Do you want to know my secret for getting things done even when I may be feeling overwhelmed or uninspired? It’s been learning to practice the art of compassionate discipline. And if I were to be honest with you, compassionate discipline is the life hack that helps me live a happier, more fulfilling life.

I know that from the outside, it probably looks like I’m happy all the time. And not only am I happy, but I am sure it looks as if I have all my ducks in a row. Yes, I will admit that I get a lot of stuff done. And most of the time, I’m a pretty happy gal. However, that doesn’t mean that life is perfect.

Since I’ve already shared that the key is compassionate discipline, know that the “compassionate” part if just as important as the discipline part. That’s because in order to be happy, sometimes I have to give into that rebel in my heart.

I love the rhythm of my daily life and, even when my inner rebel overrules my inner planner, I know that the quality of this life I’ve created life depends on the balance between the two.

Just like you, there are days I wake up, look at that to do list, and have zero desire to do a single task.

I drag my feet and suddenly decide that my office needs to be vacuumed or that we just won’t survive the night if I don’t go to the grocery store right this moment and buy a quart of organic half and half and ten cans of tomatoes. And even when I give into these urgent impulses (aka ways to procrastinate), I still manage to hit my deadlines and make the important things happen.

It’s all about the art of compassionate discipline.

I’m sure you’ve heard that in order to be happy, you need to just stop doing the things you hate and follow your bliss. Call me a wet blanket, but to be constantly permissive and give into every whim is irresponsible. That’s giving into your inner two year old, and if that were the case, we’d all have chips and chocolate every day for dinner and wear a ballerina tutu to run errands.

Only “following your bliss” can be a form of self-neglect, not self-love.

So, let’s look at the flip side of that and be really honest, kitten. There are probably dozens of things we all too that aren’t necessary. We’re so busy being busy as some badge of honor to prove our worthiness that we find ourselves overwhelmed. So, take a good look and just stop doing the crap that doesn’t really matter.

Just get clear on the consequences of ditching said crap. This is an act of self-love that is not just compassionate. This is also a form of discipline.

The truth is, we humans feel better when we accomplish tasks and reach goals. By practicing compassionate discipline, I get to feel that sense of accomplishment. And thanks to learning to be compassionate with myself, I am not as prone to falling prey to my inner critic.

Taking stock of what’s really important and what’s not. Commit to not doing the unimportant things anymore. That’s compassionate discipline.

But does that fact that scrubbing a toilet doesn’t feed our bliss that we should just skip it? Sure, you can hire someone to clean the house and mow the lawn and effectively delegate many of the tasks you don’t love. Let’s be honest: who really loves folding laundry? So, sometimes, we do these things we don’t love because they need to done (aka the consequences of not doing them are going to affect our quality of life).

This is where discipline comes in. Self-discipline is how we move from desire to reality. We commit to doing the work to get from here to there. But this is also a compassionate way to look at life. When you actively create a daily life that you love – one that feels nourishing and supportive – we have to set a standard for the quality of our life.

So as a way of loving ourselves and nourishing the standards we set, we have do things that don’t feed our bliss. But they sure make us feel blissful when they are regularly done.

To constantly live by the iron fist of my inner planner would sap the joy out of living. Though it can appear to be procrastination, sometimes the best thing I can do for my sense of well-being is to walk away from my to-do list and get lost in the grocery store. Or just go for a walk. Seriously, what’s the point of tying myself to my desk to manage an overzealous list of tasks when I’m presented with the first sunny day in a week? It feeds my soul to soak up the sun today and get back to my desk tomorrow.

This is self-love. This is compassionate. But there is an air of discipline to it as well.

We have to extend ourselves grace on a regular basis. We need to find the pleasure and the joy in our life. Otherwise, the achievements we make lose their sparkle and we’re never really satisfied.

I was talking about compassionate discipline with a client recently and she asked for me to explain it, so I shared my best example.

We all have our things. Some of us need shiny bathrooms and some of us need organized underwear drawers. I’m not one to judge on anyone’s things, because, of course, I have my own. One of my things? A kitchen sink free of dishes.

Getting up in the morning to dishes in the sink is like torture. Sure, I love luxuriously cooking a meal. But I also love hitting the kitchen for what I need (coffee, water, a snack) and running. I want to be able to rinse out a pot without knocking over glasses. And if the first thing I see in the morning is a stack of dishes, it makes me cranky. It makes me feel unloved. It makes me feel like I’m neglecting myself and my home.

In order to keep the sink empty, that means I have to do two things: put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and empty the dishwasher of clean dishes when they’re done. It’s a cycle.

To be frank, I hate unloading the dishwasher. I always have. But my love of an empty sink overrules my dislike of this task.

So, every night before we go to bed, either JB or I make sure the dishes are out of the sink and in the dishwasher. And every morning as the coffee brews, I unload the dishwasher so that, during the day, there’s a place for dirty dishes.  (And in order to make unloading the dishwasher feel more like a game, I race the coffee pot. I “win” if I get all the clean dishes put away before the coffee pot beeps! )

This, my darling is compassionate discipline at its simplest.

Being able to take a simple task, one that needs to be done daily, allowed me to truly understand what compassionate disciple really means to me. It’s also allowed me to understand that as much as I love logic, compassionate discipline is more of an art than a science.

There are no black and white rules that work for everyone.

Here are six of the ways I’ve come to play with the art of compassionate discipline so that I can immerse myself within it instead of giving full permission to my inner rebel or my inner planner

    1. Get honest about what you need. Do this unapologetically and don’t label any of the standards as weird or silly or high maintenance. This is how we are compassionate – no name calling!
    2. Get clear on the consequences of not doing a variety of tasks. Ask about the mental and emotional costs of doing them versus not. Get really clear, too, around the rewards. This is discipline.
    3. Be honest about what can be delegated and what needs to be done. Yes, you can hire someone to come in and clean the house each week or two, which means you can probably skip some household chores. But there are things that need to be done daily – like laundry, dishes, and wiping spills off the counter. This is discipline. This is also compassionate.
    4. Dig into your mind (and your heart) and ask yourself: what’s going to bug you if it isn’t taken care of? What will make you feel sad if it’s skipped. And, what, when done, will make you feel happy or proud or accomplished?
    5. Ask yourself what needs to be maintained in order for your life to feel like ease and flow instead of feeling draggy and plugged? This is compassionate. This is also self-discipline. We create structure and systems so that life moves more smoothly.
    6. Create solid routines for yourself. And, remind yourself that there are going to be days when, for the sake of your own soul, you need to allow yoru inner rebel to have her say. And there are also going to be days where your inner disciplinarian must run the show. This is where the art comes in. It’s how we offer compassion and balance it with discipline.

Life, darling, isn’t meant to be drudgery. Life is meant to be loving and joyous.

Accomplishing our dreams and achieving our goals can seem like it comes completely from the dull and discipline side, yet we can discover that the rewards of a little discipline applied in a compassionate way brings us more love in our lives and for our lives than we thought possible.

Compassionate discipline is an art, my darling. Practicing this art will allow you to love your life and achieve your dreams. It also ensures that you love the results and feel nourished. The marriage of accomplishments and grace. And, darling, we can all use this kind of art in our worlds.

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