The previous article discussed the nature of order and chaos and how we can grow from chaos. Our world is currently experiencing the chaos which is a direct, and unavoidable, product of the order which preceded it. Nothing can stop this, nor would we want to, as this is a fundamental process of the universe’s mechanisms of creation and destruction.
So if we can’t stop the chaos unfolding around us, What can we do? The answer is surprisingly straightforward: focus on what we can control.
And Discipline is something everyone can control.
The power of Discipline is rarely discussed these days. But it is our most powerful tool when it comes to navigating the order and chaos inherent to life in our universe.
This article will discuss Discipline. What it is, what it does, why it’s essential to navigate chaos and order and how we can cultivate it. Yes, Discipline can be cultivated. This article will tell you how.
Discipline Is Doing What You Know Needs To Be Done
According to the dictionary, Discipline is defined as “control gained by enforcing obedience or order” , “orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior” and “self-control.” All of these definitions share a commonality: an entity which controls.
Who or what is that controlling entity?
I believe that entity is the soul. It is the highest part of ourselves which desires to express itself to the fullest of its potential. Like a giant redwood tree at the peak of its height or a lion charging after its prey.
Like trees and lions, human beings also have a need to express their full prowess; a psychic, physiological and spiritual need. When we refuse to do what it takes to allow our brilliance to shine through, we set ourselves up for tremendous suffering in the form of dissatisfaction, restlessness and aimlessness.
Discipline is, simply, following the orders set to us by our highest selves, or souls.
Before continuing, I would like to point out that I come from a hard scientific background. I didn’t believe in the soul. I was a materialist, meaning I believed our consciousness, our awareness, was an emergent effect of the interactions of countless atoms and molecules as they jiggled about their business.
I have since learned that is not the case. We are conscious because the universe is conscious; a singular consciousness with full awareness of itself, capable of growth and evolution. There is scientific evidence which supports this (the video is long but awesome).
You Have A Hero Within You
The point is that whether you believe in the soul or not, we can all agree that there is a part of you which wants to make the most out of life. That is the part which wants to be recognized as an essential contributor to our community; a faithful and loyal friend; a skillful professional and an adroit lover.
As Ayn Rand would say, that is the hero within you.
Steven Pressfield, bestselling author of “The War Of Art”, writes that we all experience two lives; one, the life we currently live, the other, the life we long to live with all of our hearts. The first is the life we’ve created for ourselves, through, for lack of a better word, ignorance; ignorance of our ability to choose better for ourselves. The second, is the life where we express the greatest of our gifts.
Pressfield goes on to write that what stands between the life we’re living and the life we desire to live, our heroic life, is Resistance.
Resistance is a force of nature. It lies, cheats, sweet talks and connives in order to convince us to remain in our current life. It’s the force which prevents us from getting up early to work out; it convinces us to switch on the television instead of reading and to distract ourselves with social media or YouTube videos instead of working. Resistance never sleeps and it never gives up. It’s the single thing we must overcome if we are to manifest our dreams.
And the only way to overcome Resistance is with Discipline.
How Discipline Aids Us In Chaos And In Order
Discipline is the hand of our heroic self, guiding us towards the peace, joy and success that we know we’re capable of achieving. Discipline is the opposite and compliment of Resistance. It is the most powerful tool we have in our journey to greatness. And it serves as our lodestar as we navigate the currents of order and chaos.
As I’ve written before, chaos and order are properties of the mind. Because we are minds (but not solely minds), we experience chaos and order. There is no getting around it. Chaos and order are like taxes. If you’re a human being you experience them.
So what can we do about the chaotic orderliness (or orderly chaoticness) that we’re subject to? Are we fated to either twirl like leaves in the maelstroms of universal chaos or become encased in stiff, unchanging order?
The answer is no, and I’ll tell you how with a story.
The King Who Poisoned Himself
There is an ancient legend of a ruler who made himself immune to poison. His name was Mithridates. Back in the days of Mithridates, it was common practice for aristocrats to poison their adversaries in their eternal quest for power. Mithridates, fearing for his life, decided it a wise course of action to build up an immunity to poison by exposing himself to small quantities of it. According to the legend, when his rule became untenable, he decided to kill himself to escape the shame of imprisonment. However, he had been so successful in his quest to immunize himself against poison that he was unable to kill himself with the poison he had at hand. Why he would choose to end his life with the substance he had spent a lifetime immunizing himself against is anyone’s guess. No one knows how he died, it’s possible he asked a friend to sword him to death.
The practice of immunizing oneself against poison by taking non-lethal doses is known today as “mithridatism.”
I believe you know where I’m going with this…
By exposing ourselves to manageable doses of order and chaos we build up an immunity to them. Just like in cognitive behavioral therapy, which is tremendously successful at helping people deal with phobias.
But how do we expose ourselves to manageable doses of order and chaos? That’s up next.
Where And How To Experience Order And Chaos In Daily Life
Life is the best teacher. As we live our lives we experience order and chaos every day. How can we know whether we’re experiencing order or chaos? Pay attention to how you’re thinking and feeling. Order and chaos are constructs of the mind, so it’s by minding our mind that we can become aware whether we’re in chaos or in order. If you’re inner world is ordered, then you are in order, if it’s chaotic, then you’re in chaos. Everyone experiences life in their own way, so it’s up to you to determine what brings chaos and order to your life. For example:
Teenagers go to high school every day. That’s order. As a teenager, every weekday I would wake up, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and leave the house by 7.30 in the morning. That’s order. At school, I would take the same classes every week, with the same teachers, following the same schedule, in the same classrooms with the same classmates. Order, order, order.
But it wasn’t all order, chaos would always make an appearance. Someone would fart in the middle of class (I went to an all boys high school, so this happened constantly) and everyone would burst out laughing. Chaos. A teacher would call in sick and we would get the period off. Chaos. A fight would break out between two or more students. Even more chaos.
The Dance Of Chaos And Order
Chaos and order are constantly dancing into and out of our lives. That’s what makes life fun! The trick to learning how to navigate them is using Discipline to immunize ourselves against their disruption.
This doesn’t mean life becomes boring, on the contrary, with Discipline we can choose when to add chaos to order or order to chaos. Discipline allows us to become tricksters. And tricksters have the most fun 😉
How I Practice Discipline
For example, I follow a powerful (and strict) morning routine. I wake up, exercise, meditate, hypnotize myself, read and work, in that order. My “morning” routine goes from 5 in the morning until 1 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
That is order.
Strict, stiff, inflexible order. It’s so orderly and predictable it could even be called boring. But by starting my life in such an orderly manner I experience a stable base from which to create effectively. Too much order in our lives leads to staleness, but too much chaos and we can have no discernible pattern for long term planning. And success demands long term planning.
So by starting the day in such an orderly fashion, I can then allow my life in the second half of the day to dip into chaos. The second half of the day is when I engage in the activities which I can’t predict (which is the definition of chaos, “an unpredictable process”).
I Allow Chaos Into My Life
This is when I meet people and have conversations with them, you never know where a good conversation will lead, that’s chaos. Or I go for a walk in the city or in the forest. Again, never know what one might experience when out on a walk. Or my partner and I go to a dance class (before the restrictions). Or I read a new book or watch a new documentary (sometimes a show).
The second half of the day is when I allow chaos to enter my world through people, places and learning.
Of course, not every day of my life is like this, but most of my most peaceful and productive days are. See? Relaxed tension. This is where we shine as humans. In this region balanced between the known and the unknown; between chaos and order.
And how do you achieve that balance?
Again, one word: DISCIPLINE
We can be Disciplined in order. And we can be Disciplined in chaos. It takes discipline to establish order in the midst of our chaotic world; it also takes discipline to break order down and allow chaos to reign.
By choosing to expose ourselves to manageable doses of chaos and order we become capable of managing the bigger, more disruptive doses. Like Mithridates, but with less poison.
So, if discipline is so important to this process, how can we go about acquiring it?
That’s what follows.
How To Cultivate Discipline
I’ll be forthcoming, I was not always Disciplined. As a child I was a disciplined video game player and an undisciplined student. As a teenager I was a disciplined video game player and student. As a young adult I was completely undisciplined in all things except drinking, getting high and playing video games or watching television. No, that’s not true; I was Disciplined at hanging out with friends. I’m surprised I managed to have the modicum of professional success I did, considering I was so terribly undisciplined.
That all changed when I touched bottom and realized that if I kept living my life the way I was I would regret it when I was in my deathbed.
Slowly, glacially slowly, I began cultivating Discipline as a young adult, in my late-mid twenties. I’ll be honest, cultivating Discipline takes years, it isn’t easy. But when compared to the eventual suffering of living an undisciplined life and regretting it once it’s too late, cultivating Discipline is easy. I’d rather be Disciplined now, create the life I want to live, than be undisciplined, leave my dream life unrealized and regret it when I’m old and worn out. Perspective is everything.
And how do you cultivate discipline?
By doing the things you know to be good for you, even though you don’t want to do them.
That’s it. That’s the secret. Read this article for more on that.
Every Time We Beat Resistance, Our Discipline Grows
Every time you put on your running shoes and go on a run, even though a part of you doesn’t want to, you cultivate discipline. Every time you wake up early and get out of bed, even though you want to stay warm under the covers, that’s cultivating discipline. Every time you sit down (or stand up) to work, even though you’d rather play video games or watch television, you become more disciplined.
In other words, every time you overcome Resistance, your Discipline grows.
Also, this isn’t an all-or-nothing situation. If you’re experiencing Resistance at going on a 10 km run and are unable to overcome it, then go for a 5 km run. If that doesn’t allow you to overcome Resistance then do a 1 km run. Still Resisting? Then do a 500 m walk. All that matters is that you overcome Resistance to the activity. That builds Discipline. It’s like magic. We’re all human, we all have moods, the trick is to negotiate with yourself! Don’t let Resistance win!
Here are some more examples of activities that cultivate Discipline:
- Waking up early (probably the most powerful thing we can regularly do, read “The 5AM Club” by Robin Sharma)
- Hypnosis (Repogram.ME is phenomenal for this)
- Sleeping on the floor (no joke, voluntary discomfort builds discipline)
- Trying new things, in spite of feeling fear
- Meditating at the same time every day
- Exercising (Six Degree Flow is perfect for this)
Basically, doing any activity that is hard, or uncomfortable, but is good for us, builds Discipline.
And as our Discipline grows, we become masters of ourselves; our time, our focus, our energy and our activities.
And that, dear reader, is the stuff success is made of.
To our wealth and success.