“Reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction” – Kahlil Gibran
Many of us wish we were more self-disciplined. If we could only will ourselves to do what we needed to do when we needed to do it, we would be successful, fulfilled and have the things that we always wanted. Think of the last lazy weekend afternoon when there were errands to run, chores to finish and maybe a personal project or two that you wanted to work on. Yet all you wanted to do was lay around and watch old movies on TV or spend time outside with your family. In those moments we wish that our willpower was ironclad and we could push the thought of movies or sunshine out of our minds.
But, what if, despite the errands and the chores and the projects, what you really needed to do that afternoon was lay around or spend time outside? How do you decide between what must get done and what you desire to do?
Following your own desire can be exhillerating, but also a bit scary. Imagine what it would be like if you said “yes” to everything that you wanted to do when you wanted to do it. Your life would be much more enjoyable, but most of us would be afraid that we were telling ourselves the “wrong things” to do. We have received a message that what we want will lead us down the wrong path, and the remedy for this is harsh self-discipline – the ability to force yourself to constantly do things you don’t want to do.
When our bodies need fuel, we get a message in the form of “hunger.” When our bodies need to rest, we get a message in the form of “sleepiness.” If we listen properly, our body tells us exactly what it needs and I don’t feel that this is any different from looking out of your window and desiring to go outside rather than work. We tell ourselves what we need when we need it, even for things that aren’t “essential” for the maintenance of our bodies.
Maybe on that lazy afternoon, what you really need is fresh air and sunshine, physical activity, time with your family and play. And, when you think about it, the errands you want to do aren’t a necessity, and the chores you can finish during the week and there really is no rush on your personal project. In this case, I feel following your intuition is the right thing to do. So shake off your guilty feeling and go outside.
On the other hand, maybe you desperately need to go to the grocery store or you will be eating out of drive thru windows this upcoming week. I think this is the time when our brains kick in and tell our bodies to hold on a minute. Yes, the sun is shining, but you are really trying to eat healthfully and a week of fast food just isn’t going to cut it. Having some self discipline in this case is a good thing and ultimately will serve you as well as your body does when it needs something.
Your brain and your body aren’t enemies – they just have different roles. And you can use both to pick the direction you need to walk in. I think I prefer the term “self-management” for this process, rather than “self-discipline.” To me, “self-discipline” infers that you have to punish yourself to keep yourself in line. Or that you have to force yourself to do the “right things.” But, “self-management” implies a back and forth process between your body and your mind. You can discern between when you need to follow your body and when you need to follow your mind. You are in charge of yourself, but you know when to listen also.
What do you think? Are you more of an intuitive follower of yourself or are you more likely to make plans and follow them to the letter? How have you combined the two? Leave us your answer in the comments. Thanks!