Have you ever thought about the Freedom of Self-Discipline?
There is a great paradox about personal freedom. Each of us longs for freedom and the ability to “do whatever I want.” And, yet, the people who seem to have the most freedom also happen to be the most disciplined, the most focused, and the most self-directed.
For many people, personal freedom is about doing whatever they want, whenever they want. For them, freedom means being able to act on impulse, sleep all morning, eat anything an everything they desire, come and go as they please, charge their credit cards to the max, or take unlimited vacations. Now, none of those things are necessarily “evil” but, taken to the extreme, they lead to something very different from personal freedom. They lead to debt. They lead to addictions. They lead to loss of health and mobility. They lead to chaos or conflict or frustration. An undisciplined life can lead to disappointment and pain.
I’ve come to realize that “discipline” is inevitable. We either discipline ourselves or life brings other people or circumstances to our lives to do it for us. We either practice self-discipline or pretty soon our creditor’s “encourage” us to work more hours. Our bosses “encourage” us to work harder or smarter. Our families “encourage” us to fulfill our responsibilities and “behave ourselves.” Taken to the extreme, eventually people with uniforms and special titles like policeman or judge or doctor will structure our time and our lives for us.
I realize I’m painting a fairly dire picture in my latest example, but I think it makes the point. We either learn to structure our own lives around worthwhile passions and goals, or we pay a penalty – the loss of the very freedom we cherish.
The paradox of freedom is that it is the RESULT of a great life, not the raw material. If we start by living a totally free and undisciplined life, true freedom slips away. It gets lost in a thousand petty or careless “little” decisions that eventually deny us the life we truly desire. I have learned that self-discipline is not the antithesis but the means to personal freedom and fulfillment in life.