Redefining Self-Discipline

We recently had a Rosie Talk (a bi-weekly discussion circle) that really changed the way I think of self-discipline. Paul, a lifestyle coach from Australia, decided on the subject and presented what it meant to him. He said he turns self-discipline into a game in order to take the stress off of failing. It was a nice way to look at it. A few people gave their opinions on the subject — all very interesting but all of which I had heard before.

Then Yaniv, one of Rosemary’s founders, gave his view…he explained that when we decide to do something, it is because it means something to us. When we make the decision to complete a goal, there is a high level of motivation. This gets us to start working towards the goal. But as so many of us have experienced, this motivation starts to fade over time, and the goal begins to slip out of reach. This, Yaniv explained, is where self-discipline fits in. Motivation is an element of the heart; self-discipline of the mind.

Once the motivation decreases, we need to use self-discipline for a period of time until the practise becomes a habit, which generally takes about one month to form. Once the habit has formed, you don’t need as much self-discipline, because the practise then comes naturally.

So instead of thinking of self-discipline as a character trait that you either have or don’t have; think of it as a time period.

The period after the excitement of setting yourself on a goal, and before the habit forms, bringing you towards your goal. For me, this was revolutionary. I have always thought of myself as having relatively low levels of self-discipline, so when it was explained to me in this way, it was a huge relief. Self-discipline isn’t something you possess or don’t possess; it is simply a period of time you have to go through if you want to achieve something. It won’t last forever, a few weeks at most until the habit is formed. Not only does this take the load off having to be self-disciplined as a lifestyle, but it also means that anyone can achieve anything they want to achieve.

This brings the topic to Yaniv’s second point; the meaning behind your goal. This is actually what will decide the outcome. Self-discipline is the boat you use to reach the other side. Meaning is the very water on which the boat floats. It is the root of the experience. Obviously, the stronger the meaning, the easier it will be. But there is something deeper to it than this. For example, your goal is to run everyday. The meaning behind this goal may be health. While that may seem like a compelling meaning, it is in fact rather superficial in the sense that it won’t cement you to the goal indefinitely. There are many ways to be healthy. One day, when you are feeling tired, you will rationalise your decision not to run by remembering all the other healthy decisions you made that day, and that one day of not running won’t make a difference. This is a slippery slope of excuses. One day, it will be more of a habit for you not to run than to run.

Yaniv’s example of a strong meaning behind a goal was really quite beautiful. Cormoran, the other founder of Rosemary, has gone for a long-distance swim every, single morning, for the past two years. This may seem like an act of health, or self-development, but it is something far more profound. Cormoran has made this daily swim part of his identity. This daily ritual is a core aspect of his very essence.

Cormoran’s daily swim.

Cormoran Lee, the Bird of the Sea, found a meaning so profound and true that he could not possibly skip a day of swimming. That would be denying his very character.

I left the talk feeling deeply inspired and grateful to be able to share such a space with amazing minds from all over the world. I felt I had just learned a life skill that would be vital to my journey.

Just another Tuesday at Rosemary Dream, I guess.

Written by Dana Toerien

Rosemary Volunteer 2016 / 2017

Age 23

South Africa