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Forced Discipline vs. Natural Discipline

I wasn't born in a rich family or country. As a small child, I didn't even know the word "poverty" existed. How could I know when I was born into a place where such opposites didn't exist? As I grew older and attended school I began to recognize when other kids had fancy things like colorful backpacks, beautiful pencils, pens, and so on. It was around this time that I started to understand the concept of "rich," how different it was from where I came from, and all the privileges that having lots of money entails. It was then that I knew that I wanted to be in that world and I studied hard to try to find a way to be part of it.

"In order to get what you want, you need to force yourself to have discipline. Set your daily schedule and strictly stick with it. Don't waste a minute in your day", advised one of my teachers during my school days. I followed his advice. Even when I was a little kid I established my daily schedule for months ahead: woke up at 5 AM, did physical exercises that I learned from school, then reviewed and prepared learning materials for that day. The first thing that I did when going back home from school was complete all the assignments before lunch or any other activities ensued.


My scheduled activities for the afternoon and evenings were comprised of learning extra materials from the books I had available to me. I didn't have access to the Internet back then. If there was ever a time that I couldn't complete my daily schedule, it made me feel guilty and mad at myself. These emotions drove me to study even harder.

After years of consistently sticking to this routine, I found good results. I ended up being at the top of my class in every subject that I pursued. But deep down inside, I was always tired and exhausted. I wanted to stop the way I forced myself to study so hard. I loved learning, but I just wanted to learn the subjects that I really liked and not the entire school program. But I couldn't stop. I couldn't let my parents down. I couldn't let the teachers who believed in me down. I couldn't let my friends who supported me down.


I was living for others. I completely forgot who I was. I let my inner-self wander away from my heart's true desire.

In college, I found myself still having a very strict daily schedule.


Time flew by and I graduated. I got a good job as a software engineer and worked really hard, still keeping my strict daily schedule of discipline. I got promoted and worked even harder. The longer this went on the more tired and exhausted I became. I continued to get promoted and work hard until one day my breaking point was reached. I quit the job that so many would have died for.


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Upon reflection, I realized that my forced discipline helped me to achieve many great things, but I wasn't happy and satisfied at all. One way or another discipline in and of itself is a vital element that one should maintain in order to have success in their life. I would have never had a good job or solid knowledge in the software development field if it had not been for my discipline.


However, I found an error in the methodology of my discipline practices as it did not come from true inner desires. When one works hard at something they truly want it comes naturally; however when someone works hard for things expected by the exterior world, this discipline is bound to burn out at some point. When I realized this, I was able to find a more sustainable mode of discipline that I like to refer to as "natural discipline" or "self-discipline".

From my experience, the core of self-discipline is to build keystone habits that are manageable and enjoyable.


I still wake up early to accomplish many different tasks, but maybe not as early as I was expected to do so before. You should still be able to be successful without having to wake up at 4 or 5 am. The early wake-up time that fits my personal biological clock makes me feel better and relaxed every morning. I oftentimes don't need an alarm as my body tells me when to wake up.


I do mindfulness practices every day of my own accord. I choose to do this because I know that it helps to start my day "right" from the beginning and it comes naturally to me.

Being mindful helps me to realize how lucky I am to be alive and it also helps me to feel grateful for what I currently have. Mindfulness doesn't have to be some grand activity. Mindfulness can be found in the tiny things that we do every day. With mindfulness, I find that I keep learning and practicing new skills but that I don't force myself to learn or practice something too much or that I don't want to. I practice mindfulness in a way that my mind can absorb and consume naturally. I break down large and overwhelming things into smaller pieces in order to learn the practice of patience and centeredness. This way I can accomplish small achievements every day and it makes me feel good and encouraged to continue on. I am able to think more clearly, and when my mind is still and clear, I automatically form good habits through natural discipline.

According to scientific research, on average, it takes about 66 days to establish a new (good or bad) habit. The first day is the hardest one, while the second day is a bit easier, the third day is even easier than that, and so on.


I want to play guitar. So, instead of forcing myself to practice for 1 hour straight, which would cause me frustration, I keep myself practicing just 15 or 20 minutes a day. I make the habit simple, doable, and achievable. Just like my daily routine such as brushing my teeth or taking a shower.


I also change from result-oriented practices to progress-oriented practices. This means, when I practice playing my guitar, I don't visualize myself as a famous player performing on a stage in front of thousands of audiences because this would create an illusion that I have already achieved success and could ultimately lead to nothing. Rather, I visualize the progress I am making every single day in order to bring myself a little bit of happiness to enjoy in the process of learning the guitar.

When I allowed myself to slow down enough to a pace that was more manageable for me in the long term, I found myself more sustained and fulfilled in my daily practices. Also, by adding mindfulness to my daily routine and making small changes such as allowing myself to wake up at a time that works for my natural preferences, I was able to incorporate self-discipline without the backlash of burnout.


Finally, I learned that it is important to work hard at things that you want in life, rather than to work hard for things you feel expected to do. I learned that discipline is a state of mind that can be found through mindfulness and consistency.

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As a little child, I thought that being rich meant just having nice things and that if you are successful that you are automatically rich. However, through my lived experiences I learned that true wealth and riches lie on the inside and that a successful person will always embody certain successful habits if they find a way to acquire these habits through the process of natural discipline. Success is found by those who do what they love and who live in a way that makes them feel fulfilled. Happiness is found on the inside when one finds purpose and meaning in their life driven by their own passions and values and works hard to manifest those purposes into goals and eventually achievements.

While I'm glad that I became disciplined from such a young age, I would go back and tell my younger self the secrets of self and natural discipline if I could. I would encourage her to find the things that she enjoyed doing and to work hard at them. I would tell myself that fancy backpacks, pencils, and pens wouldn't make me happy, but that true purpose and meaning, hard work, and mindfulness would. I would tell me that when you become naturally disciplined at something you love, the fancy pens and pencils you might have will just be the cherry on top, not the ice cream.


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Calm.Peaceful.Inspired

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