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Discipline Will Set You Free

Discipline. For some that's an ugly word. It conjures up thoughts of your parents grounding you for sneaking out of the house, or getting detention for cutting class.

I'm not talking about the kind of discipline that is generated by others. I'm talking about self-discipline. The kind 15-year-old tennis star, Coco Gauff (photo above), requires to play tennis as well as she does. I mean she started playing tennis when she was 7 years old. That's only 8 years on a tennis court! Then, not only does she qualify to make it to Wimbledon, but she then beats one of her tennis idols, Venus Williams!

But there are only a handful of Coco Gauffs on this planet. The rest of us might never make it to a world stage, but self-discipline is just as important for our success and happiness as it is for any star athlete or performer.

Self-Discipline Leads to Self-Love

In the philosophy of Yoga, Tapas is the Sanskrit word derived from the Yoga ethical guidelines called Namas (things not to do-restraints) and Niyamas (things to do-observances). Kripalu describes Tapas as self-discipline, training your senses.

Kids are constantly told by parents and teachers to work hard in school, on their homework, in sports, on stage, music, etc. But they're not told why. Sure, they're told it's important to get good grades so they can go to a good college, get a scholarship or impress somebody else. It's rarely about how self-discipline and working hard is good for the soul.

Self-Discipline Leads to Confidence

I heard Coco Gauff say that if she doesn't think she could beat someone on the tennis court, she doesn't show up on the court. That kind of confidence comes from setting an intention and having the self-discipline to never give up until you achieve it.

Discipline builds confidence, which leads to self-love. When we truly love ourselves, nothing can stand in our way.

Each of our Mindfulness in Motion classes that we teach to our students integrates a theme based on one of the Namas or Niyamas. We don't use the Sanskrit word, but instead we have "youthenized" Tapas by referring to it as "Working Hard."

Throughout the practice our instructors speak to the students about working hard to challenge themselves in their Yoga practice. For example, holding Yoga poses longer than usual or working hard to find stillness in their final resting pose, Savasana. This is often the hardest pose of all for them to accomplish. Being still in mind and body is the antithesis of our current culture.

Our intention is to teach them that hard work, discipline and perseverance builds confidence within themselves. Not for others to notice or reward them, but for the students to feel a sense of accomplishment in their own power to work through challenges to achieve what they want out of life.

Discipline Leads to Freedom

Hard work is a waste of time without discipline. We could work hard all day long and accomplish nothing, like a hamster on a wheel. Discipline requires motivation, commitment and consistency. When we activate those three things, working hard no longer feels like hard labor. There's a flow, like in Vinyasa Yoga, that propels us forward with ease. With discipline, there is freedom.

Discipline Can Be Life-Changing

I snapped the photograph of the father and son fishing when I was walking my dogs around a nearby lake just after sunrise. I was struck at the discipline required to make this moment happen. I thought of how the father and son set their intention to go fishing first thing in the morning. They made a choice to put time aside in their day to share quality time on a summer day while the boy was on vacation from school. Just the two of them.

I'm guessing Dad could have chosen to work, mow the lawn, sit at his computer or in front of the TV to catch up on some show he recorded. The boy could have chosen to play video games or even sleep in. Instead they were motivated, committed and consistent in their approach to make this sweet moment happen.

A father-son experience like this might require some sacrifice, but it can lay the foundation for this boy to grow up with self-love, confidence and the knowledge that with discipline he too can find freedom in achieving whatever he wants in his life.

In addition to discipline, there's plenty of sacrifice required for Coco Gauff to be as successful as she is at only 15 years old, not just by her, but by her parents as well. The hours of time on the road and the money they've spent on coaches is hard to imagine. But her success extends beyond the Gauff family. The light Coco shines on the world is a beacon for other young girls to see that with discipline, intention, confidence, and support they, too, can achieve their dreams.

How will discipline set you free? Love to hear your comments below...


Want to discover more about how to integrate discipline and mindfulness into your life and/or the youth you serve? Contact Phyllis Smith at


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