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February 13, 2014

4 Ways to Harness the Power of Self Discipline.

twins, self-acceptance, the dark side, evil, renaissance

In my youth, I was inexcusably lazy.

I don’t why. Maybe I was spoiled and coddled—okay I was definitely spoiled and coddled.

My mom was Uber Mom—she did everything for me. It’s amazing I even knew how to cut my own food.

I slacked and skated all through high school and college, where, by virtue of having a brain that jived with academics, I was successful but not nearly as successful as I could have been.

After college, I moved to New York and carried on with my middling ways.

When I finally did learn how to be disciplined, it was not for the reasons you might think. I’d made some horrifically bad decisions, ended up with a mean boyfriend, started doing a bunch of drugs and lost my home.

If you think being homeless and on drugs is for the lazy, think again—I have never worked so hard in my whole life.

Each day was a battle to survive, and usually that battle was happening in the midst of an epic hangover with zero resources and really dirty clothes.

I’m not saying that time was in any way constructive, but I did learn that I am one motivated bitch when I have to be, and I have carried that hard driving attitude with me into sobriety.

Now, as a writer and a yogi, I still have to be highly self motivated, but these days I get to do it in clean clothes.

Here is my process:

1)  I am grateful, not grumpy.

I try and remember, the things I need to do are things I’m privileged to do.

After I lost everything, it became much easier to appreciate life when it was good, or even just normal. I know that whatever it is I need to be disciplined about; from writing to laundry, is something I should be grateful to have the opportunity to do. When I feel grateful I have clothes to wash, it makes laundry a lot less irritating.

It’s not always possible to be this unrelentingly positive, but it’s possible a lot more often than I ever realized.

2) But I forgive myself when I am an ingrate.

That said, sometimes I get grumpy anyway. When I do, I forgive myself if I can’t find a sincere place of gratitude and then crab my way through things anyway. When I’m done, I allow myself to feel gratitude that at least it’s over, and know that next time, I’ll do better.

3) I take small bites.

When my life was messed up, getting through the day was literally a question of putting one foot in front of the other. If I let myself think too far into the future, I got so overwhelmed I became paralyzed.

Now that I am healthy, I realize the same thing applies. As long as I put one foot in front of the other and make small movements each day toward my goals, I’ll get where I want to be. If I dream of writing a 300 page book and I write one page a day, I’ll have a book length rough draft in less than a year. Imagine!

4) Whenever possible, I do what I love.

There was a time when I desperately wanted to be an Ashtangi. The only problem was, I kind of hated Ashtanga. The constant repetition of poses—especially poses I sucked at—got depressing (jump throughs, I’m talking to you).

Nevertheless, three times a week I practiced (which still wasn’t up to Ashtanga standards where daily practice is expected); once on my own, once in Mysore and once in a led primary series class. Well, that was my plan anyway.

The truth was, I got there maybe once a week.

When I finally let go of my pride and admitted that Ashtanga wasn’t my thing and allowed myself to do what I did love—vinyasa flow—where I get to be creative and spontaneous, I suddenly practiced three or more times a week with ease.

Clinging to unhelpful ideas about ourselves will always serve to undermine self discipline, because our true self knows that something isn’t right. Allowing our goals to evolve as we grow makes it much more likely we’ll get where we’re meant to be.

The bottom line is, self discipline is a decision, not a talent or an innate attribute.

The more we make the decision to be self disciplined, if those decisions are made with gratitude, insight, flexibility and joy, the more we are able to gather momentum and achieve things both mundane and miraculous in our lives.

 

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: elephant archives

 

 

 

 

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Erica Leibrandt

Erica Leibrandt is a licensed psychotherapist, registered yoga teacher, published author, and imperfect mom. Visit her at PsycheFinder, her new website—the only site that finds your mental health professional for you. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.