Tanya Younce, M.Ed., LPCC


The Discipline of Being Amazing

No horse gets anywhere until he is harnessed. No stream or gas drives anything until it is confined. No Niagara is ever turned into light and power until it is tunneled. No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined. 
 Harry Emerson Fosdick
The Summer Olympics have now come and gone…each athlete boarding their flights to return home after overcoming their own personal obstacles and presenting the fruits of their labor in their various disciplines.  Some received medals, and others suffered the blow of defeat.  But what is admired by all who watch — from their family rooms, on their sectional furniture, probably eating something unhealthy – is the end result of a commitment that a human being has made to begin something difficult and see it through to the end by setting their mindset to a goal they envision so strongly, and want so unconditionally, that they sacrifice “traditional” lives to achieve. 
Discipline means you show up.  Every time.  Even if you don’t feel like it.  It’s finding the override button in your soul to move past what is comfortable and strive for something just slightly out of reach for that day.  And then you do it again the next day, and the next day, and then the day after that – until you hone your skills to a point of brilliance. 
Many of us, myself included, react to the notion of this kind of self-discipline with some sense of fear, pushback, and maybe even some self-deprecating sarcasm:  “Yeah right, I’m going to become a prima ballerina,” “Oh sure, Mom I’ll get into Harvard Law School.”  “Of course I’ll start my own business and make millions!”  Absolutely …I’ll write a novel before I’m 40!”
Still – I was struck by something I read by Andrea Balt, when she wrote about the notion of Creativity.  She first identified what it was not: 
  • “The birthright of a privileged few. 
  • A talent.  Art. (Unless you consider yourself a living work of art, which I strongly suggest you should).
  • A ‘lucky-you’ kind of magic. 
  • Inspiration. (that’s a catalyst and a result of creativity, not creativity itself) 
  • A genie in a bottle.
  •  A limited resource, available only to special people – which, in order to get, we must step over another creative’s dead body. (It’s everybody’s Precious).”
I liked that she reassured her readers that we all have the potential for Creativity – i.e. pulling something beautifully expressive out of ourselves, anything to which we choose to apply our discipline.  We are all capable of becoming self-disciplined and developing something amazing, astounding, other-wordly, and mind-blowing.  It may start in darkness and fearful anticipation, but then anything great does.   Julia Cameron wrote, “Creativity – like human life itself – begins in the darkness.”
It takes Courage.  It also requires a vision of, a belief in, and a curiosity to find your own magnitude.   Do you have that?  I think there are too many people who, either consciously or unconsciously, firmly believe they were not destined for any kind of greatness.  They settle for what they have, what life’s given them, and nothing more.   But not the athletes we saw in the Olympics.  Not the great musicians whom we’ve conducted into the Hall of Fame.  Not the Pulitzer Prize winners of the world.  Not even the seemingly average men or women all around us who have privately set lofty goals for themselves and, through the power of self-discipline and will, have mastered them. 
It’s just too easy to give in to our feelings and thoughts of self-doubt or weakness.  We can let ourselves off the hook and avoid the discomfort of, say, sitting down to write for an hour, or going to the gym to work out, or finding alternative ways of turning away from our addictions and knee-jerk reactions.  It’s easy.  Way too easy.  And that is why it is jaw-dropping, goose-pimpling and eye-welling when we see someone take the harder route, reaching out OVER what’s easy, out of their comfort zones, to stay on a certain course from beginning to end. 
To build your muscles of self-discipline, do this:  Commit to doing something that feeds your soul every day for 10 days.  If you skip a day, go back to the beginning.  When you can do all 10 days, do it for 20 days, then 30.  They say it takes 100 days to develop a habit.  Practice self-discipline by showing up for something meaningful every day – harnessing that inner wild horse, confining that steam, tunneling your internal light and power – to see what mind-blowing things you’re capable of achieving.  It’s not for the “chosen few” as you might think.  Achieving something difficult but rewarding is the birthright of us all. 

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