At work we have something called non-goals. A non-goal is something important and interesting that you may want to work on, but intentionally opt not to, simply because other priorities matter more. Relegating something to a non-goal takes discipline – particularly when that thing is sparkly and alluring and potentially even more fun than the real goals.
It’s easy to think about discipline in terms of what we do in our lives. This is how I’ve looked at it for years, going through days in awe of my “disciplined” friends who do things like rise every morning at 5am to run or write a certain number of words every day or meditate for 30 minutes before their kids wake up. It’s harder to think about discipline in terms of what we don’t do.
More and more, I’m realizing discipline has two sides to it – it’s being mindful both about what we do, and what we don’t do. In my life right now, discipline is about doing less and being more. It’s about not rising at 5am if it means exhausting myself for the rest of the day. It’s about resting versus pushing through an injury, giving my body time to heal. It’s about putting my children’s needs ahead of my own. It’s about the tender balance between “going for it” and intentionally not going for it. It’s about goals, but it’s also about non-goals.
In a recent New York Times article, Gretchen Reynolds covered a small study concluding that pushing through fatigue to reach new levels of physical performance isn’t necessarily good for us. While working at our physical edge does offer benefits, crossing the chasm into flat-out exhaustion may not. This training lesson is also be a life lesson – reminding us that true discipline involves finding our own individual edge, but staying on side of it that keeps us well.
How does discipline show up in your life right now? Is it harder to stay focused on goals or realistic about non-goals?
Photo by Anya Quinn via Flickr Creative Commons