Redefining Discipline

Posted by on Jul 29, 2015 | 2 Comments
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5-year-old Kimberly – 1st Grade


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 Witts with piles of ash blonde hair heaped on the top of her head like old straw, and horned rimmed glasses that were out-of-date, even way back then.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 post 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. I’m realizing that, perhaps in my five year old zeal to process the world, I made a mistake.

What does discipline mean to you?

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 do that.”  Don’t be 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!

Many of us associate the word discipline with don’t.

If we want to be our best, real, most powerful selves – 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 the impact you want to have?

How do you want to show up in the world?

What are the things that you can do consistently and regularly to support you in making the impact you want to have?

If we want to be our best, real, most powerful selves – be the leaders that we’re born to be – we have to do the work consistently and regularly.

If discipline becomes your foundation, then it’s not about don’t – it’s the springboard that sets you free.

Maybe Mrs. Witts was on to something.


©OnStage Leadership, 2015

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Upcoming sessions of OnStage Leadership:  Dallas – September 24, 2015, and  NYC – Fall, 2015 (specific date tbd),  please notify us if interested in participating or being put on the wait-list.

KimberKimberly-Davis-Headshot-20142ly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop.  Click here to read what people are saying!  If you’re interested in more information, or in having Kimberly come speak to your group on topics around Authentic Leadership, Influence, Presence, Engagement, Purpose in the workplace, Presentation Skills, or being BRAVE at work, we’d love to hear from you!

If you haven’t had a chance, check out my recent Tedx talk  or my interview on Voice of America’s Working on Purpose Channel:  Bringing Our True and Best Selves to Work:  Cultivating Authentic Leadership with Kimberly Davis.


  1. Scott Mc
    July 29, 2015

    Discipline in all situations can defined as “consistently” organized, but open-minded.

  2. Kimberly
    July 30, 2015

    I really like that definition! The combination of “consistent” and “open-minded” are incredibly powerful. Thanks so much for taking the time to share!

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