Restrictive Discipline vs Relaxed Discipline.

My post about radically cutting out coffee and a daily yoga class sparked a question from Desi about going overboard with restricting yourself, and the stress that comes with that. Interesting question!

Having to do stuff or not being to able to do certain things anymore can cause some mental suffering in terms of stress, feelings of lack, neglect and negative thinking. This is one (and probably the main!) reason why people lose control and just give up, especially in terms of diet. Well, me pretties, my new power mantra is that you should always feel limitless. And one way to being limitless is through discipline. Let’s talk.

The point of discipline is not a restrictive one, but one of expansion. Whatever it is you start doing (exercise routine, language course, daily sex) or stop doing (smoking, drinking, being judgmental), you’re doing it because you want to create more possibilities and opportunities for yourself. You try to create extra space for who you are and who you want to be, you do it because you believe you will benefit from it and it will improve your life.

Exercising creates a type of freedom and positive effects for you: Feeling better, fitting into your skinny jeans, more energy, being healthy and being able to run for the train without needing your inhaler. Not smoking also creates more freedom instead of less: Not being ruled by your addiction, feeling healthier, smelling better, regaining your taste buds. See? More good thing! More – not less. This is liberating, expanding!

Discipline should be relaxing; it gives you more freedom. It cuts out a lot of inner dialogues, makes sure you do the things that are beneficial to you and your life and you can go about your days knowing you’re doing something right. This should relax you! Self-discipline is not about being your own dictator, it’s about being your own disciple. 

Whether it is by adding a thing to or subtracting another thing from your life, you’re doing it for the benefits it gives you. You know those reasons. But the moment you stress out or become too hard on yourself, you lose the benefits and you need to do it differently. You shouldn’t be disciplined up to a point where you’re all rigid and uptight,  your discipline serves to free you and make you limitless.

A few tips on that:

  • Never Don’t think in terms of ‘never’ or ‘always’. You’re making a choice for right now, for the time being, not for infinity and beyond. The choice you make is about now, about today. Can you do it today? Then do it today.
  • Don’t think of terms like ‘complete failure’ and ‘perfection’ either. Trial and error is fine. So you want to quit sugar but you couldn’t resist a cupcake. Suffer through the guilt and sugar headache and realize this is telling you something. Work with that and say ‘no, thank you’ to the second cupcake. Or not, up to you!
  • Remember why you’re (not) doing what you’re (not) doing. The benefits you hope to get, the purpose you hope it serves. I do discipline-type things because I really want to do those things because I know they help me or benefit me in some ways. When I feel the pros of doing something really weigh against the cons, I am just going to keep going. Even if that means getting up at 05:30 AM my entire week for yoga or giving up on my coffee. The benefits outweigh the disadvantages and as long as I keep that in mind, good habits are easier to maintain.

Basically, it’s about wanting to do something and doing what you have to do to stick with it. It’s creating less limits for yourself instead of imposing them on yourself.

Discipline is a route to being limitless. Think expansion and liberation instead of restriction. Learn to be relaxed about being disciplined. Once you get the hang of it, things just become a lot easier. Hakuna Matata.

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  1. Thank you for this.
    I never looked at it this way.
    My brain/mind gets it completely. Now let’s hope my heart will fully get it soon too and I can start living like this.

    Thank you!

  2. ‘ Don’t think in terms of ‘never’ or ‘always’. ” ——->> las ik dus ook in the fire starter sessions boek (LOVE THAT BOOK, LAFFITT!!), en ik dacht: daaaarom ben ik dus altijd zo streng voor mezelf, en lukt het niet.

    Ik bekijk het nu dag voor dag (hardlopen/gezond eten/mediteren). En ik vond jouw stukje dat discipline eigenlijk niets meer is dan een gewoonte opbouwen ook heel treffend.

  3. Relaxed discipline is a great concept. It’s much more appealing and far more likely to lead to maintaining you habits. I am aware of people who are so focused on restricted discipline that it makes them ill and they still just keep going. Great tips. Thank you