The 10th Day of Christmas: Gift of Discipline

THE GIFT OF DISCIPLINE -- DAY 10 Nope -- don't close the window -- read on, because… [more]

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The 10th Day of Christmas: Gift of Discipline


Nope — don’t close the window — read on, because discipline is not a dirty word.

How would ten lords-a-leaping be able to leap so well if not for discipline?  Every day I imagine that they first do their stretches, and then practice their leaping.  If they work for too long on their leaping they will probably overtire their muscles which can lead to injury and perhaps the possibility that they will get sick of leaping, and if not long enough, they won’t be able to improve and will not make the lords-of-leaping team . . .

There is a difference between discipline and hard work.  For some reason, we think that we have to work hard to get somewhere. Without the hard work, the Universe will not bestow the grace of mastery on us.

One of the keys to discipline is to think of it as working smart rather than hard. Just a little mind adjustment. And maybe what you’re really doing is playing smart, rather than working. That sounds even more enticing!

When you choose to do something that you enjoy, the term “work” just doesn’t seem to fit so well anymore. To think of it in terms of play almost draws you to it effortlessly.  To think of it in terms of work may mean you have to drag yourself to it with a lot of resistance.  By the time you actually start the “work” you’ve exhausted yourself resisting.

The other key is to start with consistent baby steps.  If you want to whittle your waist, you don’t start with 200 crunches, because the next day you won’t be able to move, and you’ll give up on your waist.  If you want to play the violin, you won’t get there fast on 5 minutes every other Sunday.

I used to play the piano when I was young.  People said I was talented, even gifted, but for me, talent meant interest.  I was attracted to the piano, and liked to play it. I played it almost every day — it was a satisfying recreation for me. At the same time, I spent a lot of time on it, so naturally, I improved.

Then for many years, I didn’t play much.  It seemed I didn’t have time for it with toddlers running around.  One year, my New Year’s Wish was to start playing again.  I started with a Beethoven Sonata. My fingers weren’t strong anymore, and I couldn’t play for long before they would ache.  But every day, I spent a little time on the piano.

Over the next few months, I practiced for longer periods of time. Next was a Chopin Ballade — the hardest thing I’ve ever played.  I would never have made it through that piece if I didn’t break it down into little chunks, and practice those little chunks every day . . . baby steps. (Those little baby steps also helped me grow my confidence until I felt like entering an adult piano competition in Denver — something I never dreamed I’d do back when I made the New Year’s Wish to play more).

You can do anything you want to, if you are willing to commit some time to your dreams, to play with them in a disciplined way.  Five minutes quickly becomes ten, one year soon becomes five, and before long you’re a master in your discipline.

Try the Gift of Discipline this year and let me know how it plays out for you . . .

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