town deliveries, $0.50 for out-of-town) went directly into a college fund. I began working at Boy Scout camp in the summers when I was 14 or 15. My siblings and I shared chores at home: dishes, garbage, walking the dog, housecleaning, taking care of the yard. There was homework, Boy Scouts, church and acolyte service on Sundays.
This isn’t to say I didn’t have time to play, or to have fun, when growing up. I certainly did. But it underscores the important lesson that I learned. You need to work in order to achieve your goals. And, doing the work that needs to be done requires a great deal of self-discipline. It is a lesson that I carry with me to this day.
Big changes are tough. As we discussed last week, they take courage. They also take a great deal of self-discipline. They don’t happen overnight. Other important things come up, calling for your time and attention. They require physical, mental, and emotional energy…sometimes every ounce that you can muster. They require the discipline to say “No” to some things so that you can say “Yes” to this one. They require the discipline to make hard choices, difficult decisions. They require the discipline (along with the courage) to take difficult action.They require the discipline to get up each time you fall down, to draw the lesson from each mistake and continue to forge forward.
They also require the discipline of self-care, of setting boundaries, of avoiding burn-out. They require the discipline of celebrating progress along the way, of sharing successes. They require the discipline of reflection. They require the discipline of making time to have fun. And, they require the discipline of getting “back to the task at hand.”
What is your experience with self-discipline within the context of change?