The Power of Discipline: Your Key to Freedom and Success

As a student of Buckminster Fuller, I have found his core foundation of self-discipline very inspiring. (See Critical Path, Chapter 4.) Late last year, I resolved to form my own set.

I will be clear: this is not the first time I have created a list – or code – to live by. The distinction is that this is the first time I have, in my increasing maturity, created a list that I know in my heart resonates with my highest values and that I hold the highest commitment to.

I was determined to keep this list as brief as possible. And to have it as part of my daily practice of review. It’s no good to make it and throw it in the drawer. For many years, I read this list each day and checked that I honoured my agreement with myself. If I could not honour this agreement to myself, I watched as my self-esteem eroded, and I became a person I could not trust.

Discipline =Disciple unto the self.

Disciple = pupil, to learn, to take apart, to grasp intellectually.

An important distinction to make about discipline is that to truly be a disciple unto the self, we need to discriminate between 1. when to do what we have said we would do because to not do so would be failing ourselves and others, and 2. when the body/soul/mind would be better served to take a break.

There is a fine distinction between discipline and obsession.

Obsession is when the mind/ego is in control; discipline is when the self/our highest wisdom is heard and acted on. Learning to distinguish between the voice of the ego and the voice of the highest self is one of our journeys as we learn to honour the self. These skills are critical in our personal development.

Show me anyone who has achieved anything significant without a healthy dose of discipline.

Many people find discipline abhorrent. The search for freedom is such a big deal that we have forgotten that the complimentary pair of freedom is discipline. They are the two sides of a single coin.

If you want more freedom, consider your self-discipline. This is a place to start if you want a foundation for leadership development and to be a better leader.

Here is the list I now have as my core self-discipline. I will go through each one briefly, explaining what they are and what they mean to me. They are in no particular order. Each one is significant and synergistic.

1. Clean Communication

2. Daily exercise-maintain health

3. Spend less than I earn. Pay cash only for personal items.

4. Learn thoroughly from my mistakes.

5. Be in Gratitude

6. Give more than I take

7. Be open/receptive

8. Impeccable Integrity

9. Gravitational attraction as my marketing plan, giving massively to more people.

10. Say no to anything unless it is an absolute yes.

1. Clean Communication

This means that there is nothing I still need to say to anyone at any time. I have no residual upset; nothing about another person’s actions or words bugs me on any level. For more on this, see this article.

2. Daily Exercise-Maintain Health

This one is easy for me, as I have been practising health and self-care for 35 years. However, I must keep this on the list, as I also get to look at the multiple ways I maintain health. Good food from local suppliers, great sleep, great company and emotional support, plenty of exercise that makes me feel good and happy, keeping my weight steady and dining only in venues passionate about good food. These are some of the components of excellent health. I feel vital, alive, and energised. I have had to adapt my approach significantly as a post-menopausal athletic woman.

3. Spend less than I earn. Spend only cash for personal items

This one has been an Achilles’ heel for me in my youth (and many others, as evidenced by our current global situation). How easy has it been to pay for things by credit? Enough. We have to learn patience, restraint, and what ENOUGH means. I have zero credit cards and have maintained this status for nearly fifteen years.

4. Learn Fully From My Mistakes

Mistakes are the way we learn. They are the good guys, yet we often see them as the bad guys. They become bad guys if we make the same mistake repeatedly. To take the time to review mistakes, understand our process in making them, and be sure we do not need to repeat the mistake is a worthy investment of time. You will know when you have the lesson because there will be zero residue. No guilt, shame, embarrassment, upset, angst, anger etc. All gone. Very liberating. The only way to live.

5. Be in Gratitude

People I admire most, alive or dead, speak about gratitude and the daily practice of gratitude. When I started this practice, my life felt hard, and I had to work to find gratitude. Gratitude is easy to do when you have great days. When the commitment to gratitude is challenged, it is in the harder days, weeks and months when you are miserable or have endured suffering. We can always find gratitude. We breathe, think, and have sunlight—a cool breeze. As a runner, I am always grateful for being able to walk and run. Those times when I am injured and unable to run or walk without pain remind me of the simple pleasure of running and walking freely. We have so much to be grateful for simply for being alive. My life is in gratitude, the practice so close to my breath.

6. Give more than I take

Generosity of heart, mind, and spirit is worth cultivating. There is a significant distinction between givers and takers. Persistent takers suck energy. Their gluttony for certain things indicates a broken part of themselves that seems forever unfilled. Some givers also have to learn to take. They can find receiving unbearable, indicating a part of themselves that feels unworthy. I aim to be mindful of giving more and ensure I do. Giving comes in many forms—a kind thought, a smile, a compliment, physical gifts, time, energy, and prayer. I am also very clear about not allowing myself to be exploited, exploiting others, or standing by as others are exploited.

7. Be Open/Receptive

An open mind and open heart require vigilance to maintain. It is very easy for us to shut down. We either shut down our thinking and live in righteousness or shut down our hearts and block expansiveness and love. We can also shut down our bodies and withdraw ourselves from the world. As we mature, we need to learn about discrimination and when it is wise to build some boundaries and protections. Not every message out there is healthy for the soul. Distinguishing between messages sent with love and to add value and messages sent to harm and overpower is an integral part of learning about being open and receptive.

8. Impeccable Integrity

The practice of integrity is multifaceted. Integrity means wholeness. To live an integrous life means to live in truth at every level of self. Expressing ourselves as we were designed. On the micro level, it means no overt or covert lying. It means what we say to ourselves and others is what we do. It means taking the highest road possible. When we look into our eyes in the mirror, we know we are in truth.

9. Using gravitational attraction as my marketing plan by giving massively to ever more people.

Gravitational attraction is about increased mass. I don’t mean literal physical mass but metaphysical energetic mass. The more we live with impeccable integrity and all the other self-disciplines mentioned, the more mass we have. And the more mass we have, the more attraction works. (This point speaks to marketing at the individual level specifically. No matter what work you do, self-employed, employed, etc., you need a personal marketing plan. Gravitational attraction also works for businesses and companies. It is the invisible difference that makes the difference.)

Some very subtly seductive marketing methods appeal to our greed, loneliness, or desire to be rich. We read their long spiels and say yes to something we don’t want.

Bucky refused to market at all. While I do think his choice was extreme, and he did so consciously to demonstrate how the Universe would support him, integral marketing allows for the people who want and need the service you are offering to be able to find you to make a clear choice that is in their highest interests. It means offering more value than people expect and building relationships through generosity. Simultaneously, an explicit acknowledgement of the value you have to offer is presented.

10. Say no to anything unless it is an absolute yes

When we are in complete alignment, and every cell, muscle, and heartbeat says YES, then go for it. Anything that is not this needs to be put on hold and worked through, and more questions need to be asked until we reach this place of YES.

This practice means we avoid the experience of – if only I had listened. It also honours our spirit and infinite wisdom.

Bucky’s self-discipline and mine are different. When I decided to write my own set, I wanted to choose ones I could honour and knew I would keep.

I have shown you my choices to inspire you to create your own. If you have had less self-discipline up until now, choose one as your starting place. Be sure you choose with great consciousness and intent. And then stick to it as if your life depended on it. For at the soul level, it does.

Remember, these self-disciplines allow your best self to become present everywhere, all the time.

PS. Update. This article was written in 2009. These self-disciplines have been my constant companion since then. I can rely on me to hold myself to them. They are my ground of being. My commitment to these self-disciplines has allowed my life to become what it is now. Incredibly purposeful, filled with love, joy and prosperity.