Despite my love of logic and structure, I have the heart of a rebel. Some days, I look at my running to do list and though I know exactly what needs to be done, I drag my feet and suddenly decide that my office needs to be vacuumed or that we just won’t survive the night if I don’t go to the grocery store right this moment and buy a quart of organic half and half and ten cans of tomatoes. And even when I give into these urgent impulses (aka ways to procrastinate), I still manage to hit my deadlines and make the important things happen.
I love the rhythm of my daily life and, even when my inner rebel overrules my inner planner, I know that the quality of this life I’ve created depends on the balance between the two.
It’s all about the art of compassionate discipline.
I’m sure you’ve heard that in order to be happy, you need to just stop doing the things you hate and follow your bliss. Call me a wet blanket, but to be constantly permissive and give into every whim is irresponsible.
It’s also self-neglect, not self-love. That’s giving into your inner two year old, and if that were the case, we’d all have chips and chocolate every day for dinner and wear a ballerina tutu to run errands.
As a part of being a better custodian to myself and my life, I need to play with all sides of compassionate discipline.
Let’s be honest, kitten. There are probably dozens of things we all do that aren’t necessary. We’re so busy being busy as some badge of honor to prove our worthiness that we find ourselves overwhelmed. So, take a good look and just stop doing the crap that doesn’t really matter. Just get clear on the consequences of ditching said crap. Right? That’s self-love. That’s compassionate. That’s discipline.
It means taking stock of what’s really important and what’s not. Commit to not doing the unimportant things anymore.
That’s compassionate discipline. But does that fact that scrubbing a toilet doesn’t feed our bliss mean that we should just skip it? Sure, you can hire someone to clean the house and mow the lawn and effectively delegate many of the tasks you don’t love. Let’s be honest: who really loves folding laundry? So, sometimes, we do these things because they need to done (aka the consequences of not doing them are going to affect our quality of life).
This is where discipline comes in. Self-discipline is how we move from desire to reality. We commit to doing the work to get from here to there. But this is also a compassionate way to look at life. When you actively create a daily life that you love – one that feels nourishing and supportive – we have to set a standard for the quality of our life.
As a way of loving ourselves and nourishing the standards we set, we have to do things that don’t feed our bliss. But they sure make us feel blissful when they are regularly done.
To constantly live by the iron fist of my inner planner would sap the joy out of living. Though it can appear to be procrastination, sometimes the best thing I can do for my sense of well-being is to walk away from my to-do list and get lost in the grocery store. Seriously, what’s the point of tying myself to my desk to manage an overzealous list of tasks when I’m presented with the first sunny day in a week? It feeds my soul to soak up the sun today and get back to my desk tomorrow.
This is self-love. This is compassionate.
But there is an air of discipline to it as well. We have to extend ourselves grace on a regular basis. We need to find the pleasure and the joy in our life. Otherwise, the achievements we make lose their sparkle and we’re never really satisfied.
I was talking about compassionate discipline with a client recently and she asked for me to explain it, so I shared my best example.
We all have our things. Some of us need shiny bathrooms and some of us need organized underwear drawers. I’m not one to judge on anyone’s things, because, of course, I have my own. One of my things? A kitchen sink free of dishes.
Getting up in the morning to dishes in the sink is like torture. Sure, I love luxuriously cooking a meal. But I also love hitting the kitchen for what I need (coffee, water, a snack) and running. I want to be able to rinse out a pot without knocking over glasses. And if the first thing I see in the morning is a stack of dishes, it makes me cranky. It makes me feel unloved. It makes me feel like I’m neglecting myself and my home.
In order to keep the sink empty, that means I have to do two things: put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and empty the dishwasher of clean dishes when they’re done. It’s a cycle.
To be frank, I hate unloading the dishwasher. I always have. But my love of an empty sink overrules my dislike of this task. So, every night before we go to bed, either JB or I make sure the dishes are out of the sink and in the dishwasher. And every morning as the coffee brews, I unload the dishwasher so that, during the day, there’s a place for dirty dishes. (I race the coffee pot, by the way. That way, at least the task feels a little more like a game 😉. )
This, my darling is compassionate discipline at its simplest. This is how I finally began to understand that it’s an art, not a science. There are no black and white rules that work for everyone.
Here are some of the ways I’ve come to play with the art of compassionate discipline so that I can immerse myself within it instead of giving full permission to either my inner rebel OR my inner planner:
Get honest about what you need.
Do this unapologetically and don’t label any of the standards as weird or silly or high maintenance. This is how we are compassionate – no name calling!
Get clear on the consequences of not doing a variety of tasks.
Ask about the mental and emotional costs of doing them versus not. Get really clear, too, around the rewards. This is discipline.
Be honest about what can be delegated and what needs to be done.
Yes, you can hire someone to come in and clean the house each week or two, which means you can probably skip some household chores. But there are things that need to be done daily – like laundry, dishes, and wiping spills off the counter. This is discipline. This is also compassionate.
Dig into your mind (and your heart) about what’s going to bug you if it isn’t taken care of.
What will make you want to avoid coming home? What are you going to regret not doing come Friday? What’s going to bounce around in your head and make you feel cranky or angry? What’s going to make you sad if you skip? What’s going to make you feel happy or proud or accomplished?
Ask yourself what needs to be maintained in order for your life to feel like ease and flow.
Instead of feeling draggy and plugged? This is compassionate. This is also self-discipline. We create structure and systems so that life moves more smoothly.
Remind yourself that though routines help, there are going to be those days when you have to completely give yourself over to your inner rebel so that your soul feels nourished. And there are also going to be days where your inner disciplinarian must run the show. This is where the art comes in. It’s how we offer compassion and balance it with discipline.
Life, darling, isn’t meant to be drudgery. Life is meant to be loving and joyous. Accomplishing our dreams and achieving our goals can seem like it comes completely from the dull and discipline side, yet we can discover that the rewards of a little discipline applied in a compassionate way brings us more love in our lives and for our lives than we thought possible.
Compassionate discipline is an art, my darling. Practicing this art will allow you to love your life and achieve your dreams. It also ensures that you love the results and feel nourished. The marriage of accomplishments and grace. And, darling, we can all use this kind of art in our worlds.