Over and over, I’ve found that one of the most significant places of suffering for men is the shame they feel around their lack of integrity in maintaining their disciplines.
Perhaps you are a man who procrastinates or has little self-discipline. Maybe you are disciplined in some areas of your life but in others you flail. This is the nature of being human. No one has perfect discipline; well, maybe someone but I bet they’re miserable!
But I think it’s such an important topic because of how painful it is for men that lack discipline and how critical it is for men to feel a level of success in their discipline. Men’s brains are goal-achieving machines and being undisciplined makes it pretty damn difficult to achieve those goals. To lack discipline also cuts at the core of how men want to be perceived.
The pain that we as men feel around being undisciplined can manifest in just about every nook and cranny of our lives:
- Our physical health protocols
- Our personal/spiritual growth practices.
- How we use our time.
- Our sleep habits.
- Commitments in our intimate partnerships.
- Our money spending habits…etc.
How many of you brothers feel crappy about your lack of self-discipline in one or more of these areas of your life?
Most men would prefer to keep their lack of discipline secret because to share about it with others can bring up shame and cast a negative light on the persona they are trying to project. Men don’t share about this because they judge it as a weakness and no man wants to be perceived as weak.
We don’t share because we are supposed to be “Men” and have our shit together by being disciplined warriors.
Most often we ignore and avoid dealing with our lack of discipline (and the pain we feel about it). Our avoidance can be fueled by a powerful force called “self-deception.” Self-deception is a protection mechanism originally created to keep us safe from feeling negative emotions, but now as adults it no longer serves us, but the habit of self-deception persists.
By self-deceiving, ignoring, avoiding we enter into an endless negative spiral of not following through on what we said we’d do or what we know we need to do to be aligned with our highest values and mission.
If you see yourself as being undisciplined, you probably are, which means you carry negative self-judgments. Those deprecating self-judgments feel painful, so you distract yourself to not have to really feel that pain. But those negative feelings still affect your confidence and how you show up in the world.
You do your best to cope with your lack of discipline but the underlying issues are not going away on their own. In an effort to be a functional person you again ignore the self-judgments, the pain, and the underlying issues and the spiral of no discipline continues. In actuality, this spiraling loop is a cry out to your higher self, calling you into something greater.
So how can you break the pattern?
Here’s a radical idea:
F— Being Perfect In Your Discipline.
You know that idealized fantasy of the ironclad Roman soldier who’s perfect in his discipline, the guy who is up every day at 5 AM on the dot and CRUSHES every item on his to-do list while resisting every distraction and temptation with stoic mastery?
Brother- give yourself a break, no more letting some idealized image of being a man keep you trapped in feeling terrible about yourself.
The pressure that men put on themselves in striving for perfect discipline causes them so much shame – that feeling of not living up to the performance of your idealized masculinity.
The essence of “fuck being perfect in discipline” is really about being more compassionate with yourself. Self-compassion can create a space inside of you that will allow you to deal with the real reason you’re being undisciplined.
But wait – you’re not getting off that easy.
On the flip side….
Don’t be flimsy and weak in your discipline!
Take an honest look at how you deceive yourself, recognize where you are floppy, unstructured, and undisciplined.
What I’m pointing you toward here is the path of spiritual warriorship where you are willing to face the discomfort that comes with radical self-evaluation. Practice kind self-regard. Be kind to yourself, and at the same time take a stand for your integrity and commit to continual improvement and refinement.
Find the healthy middle ground where you bring consciousness and intentionality to your relationship with discipline.
Remember, discipline comes from the word “disciple.”
To be a true master of discipline is not to be without flaws – it’s to be a dedicated disciple of the self.
Focus on healing yourself.
Being a disciple of the self means being in an intimate relationship with your wounds, limiting beliefs, weaknesses, and strengths.
One of the core things that sabotage your discipline is the underlying negative beliefs you hold about yourself.
- I have no discipline – I never stick to things
- I’m a sloppy and disorganized kind of guy
- I suck at getting things done and following through
You can’t steamroll over your limiting beliefs and into discipline; it doesn’t work.
If you have a barrage of negative limiting beliefs that are influencing your behavior you can’t ignore them while hoping for things to change. And you can’t force discipline by setting up 20 reminders on your phone or leaving post-it notes all over your house.
If you are using a forced discipline it can feel like self-punishment and this is what gets guys into yo-yo patterns. Pushing themselves with rigidity for a period for a few days or weeks, then falling off, beating themselves up about it, and repeating this cycle over and over.
Discipline can be cultivated!
The good news is that discipline is not something we are born with, and It is not something you just have or don’t have. It is something that is developed.
The way you increase your capacity for greater self-discipline is by consciously entering a path of discipline. You can make a choice to become a student of discipline, write it down and make a commitment to your men’s group. Make the conscious choice to enter the discipline path.
As your discipline develops, so will a sense of satisfaction, positive self-regard, and your overall sense of integrity.
You have to make a choice that this is an area in your life that you’re going to work on. Not just try to force yourself to be more disciplined.
Self-discipline is a practice that requires self-love.
If you aren’t practicing self-love and self-acceptance, your discipline is going to be weak.
Self-love and letting go of perfection are the keys to finding equilibrium.
This, like discipline itself, is a lifelong practice. You never ‘arrive.’ You just keep showing up, every day, with the commitment to practice.
Pick one area in your life today where you are undisciplined, and commit to exploring the underlying beliefs around your inability to be disciplined.
Activate willpower and cultivate mental toughness.
Use a daily affirmation practice in which you connect with the fearless man that lives within. Reaffirm him every day with love.
Use self-compassion and kindness.
Accept yourself as you. Acceptance of yourself doesn’t mean that you should tolerate lack of discipline; it means that you accept yourself, flaws and all.
Meditate, envision, and feel the disciplined man inside of you.
Take action and set small goals for yourself.
Seek to make small winnable changes. Small gains can lead to greater and greater levels of discipline.
Stay the course.