Going beyond self-discipline

We thought, self-discipline was the key to living the life we want. But we learned otherwise.

As kids, we figured out that following the orders of our parents meant we won’t get into trouble. Similar rules applied as pupils in school and later as employees. We were praised for being a good kid, for having good grades at tests. At our workplaces we were rewarded for finishing given tasks in time. This gave us a clear idea of what it meant to be a grown up: To be disciplined and to please the ones who are superior to us.

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Playing and slacking off is a natural state we fall back to as soon as there’s no one watching.

It took us a while. A while away from “normal” society and into creating our own vision of what we want to achieve before we realised that we were by no means grown up. In our thinking and behaviour we were still repeating the patterns of five year olds who would play when they were allowed to and work when they had to.

When Claes asked us, if we want to go for ‘old school’ training, we excitedly said: “Yes, of course”. We didn’t really know what awaited us, but we felt that it was the right thing to go for. So we got it: Several hours of training every day. And we’re keeping it up through all the exhaustion, tiredness and pain. We keep on going.

Are we disciplined? Yes, clearly. Would we have installed and kept up such a rigorous training schedule on our own? No way. From the outside, this might look like a classic case of lacking self-discipline. But that’s not accurate.

Even though we’re dedicated to hard training and committed to reach our goals, there are still some fundamental problems in our attitude:

1. We didn’t ask for this training schedule. It was proposed to us.
If Claes had proposed a more relaxed schedule, we would have agreed to that too. Or in other words: We didn’t know what we wanted.

2. We would never keep up a training schedule like this on our own.
And we would have found completely sound reasons to justify it: “Our bodies need to rest. We won’t learn more just by adding hours. We’re going to get injured if we train too much.” Or in other words: We would have doubted our own choices.

Before we gave up our old lives and started our martial arts trip, it was easy to be self-disciplined. It usually meant to do a well-defined task in a well-defined environment.

We don’t have that anymore. Neither the tasks, nor the environment. We’re completely free. In other words, there is no one left telling us what to do. And by all means, that is what we sought. But we didn’t account for the responsibility that came with it.

How do we take that responsibility? By finding out what we really want and need to do.

Doubt is one of the strongest, if not the strongest negative emotion. It is certainly stronger than self-discipline. Living a life where self-discipline is the main driver of activity is self-destructive. It’s like driving a vehicle with jammed brakes by pushing with the motor against the brakes’ resistance. Sooner or later, some part of the car will burn out.

What’s stronger than doubt? Faith. Or self-confidence.

Once we have a clear task, there’s no discussion: We’re going for it.

Here’s a two-compound formula; our suggestion on how to go beyond self-discipline:

1. Know what you want.

2. Don’t doubt that point 1 is correct.

Having a coach and mentor was essential for us. Firstly, he knows what we need to be successful. That’s the substitute to our lack of knowing what we want. Secondly, we have complete trust in him and his judgements. This leaves no space for any doubts about what we’re doing under his guidance.

We won’t always have a coach telling us what to do. For physical training and all other areas of our lives, we’re on our own. That means, it is time for us to grow up and take responsibility for our lives.

It is time for us to grow up and start trusting ourselves.

Let’s try to sum it all up.

Once we’re free to do what we want, we have the responsibility to find out what we want. This will lead us to the necessary actions to get there.

We’ve also discovered that faith is more important than self-discipline, because without faith, there is doubt. And constant doubt will eventually erode the strongest self-discipline.

Self-discipline means acting with force against inner resistance. This might be necessary at times but it is not sustainable.

So, next time you feel like you’re not pushing yourself enough, ask yourself: Is it a lack of self-discipline or am I not doing what I should be doing?