Set Yourself Free – Redefining Discipline
When I think of the word ‘discipline’ I immediately get transported back in time. Images of my ancient First Grade teacher, Mrs. Witts, come to mind. Mrs. Witts with piles of ash blonde hair heaped on the top of her head like old straw, and horned rimmed glasses that were out-of-date even way back then. Now-a-days they could be considered retro-cool, but there wasn’t anything cool about Mrs. Witts. There wasn’t anything cool about her pursed lips and rayon dresses. There wasn’t anything cool… or warm, for that matter. I remember her looming over me, like the tall scraggily trees with faces you sometimes see in spooky cartoons. Her boney fingers splayed like branches, ready to grab me by the scruff and turn me around in my seat for cheerily chatting with my best friend Sally Kay who sat behind me. “Mrs. Witch”, is what we whispered to one another, giggling. Or, my personal favorite, ‘The Wicked Witts of the West’. Mrs. Witch…er…Witts was all about ‘Don’t’. “Don’t squirm!…. Don’t talk!” And I was sure she subconsciously lived by ‘Don’t smile. Don’t laugh. Don’t care.’
She probably wasn’t as bad as I remember. Poor woman. She seemed so old. She was probably the same age as I am now. Yikes. She seemed so mean. She was probably just at her …..wits end…..(we liked that one too). At five years old, I didn’t have much compassion for Mrs. Witts. I really don’t remember anything we learned that year, except that’s where I got my first working definition for the word ‘discipline’. According to our teacher, we, as five and six year olds, were supposed to have ‘discipline’ and be ‘disciplined’, and there was nothing about the way she used that word that made it feel like a good thing.
Now, truth be told, who knows what Mrs. Witts was really like and what she really said. She was probably a lovely person who just got frustrated with me one day and I stored that in my memory banks as ‘the truth about Mrs. Witts’. So, if by some strange circumstance, this newsletter finds its way into the hands of a Witts-relative, I do sincerely apologize. The bummer is, I also stored my belief about ‘discipline’ in the same file. And I’m realizing that, perhaps in my five year old zeal to process the world, I made a mistake.
This happens to be the first newsletter I’ve sent out in about three years. My relationship with writing is a love-hate one. When I do it consistently and regularly, I find that I actually love the process and appreciate the results. When I don’t do it consistently and regularly, it feels more like a root canal. Exercise is the same way. When I do it consistently and regularly, I feel great and powerful. When I don’t do it consistently and regularly, I hurt. The same could be said for communication, for paying bills, for networking, for eating healthy, and the list goes on.
For many of us, we associate the word ‘discipline’ with ‘don’t. “Don’t say this”, “don’t eat that”. It sounds negative; it feels negative, so no wonder we ‘don’t’ want it. But when I look at the results in my life, when I infuse discipline into my choices and my actions, I start to realize that maybe I need to change my association. Loving the process. Appreciating the results. Feeling great and powerful. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? I’ll take more of that!
If we want to take the stage in our lives authentically and powerfully, and be the leaders that we’re born to be, we have to do the work consistently and regularly. If it hurts every time we do it, we’ll stop. We have to find a way to infuse discipline into our lives.
* What is it that you want to do?
* How do you want to show up in the world?
* What are the things that you can consistently and regularly do to support you in getting there?
If ‘discipline’ becomes the foundation of your stage, then it’s not about ‘don’t’. Then it’s the springboard that sets you free.
©OnStage Leadership, 2009