What I’m Realizing About Discipline

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word d i s c i p l i n e ? The teacher in me thinks of kids, of consequences, of profanity scrawled on bathroom walls and subsequent lunch detentions. The not-teacher in me used to solely understand discipline as being a physical practice, of working out and reaching goals, of my days in Weight Watchers, counting points like change, of P90X and The Whole 30 and the discipline required to maintain focus and motivation. But as I brace myself to return to work in twenty-seven days and process what will need to change and what can’t, I’m aware of several other areas in which discipline is critical in order to balance the stress of my job as a Special Education teacher and the stress of my diagnosis.

But, with or without a chronic pain condition, cultivating discipline is paramount to happiness. Six specific areas come to mind when considering the significance of discipline. Personally, I’m fascinated by how my relationship with these areas has had to evolve, but am aware that everyone has to wrestle with discipline depending on what season of life they find themselves in.

Physical Discipline: Keep Moving
Physical discipline is nothing new to me. I’ve written before about my journey to health, the weight I lost, and the passion for fitness I developed years before CRPS. But my approach to physical activity and exercise has had to change completely in the last year and a half as I adjust my expectations of my body and alter my intentions–exercising is no longer optional. In the CRPS community it’s often said that a patient needs to “move it or lose it” and I have found this to be true. Maintaining as active a lifestyle as possible can help greatly with flare-ups and other symptoms and, on days when my Fitbit steps are low, my flare-ups are worse. I’ve begun grappling with the fact that, once I return to work, I obviously can’t be as active as I’ve been this summer. For example, water aerobics two to three mornings each week has helped me tremendously, but unfortunately that will no longer be an option. Still, I have learned the hard way that not moving is not an option and, along with establishing regularly scheduled appointments with my care providers, I also have to schedule my physical activities every single day to make sure I get enough movement.

What’s your favorite form of activity? Whether hiking, kick-boxing, swimming or running, making your physical health a priority can lead to overall happiness in every area of your life.

The Discipline of Time Management:
Because so much planning is required in order to balance my professional and physical life, I’ve had to cultivate more discipline than ever in the area of time management. Although adhering to deadlines has never been difficult for me, (I’m a recovered perfectionist) I’ve had to take stock of what thwarts the potential of my “free” time (of which I have little during the school year), for example, getting sucked into the black of hole of social media, easy access to entertainment via the DVR and Netflix (such great inventions but so troublesome, too), not structuring healthy boundaries with others who might have more flexible schedules and different goals than I do.

Turning my phone off was an incredibly rewarding experiment, even for four days, and since then I’ve practiced discipline by putting it on airplane mode at different times during the day so that I can focus on my interests, relationships, and myself.

How do you keep from getting lost in the time-suck that the internet can be?

Discipline in Creating A Healthy Physical Space:
It’s no secret that our physical environment impacts our productivity, happiness, and stress. Earlier this year, my husband and I (and our three cats!) had to pack up and leave our house for two months while toxic mold was remediated. Our longtime dreams of a minimalist lifestyle were made a reality as we each rotated the same suitcase of clothes for those weeks away.

When we returned, the moving company unloaded the pod they had packed and Scott and I rummaged through everything we owned, organizing items into piles that would be kept, thrown away, or donated. We got rid of a lot. Seeing it all there, lined up on the driveway made it easier to let go. I tend to be incredibly sentimental, so this is one of the most challenging areas for me to practice discipline. It’s been liberating since our epic move-out to be disciplined about making intentional choices about what stays and what goes and I find that the more disciplined I am with the spaces in my home, the more likely I am to feel creative and motivated.

Do you find that you need your work space to be tidied up before beginning a project?  When was the last time you purged your belongings?

There are three other abstract areas that I’ve been learning are more difficult to practice discipline in. Any guesses what they are

Of these three, which come most naturally for you? Which are most difficult?


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