Discipline and Personal Development

What does a discipline approach have to do with personal development?

When a person subscribes to my newsletter, the automated system prompts an inquiry as to how the person found out about it. Responses range from parents seeking ways to reduce their stress and promote responsible behavior to teachers struggling with classroom discipline issues. Every once in a while someone explains that while they are not a parent or a teacher, they find the discipline information I provide enlightening and want to use it for personal development.

That’s a very perceptive answer, because when you use the discipline approaches I outline (positivity, choice, and reflection), you are engaging in a paradigm shift. To quote Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “A paradigm is like a new pair of glasses; it affects the way you see everything in your life.”

Being positive with oneself and others, being aware that we ALWAYS have a choice in our responses, and using reflection to actuate behavioral change is, for most of us, a paradigm shift. Practicing these three noncoercive principles promotes responsibility, increases our effectiveness, improves our relationships, and reduces stress.

In a way it is, as Covey says, like being fitted for and wearing new glasses. It takes a little getting used to, but the brain adapts by making new neural connections. The more we practice, the stronger the reinforcement, the more glial cells our brain manufactures, and the easier and more creative we are in the use of the principles.

So as not to fall back on previous habits and approaches, it is necessary always to be AWARE of our choices. This is what is meant in the expression, “Live in the present.” You can do this very simply by saying to yourself before any action, “I am choosing to . . . .”

In fact, teaching young people—and yourself—to start with this internal dialog, “I am choosing to . . . , ” is perhaps the most effective way to live a more fulfilling life. The reason is that awareness is the first step toward being in control and changing unsuccessful habits.