Self-Discipline Vs Self-Autonomy

It’s time for another showdown. Which is a better?

A life lived with strict discipline, or one where you grant yourself absolute autonomy?

It’s a question I’ve wrestled with over the past 15 years and had varying degrees of results.

I’ve always been deeply attracted to a warrior like path; one where you rise at a certain time every day; follow a strict regime of diet and exercise; meditate at very specific times, etc.

It’s has yielded some good results at times however, anytime I have embarked on such a path, I’ve only been able to sustain it for a relatively short space of time.

I know there are people out there who love that kind of lifestyle; they love regimented routine and that’s absolutely fine. But, I realised that I was pushing myself to do something, that wasn’t really suited to me.

Lets take sleep for an example, there’s a school of thought that says you should arise at 4 or 5am every single day. I used to do that. I remember back in 1998 I did that for whole year. I used to wake up at 3.45 am every day. I would then meditate for an hour and then begin my day.

Nowadays, I don’t really sleep early enough to sustain that habit. My preferred philosophy now is to listen to my body; I.e., Where possible, I avoid the use of an alarm clock, and allow my body to rise out of sleep naturally. When I do, I feel so much more refreshed and I find that more often than not, I wake up early, and am more focused for the whole day.

I also used to have a strict vegetarian (almost vegan) diet. Again, I prefer not live by that principle anymore. Why? When I was vegan, and on the move or travelling, a large proportion of my thoughts would be spent on worrying where my next vegan meal was going to come from.

Now, I prefer to be grateful at having any kind of food to nourish my body. I’m still a vegetarian, but a relaxed vegetarian. I don’t mind if my food comes from a place that also serves meat or if I eat egg. The food that I have, I just give thanks that I’m in such a privileged position to have food in front of me.

I don’t believe that one one path is right and the other is wrong. I do believe that we are all unique and what may work for some, my not work for others. I am more concerned about finding the right path for me. I am more inspired to with work with myself in finding a synergy that allows me to be at my best.

In recent months, I’ve found that by employing this attitude of autonomy, I feel much more content and alive. I don’t feel like I’m putting myself under any kind of duress.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still a huge amount of discipline involved, even on the path of autonomy. I still have to remind myself to be grateful for food; for the gift of having legs to move around; for having eyes to see wonders; for having lips to kiss my incredibly beautiful girlfriend. :LOL: I’ve had to work hard to cultivate the attitude of gratitude.

The key difference is the act of chastising. People on the disciplined path are often harsh on themselves when they break routine. I don’t think it’s necessary and I believe it can do more harm than good.

I know this is potentially quite a contentious subject, and one that could draw out some strong opinions. The key for me, is that discipline, should not turn in obsession. How do I define obsession? Quite simply, if it occupies my thoughts, and takes me away from being present and grateful, then it’s not a good thing.

If I could talk to me 15 years ago I would definitely share the same message that a strict, regimented disciplined life is unnecessary. I would encourage myself to try and understand what the power of self-autonomy can really do; how it can make me feel incredibly centered and feel like doing even more.

What about you? Which of the two schools of thought do you employ? Are a disciplinarian? Or an autonomarian? (yes, it’s a word I made up!) 😛

2 Responses

  1. Mark Bliss says:

    I tend to take the path of autonomy. By being consciously aware of the thoughts that I allow into my mind I can be assured that the habits that I create are assisting me on my life path towards the goals that I desire.

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