Why self-discipline is an act of self-love

Are you a procrastinator? Do you scroll through your social media feed without realising? Have you ever caught a sunrise or do you find yourself sleeping in most mornings? We’ve grown conditioned to view discipline as a difficult, negative restriction we place upon ourselves. It’s time to re-frame the way you see self-discipline from an unbearable challenge to an act of beautiful self-love.

First, let’s address the question: Why is self-discipline an act of self-love?

1. You learn to face your problems and fears

“Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.”
–Judy Blume

When we face our problems and fears, we allow space for personal growth. It is through the discomfort of facing problems that we cultivate courage and wisdom. Life is suffering is the first Noble Truth posited by Buddhist teachings which encapsulates the life we are all experiencing. That is, life wouldn’t be what it is without our problems and fears which we all experience. Once we can accept that this is inevitable, we have a choice to either become complacent in our problems or discipline ourselves to try our best to solve them.

So, what happens when we shy away from a problem or fear? We limit our ability to work through and solve the problem, meaning that it’s likely to arise again in the future. It is only when we face these situations head on that we can learn more about ourselves, develop personal growth, and move closer to our highest human potential.

2. You teach yourself the skills to build good habits

Delayed discounting is the willingness to tolerate longer delays in order to receive a preferred reward in contrast to receiving a lesser preferred award. Have you ever heard of the marshmallow experiment where children could either eat a marshmallow now or wait a few minutes and instead receive two marshmallows? That’s delayed discounting. Another example is resisting the temptation to check your smartphone when you’re having coffee with a friend. The reward is knowing that you devoted yourself wholeheartedly with full focus to your loved one.

Why is this important? Our ability to delay discounting dictates whether we’ll stick to our habits which are ultimately the building blocks for a satisfying life. In particular, researchers have showed that delayed discounting in our daily activities predicted better eating habits, greater exercising and overall healthier lives (Daugherty and Brase, 2010). Disciplining ourselves to experience pain before pleasure will reap greater benefits for us in the end.

3. You value your time

1440. This number of minutes we have in a day. We are each given 1440 minutes which we never get back. The highest form of self-love is valuing every moment of time we have in this world to bring us closer to our heart’s deepest desires and ultimately, who we want to be.

As Scott Peck describes in The Road Less Travelled, authentically perceiving ourselves as valuable means we’ll care for ourselves in all ways necessary. Just as parents love their children through discipline, we too can strengthen our self-discipline to show ourselves the highest form of self-love because frankly, each and every one of us deserves nothing less.

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References:

Daugherty, J. R., & Brase, G. L. (2010). Taking time to be healthy: Predicting health behaviors with delay discounting and time perspective. Personality and Individual differences, 48(2), 202-207.

Peck, S. M. (1978). The road less travelled. New York: Simon and Shuster.

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