A principle that is necessary for a person to progress in many aspects of life: personal, social, career, spiritual, you name it–is the ability to have discipline!
Make a little experiment: go check on people who are completely stuck or actually going backwards in life and the first thing you’ll notice they’re lacking is discipline.
Coincidentally in Buddhism, in order to be accepted in a Buddhist order, the disciple must practice and gradually pass 4 different trainings; the first training is called Kaya Bhavana which has to do with discipline and willpower. This is the first aspect to qualify, and if the disciple doesn’t, then he wouldn’t be able to qualify for the other 3 aspects as well. For this reason, he will always be stuck in his spiritual development, which as mentioned earlier also applies to all other aspects in life.
Discipline establishes the basis to create order and to keep your feet on the ground. Without discipline the person never finishes what he started, without discipline the person tends to indulge in too much leisure and the mind wanders too much. This can be easily seen in modern families, in which the kids are left unattended because both parents work, the kids then develop problems such as attention deficit which become burdens for the person during adult life.
I used to complain too much about my parents giving me too much discipline, but now I realize how much that has helped me in life since it keeps me checked on my projects, always finishing what I started, not giving up so easily and having resistance to stress and difficult situations.
Although we had a maid that would clean up our rooms, she wouldn’t work on weekends so that my mother would make sure we’d learn to do our own beds and keep things tidy, and so that she could establish a rewards system for doing the chores. Later in life I started going to a boarding school in Canada where they had their own set of rules which had to be followed. So I had a good training in discipline that later on served me to follow a schedule of studying, to resist the stress of tests, cope with work-related stress, and the difficult tests of trying to lead a spiritual life.
Then on the other hand, I had a friend who was adopted by her aunt because her biological parents were never around, and her life story was a continuity of never getting things done: she couldn’t make up her mind on what to study, she would get a job and stop going after a month, and never really studied (although she had full scholarship for being adopted). She had a diet calendar on her fridge which she couldn’t follow for more than 2 days and it just surprised me how little willpower she had, however, it wasn’t a surprise considering her background.
When I had just moved to L.A., I had a housemate in his early 50s who told me he was a car salesman, that he was close to his goal of making $20,000 a month and that he wanted to do business with me. I immediately knew I couldn’t trust his claims, why?
It just struck me as unusual to see a 50 year old man renting a room that was much smaller than mine and that was always a mess: the bed was never made, you could even see the mattress without a sheet on top of it and the covers bulging on one side, there were clothes and trash everywhere, and his personal presentation was either boxers or old clothes on rags. This was simply not the room of a person who was hardworking making close to $20,000 a month. In the end it turned out the guy was living a lie and had early signs of being senile. Perhaps the fact of never having a specific goal or discipline in his life is what turned things into a wreck.
So if you’re experiencing early signs of not getting things done, or feel stuck in life, then ask yourself whether discipline is part of your day to day routine.
How can one create discipline at an adult age you might ask?
If you didn’t have it earlier in life, of course it will be more difficult as an adult: Can you imagine getting circumcised at an adult age? It doesn’t sound easy does it?
However, there’s much hope. I highly suggest for you to start with the small things:
- Always have an alarm clock to sleep for 8-9 hours and always be in time for school/work
- Start by making you bed every day, first thing in the morning.
- Keep your room as tidy as possible either first thing in the morning or after you come back from school/work.
- Always keep your personal attire presentable and clean.
- Create the habit of getting things done before enjoying any leisure time. Leisure time should be your reward AFTER getting things done.
- Keep good eating habits, try to do sports regularly.
- Avoid watching as much TV as possible and focus more time on your work/study/life projects.
Once you start applying discipline to your life you’ll soon realize how much progress you will be having. Good luck and hang in there, the evolution of ourselves is our main goal.