Growing up as an overweight teen, I became close to having diabetes because of how big I was getting. Without sports and other extracurricular activities, my body had no way of moving other than the usual day-to-day school routine. I remember that day my mom brought me in for a doctor consultation. Walking away from the big white building and towards a taxi that was conveniently waiting for passengers right in front.
The medical doctor directed me to significantly reduce or remove certain food groups from my diet, paired with exercise, to keep me on a healthy weight and remove the chances for diabetes.
This was my first memory of the concept of discipline being introduced to me.
Being celebrated as a good girl from such a young age, I followed through.
My mom helped me with the discipline of adjusting my diet as a child and making the time to walk outside for around 30 minutes after each meal.
I reached a goal weight, the diabetes scare became a distant memory and I’m good. All good.
The Good, Disciplined Girl In Me Persevered
Fast forward to years later when I find myself still clinging on to the discipline of controlled eating and forced exercise even if I’m at a healthy weight and have no physical illness to complain about.
I reached into that good girl inside of me, checking off the amount of food I allowed myself to enjoy for the day and logging the minutes for when I decide to sweat.
I was the quintessential good girl with strong internal discipline.
Elders would praise the academic awards I’ve won from not rocking the boat in school. Teachers found so much cause for celebration on how establishments reward my ability to do things in such a disciplined way. Friends sounded so proud to say I lost weight because of how disciplined I was with food.
I was so proud of this “label”…
Until the 23rd hour of every day when I will sneakily open the fridge and munch on chocolates as fast as I could to feed the starving little girl inside me who’s so tired from pretending she’s good and perfect.
Then again, years later, when I entered and thrived in corporate.
I finally was a professional. I was earning my own money, climbing the corporate ladder like it’s my life’s work.
Again, I brought discipline with me through all these. It was the only way being taught back then: to always arrive in the office early, to beef up my professional credentials, to cover my tracks in all I do, to always be ahead of the tribe especially as a woman in tech.
And again, I reached into that good girl in me who has unmeasurable strength to follow rules. I followed through with this strategy– even if it took me stressful, sleepless nights and moments of unexplainable urge to cry.
Until 5 years in and I found my hair falling out and my womb bleeding uncontrollably from immense pressure and stress. I didn’t know that was even possible.
It left me confused. How do I move forward from here? I got what I wanted financially and professionally. But my body suffered. Immensely. So much so, that it needed to “not work” just to get my attention.
Discipline: What’s The Catch?
Looking back into all that, I realized that it has grown to be such an old school concept. I’m happy to admit: being disciplined is not in alignment with me.
I won’t say it doesn’t work. It does!
But based on what I’ve experienced over the past decades of giving this way of life a “test run”, I realized that discipline is based on an external set of rules you have to follow. In spite of a protocol provided by a societally accepted “expert”, it does not mean they know everything. I find that it completely bypasses your own inner knowing, your intuition, on what’s good for you either in the moment or for the long run. It makes you doubt your own knowing because someone else who has a diploma or certificate says otherwise.
Another thing that hit me was discipline only works for a short period of time until it becomes a chore. Some people can tolerate feeling like this for years. They breathe in and hold their breath through life, pushing and forcing to get what they desire. It’s like sprinting.
The Other Way
And that’s the thing…
I don’t live life in sprints. I can’t run like hell then stop for a breather then run again. I live life with a consistent essence of grace. Like a marathon, where I get to slow down into an ease-ful (yet still challenging) pace, know my goals, and yet still see life pass by with deep appreciation for everything I see along the way.
This is why I’m 100% sure that discipline does not align with how I want to spend my life.
What aligns with me?
Devotion: The Inspiration For Long-Term Change
Instead of sticking to how others have always done things…
Instead of blindly following how they have always thought things should be…
Instead of unquestioningly absorbing the culture I grew up with…
I listen to what feels in alignment to how I want to live my life.
This is where devotion comes in. This practice of deep love and loyalty is how I desire to be directed in all I do.
It’s the gentler way, and leads to long-term transformation because it’s done with both physical action and emotional dedication.
Devotion In Real Life
When this way of living came to me one random afternoon as I was sipping my usual hazelnut latte… I was stumped with how simple and loving it is. It’s like I was reminded of something I already knew all along.
So I started replacing with devotion the parts of my life where discipline was king.
Instead of being disciplined with following trendy diets to the T and foregoing my desires (like walking outside in nature) for what’s on schedule… I’m now devoted to my body, taking care of it based on what gives it the most life and vitality. I take extra time to choose to feed it with what I’m designed to take in, with what makes it function in the best of ways. In the most effortless of ways.
Instead of pushing myself to exercise every single day, I make loving and firm decisions that may not necessarily be the most comfortable to make (e.g. choosing natural over processed, doing your research on your options) but doing so because I do what’s best for my body.
Instead of going after the money or the job promotions just because it would look great on LinkedIn, I have devoted myself to my own growth and upleveling, choosing paths that will be a safe environment for my well being, honoring my own essence and energy above all else.
Instead of constantly doubting myself, I now recognize my own inner knowing, trusting my gut on what my next step would be. I allow myself to question beliefs being handed down to me so I can formulate my own perspective.
In this way, life changes are weaved beneath the physical, beneath what needs to be forced. It creates a new identity, one that may not be the easiest to transition into at first but will eventually be digested in the long-term, and in a more graceful and ease-ful manner.
Because when you do things in love and loyalty, with devotion, it changes you. Permanently. For the better.