Discipline and Freedom

Discipline and Freedom

Steven Covey says that discipline gives us more freedom, rather than less. He illustrates this with the example of playing the piano. “Do you have the freedom to be able to play the piano?” He asks. “I don’t, I never disciplined myself to learn how.”

If we discipline ourselves to take a small amount of time each week to plan our meals for the week, we create much more freedom when it comes to choices of what to eat. If we don’t think about what we are going to make for dinner until everyone is hungry, our choices are very limited.

When we do this–plan our meals out a week at a time–and if we are disciplined in the choices of food we choose to eat, we gain more freedom. Freedom from the limitations of disease, obesity, malnutrition, etc.

When we discipline ourselves to exercise regularly, we again enjoy freedom we wouldn’t otherwise enjoy. We gain freedom to enjoy physical activities that otherwise may be more difficult or impossible.

The most exciting thing to me about this idea is that I believe the amount of discipline in all of these examples is not a 1:1 ratio of the freedom given in return. I believe we gain freedoms far beyond the sacrifice given. On the other hand, when we don’t discipline ourselves in these ways, we end up paying a much higher price in our health than the cost of disciplining ourselves to eat well and exercise.

If we spend 20 minutes a week, planning our meals, we would save that time in one run to a fast food joint.

I think the point is this: One way or another, there are prices to pay. We can choose to pay them early, through discipline, and we get a good variety of choices at this point. If it’s exercise, we can choose from a wide variety of options. But if we don’t choose, then down the road the cost is much greater, and without the options. We get whatever disease or disability we are given; whatever our circumstances lead us to. This, of course, isn’t to say that all diseases and disabilities are caused by bad choices or neglect. But the statistics of diseases that are caused by “lifestyle” are much greater than those caused by genetics (which almost always just means a genetic predisposition for something, and can still be prevented by good “lifestyle” choices).

I guess it’s all about responsibility. Are we going to accept responsibility for making the choices that will effect us, or are we going to do what’s easy, because everyone else is doing it, then pay the much higher price in the end?

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