What’s Missing In Self Discipline is Usually the Self
If you go to almost any school in any place on the planet and ask teachers what virtues they would like to see their students have more of, they will inevitably say self-discipline, respect, and responsibility. If you ask a group of youth to identify areas in life where they are the weakest, they will overwhelming say that they lack self discipline. It teachers and parents want it more from young people, why is it that it rates last on the energies that most people have? Why can’t young people have more self-discipline?
It seems to me that when you have discipline, you will do whatever it takes even to the point of experiencing pain to accomplishing a goal. When you are doing it for someone else, you can often have threats hanging over you or rewards in front of you to keep you disciplined, but as we all know that is not self-discipline. Self discipline has more to do with accomplishing goals that are set by your true self.
So it seems to me that what teachers and parents and managers most often leave out when asking for more self-discipline, is the other person’s self, the true self. I suppose it is a relatively new idea in the history of the world which accounts for our lack of success with it. I think that the historical model is that it is the higher ups on the authority ladder that set the goals, certainly not the young people and rarely from workers themselves.
Whenever I have had difficulties achieving my own goals, it always seems that I am in conflict with an authority figure. It is as if that person does not want me to have my own goal and then I have trouble seeing my true self achieving it. The discipline that is often demanded is for their goals, but there is a scarcity in the world of people who encourage others to achieve their own goals. When you do not have a vivid and clear image of your self achieving the goal, then the discipline mechanism does not seem to be able to work very well. We can be motivated and disciplined for the corporation’s goals, but not for our own.
It should come as no surprise that the goals of the true self would automatically come into conflict with most organizations at some point for the simple reason that the mess that the world is in right now is the hands a some pretty self-interested leaders. The problem with being in conflict with leadership or with others is that it tends to blur the image of the true self doing the goals. The problem with only doing their goals is that it also blurs your own goals. If you fight, you lose, and if you give in, you also lose.
It isn’t so much that being disciplined for another person’s goals is such a bad thing especially if it has to be with the well-being of your family, but it should be clear that it does not come under the same heading as self-discipline. And it isn’t self discipline if your own goal is motivated by the ego such as greed or envy or power. Hitler never had self discipline because he was a slave to his own greed and power. The image of his self out there was an illusion. The difference between an image that comes from the true self versus the one from the ego is that the if you stay disciplined for a long period of time toward a true self goal, the goals that you set tend to have lasting results. The ego goals are always short-lived.
So it turns out that having self discipline requires removing the fear of authority on the one hand and removing self-interest on the other. When this happens, the way becomes clear to see the true self as you wish it to be. Then action in disciplined manner follows.
So first I can do a clearing to see the true self and where it wants to go and then I can for it with a great deal of disciplined action.
Thanks for the fresh perspective! I’ve done a lot of reading on self-discipline, but never come across this way of looking at it before. I feel motivated now, like I’ve been stopping myself from accomplishing things on account of some larger cultural programming. As you say, we find it easy to work toward a corporation’s goals (or more generally, the things we “ought to do” to make money or be practical) but not our own.