If you haven’t heard of a guy named Jocko Willink, he’s a former Navy SEAL commander, author, and motivational speaker. Essentially, he’s a badass who applies his experience in the military for success in everyday life. For example, he gets up at 4:30am every day to workout. Every. Single. Day. He even puts a picture of his watch on his Instagram each morning. The guy is the embodiment of discipline.
But this blog post isn’t about him, but instead is about his overarching philosophy that discipline equals freedom. While at first it seems counterintuitive, the phrase is SPOT ON.
Discipline is often associated with punishment, so that’s immediately where our brains go when we hear discipline. We associate disciplined eating with depriving ourselves of everything delicious and relegating ourselves to eating rabbit food all day. With the word discipline comes images of grueling workouts in a sweaty, grunty gym with meatheads and selfies… sooo many gym selfies.
But Willink thinks about it differently. He refers to discipline as “the root of all good qualities,” “the driver of daily execution,” and “the core principle that overcomes laziness and lethargy and excuses.”
Umm, hello?!?! Sign me up for some of that!!
Real discipline comes from within: self-discipline. Coaches, teachers, drill instructors and motivational quotes can only get us so far. Real, lasting discipline has to be self-discipline.
After reading Jocko’s book titled “Discipline Equals Freedom”, I had an ‘aha’ moment that, looking back on it now seems elementary, but at the time was an epiphany. When thinking about self-discipline over and over and what it meant for me and how to use it in my life, the word ‘habits’ crossed my mind and the proverbial light bulb lit up.
That’s when I first thought of habits as automatic self-discipline. At first, it needs to be established and conditioned, but after a while, it just becomes second nature and you don’t even have to think about having self-discipline anymore, you just do.
A simple, everyday example of this is making my bed. Growing up I don’t think I made my bed much, so it seemed weird as an adult to HAVE to make my bed. Afterall, as an adult I should be able to choose it, have the freedom to decide.
Then I read a book on willpower and learned that much like a muscle, you have to use and grow willpower to increase the amount you have. So I began with making my bed each morning as a way to have accomplished something first thing in the morning. Plus, who doesn’t like climbing into a crisp, clean bed at the end of the day, am I right?
At first I had to remind myself as if it were a chore, but it was worth it because not only did I get to crawl into it at the end of the day, but my O.C.D. tendencies were satisfied with a neater looking room.
When the discipline became automatic (aka a habit) I no longer had to remind myself. In fact, it’s now weird if I DON’T make the bed. Imagine if that were the case for you and that one goal/resolution/habit you’ve been trying to accomplish. Imagine it being weird to choose the greasy, fried option or imagine it being weird if you didn’t get your run in for a day. Game changer.
Ahhh, The Freedom
That automatic self-discipline (habits) is where the freedom comes in. You don’t have to force yourself to do it, you don’t have to choose, you don’t have to decide. It’s automatic, it’s already a given. So you have the freedom to use that brainpower and willpower and motivation elsewhere because it’s already established that you’re going to do it.
You don’t have to struggle to find time in your day or rearrange your calendar. The freedom of discipline is that you no longer have to find time, make it work, or figure it out.
It’s like the old adage that saying “no” to more things frees up your time to focus on the things you say “yes” to. If you’re disciplined to workout first thing, the rest of your day is freed up to focus on other things instead of wondering when you can squeeze in your workout. If you’re disciplined in meal planning, come lunch time you won’t have to waste time, energy, or money considering what to get that day.
Freedom lies in the discipline of having your non-negotiables automatically set into your day. When you don’t ‘feel’ like doing that workout, your bigger goal of being healthier wins because of the self-discipline in creating the habits where you workout every day no matter what. Then you’re FREE to become the future version of yourself you’ve always imagined.
And don’t be fooled. Self-discipline isn’t a God-given characteristic that only some are awarded. Discipline is a choice. It’s a choice to be better. It’s a choice to be consistent. It’s a choice to be free. Discipline equals freedom.