Stick To It: The Importance of Commitment and Discipline

“Nothing beautiful comes without some suffering” 

The Dalai Lama

There is no way around it: to make anything worthwhile happen, including all the great intentions we have set for the new year – some degree of effort will be necessary. When I say effort, I actually mean the two words that tend to make so many of us cringe “discipline” and “commitment”.

These words immediately trigger a strange reaction for many of us. We associate discipline with rigidity, dryness, even boredom. Many people hear the word discipline and immediately feel lazy. We don’t have the energy for discipline. Which is particularly weird, as if you think about it smartly, discipline is a huge energy saver. It eliminates distractions and helps us focus on what really matters and what we really want, instead of focusing on the thousands of things that stand in the way of those aspirations and dreams. One of the best definitions of discipline for me is “discipline is refraining from what you want now in favor of what you want most” So right now I want to stay in bed but what I want most is to meditate. Now I want to scroll through my phone but what I want most is to exercise/practice/call my mom. Discipline saves energy and adds flavour, texture and energy to our lives like nothing else can.

It requires investment

So why is it so hard? Because first you need to invest energy before you can get it back. We are tired. So very tired all the time. We are tired because we spend the energy we have in things that deplete us of energy and not in things that nourish us. It’s just so very dumb. Can you imagine investing your money like this?

Shopping/talking/scrolling/gossiping distract us from our tiredness for a while, and are so easy. We loooooove easy. Loooooooooove it. And the fact that those things eat our energy up is forgotten, or ignored, and the things that could truly nourish us remain reserved for the time when we will miraculously have energy again. Cycle complete.

Breaking habits

Creating a new habit is hard, but breaking old ones is even harder. The pathway has been made in our brain and has been repeated over and over for a very long time. The only way to break old habits and make new ones is with discipline and its sister: sacrifice. Something’s gotta give. It is not possible to sleep and eat and shop and talk as much as you want. To watch all films and have sex with all people and drink all wine and still progress internally. Believe me, I tried. Everything I always wanted was to eat sweets every day and lose weight. I cried and cried over the injustice of not being able to do just that. Until I realized that something had to give: either eat sweets and be happy or don’t eat sweets and be happy.  Find your direction, make that sacrifice and stick with it.

Developing a phobia

And then we get into the second cringe-worthy word, the one that even has a phobia associated with it “commitment”. Because one day of discipline is not enough. You gotta have it tomorrow also, and the day after and the day after that. It needs to be established in your life not as a sacrifice you do grudgingly, but one you offer up to the best in you gladly and with love. 

You’ve done it before

As you can read elsewhere in the newsletter, you have done this before.  If you ever had to finish a study, progress in a career, learn a new skill- you’ve had to do it! You’ve had to practice or study or sacrifice your social life many times and over a long period. Maybe you didn’t think in terms of discipline and commitment at the time, because when we are completely convinced that we want something, we simply don’t call it discipline. It’s just what we do. 

And that’s the key to stick to those brand new or ancient New-Year resolutions: choose things you truly, honestly want to cultivate or change in your life. They don’t have to be big or fancy, just true. And every time old habits start to pull you back, every time you get lazy or you see that excuses are whispering sweet things again in your ear, remind yourself that you have the right, the ultimate gift, to act as you really WANT TO, and not only as habits want you to. Don’t worry about the results, just find every day the determination to stick to what you believe is right. What you do with your energy and time is an incredibly powerful tool. Use it well.

The author:

Anat Geiger, based in Amsterdam, is ½ of The Fat Yogis duo alongside Marcel van de Vis Heil. Anat took her first yoga class in 1996 and immediately found something that she, without knowing it, had always been looking for. After studying intensively with Teresa Caldas and Dona Holleman she found Paul and Suzee Grilley who remain her teachers today.
Anat is now a well-respected Functional Yoga teacher herself, teaching both students and teachers around the world.

Feedback