Trading in Discipline for Devotion

It is true that dedication, perseverance and focus are needed to reach a goal, especially the hardest ones. But some days the path of excellence – whether in career, parenting or living – can feel difficult and heavy. Waking up with the desire to meditate, write the blog and make the organic meal can somedays feel impossible – especially because my ability to do these things everyday can be out of my control. A child up with a nightmare can derail a 5am writing session. A volatile day in the markets can have me working unexpectedly until dinner. The pursuit of “more” can feel impossible on certain days, particularly for us ambitious women.

There is no arriving at the destinations of good health, a happy personal life or a successful career. These are life-long pursuits, as we know. Yet, the desire for a future version of these things are great drivers of our action, today. They are motivating, inspiring and give us purpose. We have to take concerted, repeated action to materialize these goals. Different than when we were climbing the corporate ladder in our 20s, now we also have many hats to wear as wives, mothers and caretakers that can slow our ability to move towards goals in a swift, straight-forward way.

I have been reflecting on how an ethos for discipline and ambition can dance more harmoniously within our roles as women, with demanding jobs and loved ones to prioritize. Where is the place discipline and pursuit can fit with the rest of real life?

One idea? Shifting our approach from discipline to devotion.

Disciplined…to a point

Discipline has been a useful and effective theme for me, because it has been (mostly) true that A+B => C. Yet, this approach can be unforgiving and imprisoning. There’s a constant drive to do more and better, which can trigger those of us with perfectionist tendencies. There’s a belief that if you just did the work – faster, harder and more of it – you’d get the results. Eventually, life slows you and shows you that all is not under your control.

A focus on discipline can create success getting you to an end goal by taking specific steps, it just feels unrelenting, inflexible and even punishing. A discipline-first approach can’t afford a sick-day, to eat birthday cake or handle school holidays.

Hopelessly devoted to…

What can handle these normal life events and still move us towards our goals? Devotion. Yes, I am dedicated to excellence in my work, to others, to my health. But in a devotional approach to these pillars, the focus is on my intent, inputs and the full view of my life. I am not simply focused on a rigid process that is measured by obtaining an end goal.

Being devoted to my work allows me to put in 1 hours or 10 hours in a day, ebbing to care for sick children or going out for a lunch with a friend and then catching up with emails in the school parking lot. Being devoted to my health includes intermittent fasting and green juices, but also birthday cake. Devotion to my self care gives me permission not to fast on certain days because hormones or travel don’t support it that week.

Being devoted as a philosophy feels better to me. It feels do-able. Sustainable.

In this paradigm, I can work hard and set baller-type goals while factoring in other responsibilities, some of which I can control. I can wake up with the strong determination I did 20 years ago while having much more freedom by which I carry that determination out. Rigidity disappears. The desire and my hard work don’t.

What do you think on the distinction between devotion and discipline? Share it with me.

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