Why Self-Discipline = Freedom
13Dec 2016

Written by Lifebook Wisdom Curator, Jessi Kohlhagen

I wear a lot of hats in my life (and, if you’re a fellow human of the 21st century, it’s safe to assume you do too!).

I’m a wife, mother, careerwoman, homeschool teacher, yogi, maid, chef, chauffer… and underneath it all, I’m a human being who wants to create the best possible life for myself, and the people I love most.

If I had to pinpoint the single most important characteristic I employ to be the very best woman I can be in every area of my life, it would undoubtedly be self-discipline.

SELF-DISCIPLINE is the key to FREEDOM and FULFILLMENT everywhere in my life.

It seems counter-intuitive, I know. Self-discipline implies restraint, control, and limitation — where freedom embodies flexibility, allowance, and even indulgence.

But in my own experience, I’ve found that these two traits are inseparable… You can’t truly experience the power (and privilege) of freedom without first activating self-discipline.

You can’t have a vibrant, healthy body without applying willpower toward what you eat and how often (and well) you move.

You can’t experience the enjoyment of having a peaceful, beautiful home without spending some amount of time organizing and caring for it every single day.

You can’t be a rock star in your career without getting your hands dirty and putting in the necessary hours to get the job done well.

And we all know you can’t drink the sweet, healing nectar of a blossoming love relationship without daily cultivation and devotion to its growth.

Self-discipline is the giver, not the taker, of freedom.

By applying self-discipline I get to show up as the woman I really want to be in every area of my life, consistently.

With uncompromising self-discipline I get to accomplish light-years more than usual, and even the days that end with unfinished business feel rich with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that I simply can’t achieve any other way.

Of course, self-discipline is a lifelong practice that I’m trying to strengthen every day. I have my great days, and I have my not-so-good days, but the key is to flex these muscles as much as possible, so they become more second nature to me.

So here are some of the specific self-discipline habits I’m strengthening in my own life to create a happier, healthier, more harmonized experience for my entire family (and an all-around extraordinary quality of life):

  • I put myself first. Wake up at least one hour before my babies so I can move, sweat, breathe, shower, and make myself beautiful. My own essential needs are fulfilled for the rest of the day, and I’m free of the stress and guilt that go along with not knowing if I’ll get to fit them in.
  • I put myself last. Ultimately, I put myself first for a reason… so I have the inner reserves to put myself last for the rest of the day. This manifests itself in simple but very important ways…
    • Patiently doing the things that are required of me, regardless of whether I feel like it (dirty dishes, email replies, and answering my toddler’s same question 15 different times… I’m looking at you).
    • Responding to my husband with kindness even when I may be frustrated out of my mind.
    • Responding to my children with loving patience, even when my 4-year old is driving me up the wall.
    • Skipping a very enticing afternoon siesta to get my best work done while I have a solid block of childfree time.
  • I make the hard, good decisions. I choose salads over sandwiches, deep breaths instead of angry words, saving instead of spending, books over TV, creativity over consumption, playing with my kids instead of resting, tea instead of wine.
  • I remember that I’m the heartbeat of my home. This boils down to being conscious of the power I hold as the queen of my kingdom, and wielding that power wisely. The emotional atmosphere of our home hinges greatly on the energy I (as wife and mother – or you, in whatever role you play) bring to it. Our family’s happiness depends on our own. And that is a choice we must make every single day… but especially in the challenging moments.
  • I prepare the night before. I’ve always been a list-lover, but never have lists been as important in my life than they are now. The one that works best for me is a simple weekly checklist. I have one weekly sheet with a block for each day, and just keep my checklist organized by day. This way I can plan my entire week in advance, and add tasks as I go, based on my true availability. At the end of each workday I plan my entire next day (sometimes if it’s a super busy day I’ll even time-block things to make sure I’m being realistic with my workload). I go to sleep with the glorious freedom of an empty mind.
  • I sleep in a clean nest. I never, ever go to sleep with a messy house. Every single night I do a quick walk-through and put everything in its place, making it a beautiful, clean space to wake up to. (This is especially important because we homeschool, and our environment determines much of the energy we share throughout the day.)

Now I’d love to hear…

What are some of your most treasured self-discipline habits, and how do they contribute to greater freedom and fulfillment in your quality of life?

As always, thanks for reading and sharing the journey!



6 comments “Why Self-Discipline = Freedom”

  • Frank Vitale
    December 13, 2016
    12:10 pm

    Great article! I couldn’t agree more that while self-discipline seems to be taking away it so much more gives. In my office hangs the constant reminder: “Self-discipline weighs ounces regret weighs tons!” – Doing the things that need to be done wether you feel
    Like it or not is the very definition of self-discipline.
    Thanks for a great contribution.
    Frank Vitale –

  • Dr. Traci Kiernan
    December 13, 2016
    12:10 pm

    I haven’t read an article like this one in a long time or may be never. As a wife, a mom of two young children (14 months apart), a business owner and doctor…whew! It seems impossible sometimes to do it all. I needed this word! I have been letting certain areas go in order to make other areas grow. We all know that never works. Thank you for being an inspiration, a light, an action generator and a mobilizer. Wish I knew you…we would be friends for sure!
    Thank you for “creating” as I am “consuming!” So grateful!

  • Wilfried Ströver
    January 8, 2017
    12:10 pm

    Thank You, Jessi Kohlhagen,

    this is a reminder, I will take serously. I am shure I can benefit from it.

  • Vonda
    January 8, 2017
    12:10 pm

    So inspiring and thought provoking. I far too often settle for the whim of the moment and then — like you say — the regrets weigh tons. My resolve is renewed to take hold of self discipline one decision at a time. Thanks for the motivation!

  • Kate
    January 11, 2017
    12:10 pm

    I have always been a highly self disciplined person. In schooling, training, being a wife, mother, having a career, keeping my own self nurtured. I almost felt it was a “compulsion” when I was young, say 18or so, not quite understanding the drive to be so disciplined. I like you Jessi, came to understand it more and more as my life expanded with career, marriage and children all at once. As you juggle more in your life, that self discipline is more and more needed to make it all work. In my case, I then went back to post graduate school to become a psychoanalyst while the rest was playing its song.
    Unfortunately, the one thing I have not found addressed in Lifebook is when life throws you curve balls like tragic illnesses. This disrupts self discipline because you loose a measure of
    control. Any admin reading this, if there is info on chronic disability from tragic medical events, I would love to be pointed in that direction.

  • admin
    January 17, 2017
    12:10 pm

    Hi Kate. Thanks so much for the response. While we don’t have any specific recommendations for chronic disability, we can recommend fellow Lifebook Member Sean Stephenson as an inspirational resource. Sean was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, which means that he stands three feet tall, has fragile bones, and has used a wheelchair his entire life. His profound journey of personal exploration and growth is nothing short of miraculous and inspiring, and has lead him to become a therapist, self-help author and motivational speaker. We would highly recommend him for building character and positivity through adversity!

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