On Discipline And Rest
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On Discipline And Rest

It’s hard to gage a situation accurately, especially when we believe that our worth is on the line.

On Discipline And Rest
Imogen Hendricks
What does it mean to be disciplined?

As I prepared to write this article, I opened up the Merriam-Webster and Oxford English Dictionaries in order to get a better sense of the word discipline. What I found surprised me, especially as the first entry that my eyes landed on consisted of one single word: punishment.

It was not what I expected and certainly not the kind of definition I had in mind. Instead of finding what I was looking for – a succinct way of putting into words a practice that I feel has had the greatest impact on how I approach my work and my life – I found a distinctly negative and discouraging point of view. In fact, the OED’s first section of entries all fall under the category of “senses relating to punishment.” Only after scrolling through three disheartening definitions did I find something close to what I was looking for, “senses relating to training, instruction, or method.” Now, I thought, we’re getting close. But one definition after the other related to conformity, rigidity, order, and a certain “molding of the mind.” The one thing that I found that even approached my idea of discipline was listed under “obsolete, rare:” a period or course of training or education.

But even then, that didn’t cover it. What defines “training” or “education”? How do you know when it’s done? How long is a “period” or a “course?” What's the ultimate goal? How do you accomplish it?

So instead of searching for concrete definitions, I thought I would brainstorm everything that society had taught me about discipline:

rise and grind

never give up

“push through”

never say never

anything’s possible

work work work

no days off

work-life balance? eh, maybe not…

not knowing when to stop

not being able to stop, period

becoming attached to the idea of greatness

basing your self-worth on your work

judging yourself based on the outcomes and not the processes by which you achieved said outcomes

Though at first I started off listing slogans and broad messages, my brainstorm quickly turned into an analysis of the negative messages I had received in past years about what it meant to work hard.

Looking at the list now, I think it’s time for a paradigm shift, a thought adjustment.

Here, my friends, is what discipline means to me:

hauling your ass to the music building after so many days off and being scared that you’re going to suck, but it’s all right, everything’s fine, respect yourself enough to believe that your skills outlast a few days of rest.


There’s nothing there about punishment, about molding the mind, about an intense or rigorous search for order among the chaotic world of social media, Netflix, and candy bars.

It’s about trust. (What a novel idea.) Trust and respect and…*gasp*… rest.

Trusting that showing up is all you need to do for things to start falling back into place. Respecting yourself and your gifts in the face of self-doubt (if you can’t unlearn how to ride a bike in fifteen years, then you also can’t unlearn how to play an instrument in four days). And rest.

Oh, this is a tough one, guys.

What does it mean to be disciplined?
Recognizing that resting is not "giving in."

If there’s one thing I’ve always struggled with, it’s finding the delicate balance between when to keep going and when to stop. I’ve learned that there are no set rules about hard work and rest that can apply easily to every situation. Nothing is cookie-cutter, and nothing is certain. Each balance is precarious. Each decision requires extensive thought and reflection and we don’t always get it right.

It’s hard to gage a situation accurately, especially when we believe that our worth is on the line. We push ourselves past our comfort zones and even outside the limits of what is safe and possible, chasing dreams with the urgings of society ringing in our ears, telling us to just do it, that without risk there is no reward, implying that reward is the ultimate goal (hint: it’s not).

Risks are what give something worth, we tell ourselves. Nothing is impossible if we really put our minds to it, we rationalize. Comfort zones become a distant memory as we push ourselves further and further. Small successes along the way only make those cheering us on cheer louder and we think that, though we’re drained and exhausted and maybe falling out of love with the process, it will all be worth it in the end. If we ever find the end. The cheering is so loud and so warm and so wonderful that we don’t ever want it to stop. Why take a break and risk our cheerleaders losing interest?

What does it mean to be disciplined?

Listening hard enough to care for yourself when you need it.

The trouble with cheering is that it tends to drown out everything else. We forget to listen to ourselves. Because although in any endeavor worth fighting for, it is recommended to take doubts, fear, and cautionary thoughts (oh my!) with a grain of salt (or maybe a whole handful of the stuff), I want to remind you that our bodies function as excellent barometers: they predict trouble ahead. It’s only possible to ignore the warning signs for a short while before our bodies force us to listen. I’ve been struck down by sudden and unshakeable colds, achy joints, and piercing headaches all because I needed a break and didn’t want to take one.

In the very recent past, I had trouble listening because I thought that if I wasn’t working hard 300% of the time, I didn’t deserve success of any kind. I’ll admit that those pesky thoughts rear their ugly heads and try to pull me down, even now. Especially when I’m lying in bed with a massive headache, trying to sleep off the nausea crippling my whole body. You should be in the music building, they whisper, practically salivating at my self-doubt. You don’t deserve to be a musician if you’re not willing to do the work. What’s a stomach ache when you have an audition coming up in a month? These thoughts are cruel. But though they’re in my head, they don’t come from me.

No one should ever speak to themselves that way. Treating yourself like a failure only results in more harbored resentment for the craft itself. You come to associate feeling low with the art and suddenly those nasty thoughts whisper something new into your mind: that giving up all together would get rid of this kind of pain for good.

What does it mean to be disciplined?
Doing what you need to do and not giving a f*ck about what your self-doubt says.

What I’ve come to realize, and what I’m continually affirming to myself as I weather self-doubt, business, and exhaustion, is that allowing myself to rest when I need it demonstrates incredible discipline, and not the punishment kind.

Discipline: a multi-faceted state of reaching for goals without forgetting the present.

The present is where we live, remember? The present is what feeds us and grounds us. Maybe the future gives us courage, maybe the past gives us perspective, but the present gives us sustenance. Sustenance we desperately need.

Reward is not the ultimate goal. Work is the goal. And if you sit down, then you’ve already accomplished great things.
What does it mean to be disciplined?
Putting down your phone and doing the damn work.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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