What’s your relationship with discipline?

Have you ever given this any thought?

I reflected on this question recently and as you will see from the picture at the bottom of this post it was a bit of an eye opener. 

I realised my relationship with discipline could definitely do with a course of couples counselling.

Historically I’d always taken a military bootcamp, ‘go hard or go home’, approach to discipline. Priding myself on my ability to deliver come hell or high water, often at great cost to my health. 

I was addicted to productivity and epically long to-do lists, only to then be riddled with guilt and a beating from my inner critic when I inevitably, and not surprisingly, didn’t complete the list.

I also noticed that my skewed relationship with discipline led me to bounce between the inertia of procrastination of bigger tasks, that I would put off and put off until I could delay no longer. To then – once I did start, literally not come up for air for moment until it was finished. No room for rest or even a slight pause until I got it completely done. It was all or nothing and left me totally wasted and burnt out over and over again. 

Does this sound familiar or am I just weird? 

It was Jocelyn K Glei host of one of my fave podcasts ‘Hurry Slowly’that introduced me to the term ‘Tender Discipline’. 

Tender discipline is where we hold ourselves tenderly and take the time to tune in and listen to what we really truly need to keep ourselves living life fully well. It’s about not attaching our value to what we do or produce, not treating ourselves like a machine and dropping the guilt and ‘productivity shame’ that can be related to that. It’s giving ourselves space to nourish ourselves so we can truly thrive. 

It’s through Jocelyn’s work prompting me to shine a light on all this that I’ve really started to change my relationship with discipline. I’ve been doing this through;

  • Creating more space to reflect (particularly time walking in nature). I talk about the importance of space here.
  • Writing a tender to-do list – which means taking a tender approach to my usual to-do list and cutting it down so it’s not only achievable but also balanced with things that lift my energy and spirits rather than drain
  • Focusing on what really matters most and letting go of what doesn’t.
  • Setting up clear boundaries and saying no more so I don’t take on extra work and tasks for others that compromises my own priorities and health. As a habitual people pleaser this has been hard.  
  • Prioritising self care as a must have rather than a nice to have.
  • Bringing mindful awareness to notice my inner critic particularly when it goes rampant shaming me because I haven’t got enough done.
My tender to-do lists helps me reassess whether I’m being realistic about what I can achieve and focusing on what truly matters. It’s as much about letting go of what doesn’t serve me and embracing what will lift my energy and mood – so I can stay focused and mentally (and physically) nourished.

It’s an ongoing process and I have to keep working at it (tenderly of course) but honestly it’s been a total game changer for me and importantly my quality of life. 

So I ask you again – what is YOUR relationship with discipline? 

Is it harsh like the proverbial stick whipping your backside, or is it tender and in service of your deepest wants and needs, (physically and mentally).

How could you be more tender with yourself?

Maybe you could do the same journalling exercise I did and see what comes up.

After all the word ‘discipline’ comes from the word ‘disciple’.

So with that in mind – how about we look at how we can be a disciple to ourselves.

Now that puts a whole different slant on the word discipline.

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What’s your relationship like with discipline? Try this simple journalling exercise and see what comes up.

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