Personal Discipline

Personal Discipline

“Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.”
― Elie Wiesel

To do the thing you know is good for you but is challenging or painful, wherein you may lose something or have to sacrifice something of yourself in the process, is a substantial challenge for many people. Challenging yourself with problems, burdens, and responsibility, and taking risks to test oneself for building personal discipline to define yourself is the opposite of what our American culture teaches us.

Definitions of Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is the ability you have to control and motivate yourself, stay on track and do what is right. (An example of self-discipline is when you make sure you get up an hour early before work each day to get to the gym.)

Self-discipline is the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.

Self-discipline is the ability to control yourself and to make yourself work hard or behave in a particular way without needing anyone else to tell you what to do. (Exercising at home alone requires a tremendous amount of self-discipline.)

So how does one develop self-discipline? How can we learn to “do the right thing?” How can we learn to be our own best parent through discipline?

Discipline is based on self-knowledge for better, more informed self-control; it’s about making choices from a locus of control and knowing what’s best for you even if it’s difficult or involves sacrifice; a disciplined person has the willingness to sacrifice for their values or higher aims. And being honest is required for developing self-discipline which is why many people refuse to do it.

Reflect and Write

How do you define discipline?

Explore experiential avoidance.

Observe or recall a time when you disciplined yourself in the extreme? (inappropriate or excessive punishment, mentally, physically)

Observe or recall a time when you used tough love wth yourself or with someone else (even a pet).

When have  you spoiled yourself to a fault?

In what respects would more balanced forms of discipline create more order for you?

In what respects would more balanced forms of discipline create more freedom for you?

Balanced Parenting & Tough Love

Resistance in the forms of procrastination or instinctual or automatic reactive fight, flight, and freeze are all “normal” responses to challenge, whether real or perceived. Our human organism responds to life/challenge in ways that preserve survival and development.  Our bodies (including the brain) is built to respond and adapt to stress and then recover or pendulate back into homeostasis or balance. Our bodies and minds don’t always “right the organism” on their own. If we learn this about human being and we observe ourselves more often to keep learning about who we are, we can help ourselves better achieve balance when we notice things may be out of balance or extreme. This is why self-study is never-ending and always necessary.

Spare the Rod, Spoil Yourself or Not?

Sometimes you need the push and this can be a form of compassionate and loving discipline; sometimes you need to back off, rest, relax stop forcing and fighting or over-doing things which can also be a form of compassionate and loving discipline. Too much, not enough? The discipline you impose on yourself is all about balance.

Experiential Avoidance

Instead of teaching children discipline and resilience early, many parents cannot bear to watch their children struggle, so they indulge them, spoil them, and control their lives by building safe spaces and buffer zones. They remove challenge and the responsibility-building and associated discomfort in includes from their environment–– all of which stunts their growth and weakens them. They do them a huge disservice, making them more likely to be victimized and unsafe because they have no strength to deal with the inevitable dangers of being human. (Skenase, 2010; Lukianoff & Haidt, 2018).Parenting in this way instills such experiential avoidance in children which then becomes a unconscious habit.

If humans remain hidden in safe spaces (Swan, 2017) buffered from danger or risk and other opportunities for learning more about oneself and the world, protected from all forms of oppression and maintain the mentality of the vulnerable, helpless victim (Matthews, 2011), unhealthy dependency results.

What appears to be “compassion” and care at first, when extreme, actually causes more harm, more weakness and lack of development of the individual.  (Lukianoff & Haidt, 2018).

When a human being goes unchallenged, the person does not know what he or she is made of or capable of which is a lack of self-realization and an enormous obstacle to self-actualization.


Were you taught to avoid pain and challenge?

What is your safe space or safe spaces? How do they create healthy boundaries? How do they or might they be limiting your growth or wellness?

Have you oppressed yourself in some ways? Explain in detail.  

Reflect on the ways you parent your kids or care for your pets if you have them in terms of allowing or prohibiting them from facing challenge.

Reflect on the ways you parent yourself in terms of allowing or prohibiting yourself from facing challenge or being uncomfortable.

How do you exercise personal discipline? Write about examples.

Spend time exploring your inner urges and impulses. Describe what it feels like to need to go to the bathroom or the impulse to need water or food.

What are other urges or impulses like in your experience?

Write about when you denied an urge or impulse.

Write about when you indulged urges or impulses.

Autonomy & Trust

In ideal human-land, when you show control and maturity, mom and dad let you borrow their car. If you are out of control or naive, they say No because they don’t trust you to “do the right thing” with their car. You have not yet proven that you are responsible. If you want more freedom, you’ll have to become more disciplined.  In other words, discipline yourself so others don’t have to.

When we don’t willingly rise to the challenges that enable us to build discipline, our character and our constitution, we really don’t know who we are and that causes even more doubt and trepidation about ourselves, more dependence and reliance on others— and isn’t this the big problem today—I mean, WHO can you really trust? 

Self-discipline is based on doing the right thing, even when there’s resistance, especially when there is resistance.  When we do right by ourselves, we can trust ourselves to have our best interests in mind. We can build confidence in ourselves through discipline, so that our personal growth, wellness, and well-being remains in our trust-worthy and loving hands  rather than the hands of others who don’t know us as well as we know ourselves. When we are forced to or cede our trust to others, then we depend more on their power, and their moral character instead of our own. Thus, we are actually more likely to be excessively oppressed, manipulated, and victimized. We have less personal autonomy.

When you learn to grapple with the challenge of parenting yourself for wellness– with a firm but loving hand– tough love, and discipline, you’ll build confidence, trust, and faith in yourself. You will learn more about what you are made of and who you really are.


If you discover when you investigate your challenges that you need more help than you can provide for yourself or you are self-abusing, please reach out for help. Autonomy doesn’t mean being alone with your suffering!

Some people are abused and victimized so badly that their organism automatically adapts to survive, but later these coping mechanisms, once necessary for survival, cause other problems and have to be unwound, let go, re-regulated and reintegrated and so on. It is the case that once-protective measures  taken by our nervous system in response to threat can later become debilitating.

If you observe any of the maladaptive strategies or severe imbalances within you– that is a blessing, a wonderful discovery, and an opportunity for growth and better wellness! Now you can reach out to get the appropriate help you need, along with continuing to give yourself your own compassion and self-care as best as you are able.

Reflect and Write

What are some aspects of your body that are extreme or seem out of balance? Do they create imbalance in your body? If so, how?

What are some aspects of your emotional being that are extreme or seem out of balance? Do they create imbalance in your body? If so, how?

What are some aspects of your mind / thinking that are extreme or seem out of balance? Do they create imbalance in your body? If so, how?

Notice, What kind of language do you use that is all-or-nothing or either-or (that means, extreme or polarizing?)? What sort of effect does using such language have on your emotional wellbeing and your physical wellness? Take the time to notice and reflect on this in writing to learn.




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