Provision #723: Discipline Matters

Laser Provision

Here is the bottom line on data, desire, and discipline: data awakens desire, discipline advances desire. Desire itself is universal. Everyone desires to have our needs met and we are happy when it happens. But desire can disappear or get distorted in the absence of data. Once aroused, desire can diminish or get defeated in the absence of discipline. Discipline, the rigorous training of body, mind, and spirit, is the key to self-efficacy and success. Want to learn how that works? Read on.

LifeTrek Provision


Once again I find myself starting to write this edition of Provisions while sitting 39,000 feet or almost 12,000 meters in the air. My wife and I are on our way to Israel, where she will be teaching evocative coaching at the University of Haifa as part of a pedagogical leadership course and where we will be working together to share our work with a variety of groups over the course of three weeks. How exciting!

We continue to be thrilled and gratified that so many people are finding value in what we have to offer. Leadership in any context is a complex and challenging affair; leadership in schools is especially so due to their diverse constituencies, requirements, and tasks. If evocative coaching can assist teachers and school leaders to better perform their craft, through the application of the person-centered, no-fault, strengths-based approaches outlined in the book, then our ambitions for this book will have been met if not exceeded.

For that to happen, the approaches need to be understood in theory and experienced in practice. Head knowledge is not enough. We must repeatedly try out the techniques until they become more familiar and we become more adept in using them. That is why we offer 20 hours of training in the evocative coaching process. Without hands-on opportunities to put learning into practice, the skills and techniques will not take hold and take off. They will just be one of many good ideas that we picked up along the way, lying in the dustbin of our minds.

That’s no way to treat good ideas! Good ideas, like muscles, are meant to be used. Without regular and consistent exercise, muscles weaken and atrophy. The same could be said for good ideas. Without regular and consistent practice, good ideas gradually slip away.

One of the values I receive from writing Provisions each week is to call out and connect with those good ideas. The discipline of writing Provisions makes me a better person. I have written before about how I experience the value of this rigorous routine. Rhythms are self-reinforcing. Sunday comes and Sunday goes. I hitch my wagon to that rhythm as a reflective practice, and the words never fail to come. The discipline of sitting down to write on a weekly basis calls them forth.

Two weeks ago I wrote about the power of data to evoke change. Expanding awareness always shifts behavior. It does that, in part, by quickening desire. The more we notice about what’s going on, the more we want to influence what’s going on. Human beings are like that. When we notice something (like a weed) we instinctively and reflexively want to do something (pull out the weed). People have a natural inclination to make things better.

So why do things so often appear to be stuck or even getting worse? It’s often a lack of discipline. Desire is not enough. Although desire matters, as I wrote last week, desire alone is not sufficient to keep us going. We notice how we are eating so we awaken the desire to change how we are eating. We may even start down the path of behavior change. Great! To keep the change going, however, we have to keep noticing. And that takes work. Mindfulness is the exception rather than the rule. But discipline can change that.

Most of the time we live in a state of unconscious consciousness. We are awake but we are not aware. It is kind of like breathing. Most of the time we breathe without thinking about it. We kind of know we are breathing, but we don’t really notice we are breathing. We just breathe, in and out, in a state of unconscious consciousness.

But all that can change in an instant. Any time we like, we can switch from breathing on autopilot to breathing on manual control. Any time we like, we can switch from unconscious consciousness to conscious consciousness. Any time we like, we can notice and discipline our breath. You can do that right now, if you want. Are you willing? Let’s give it a try.

I invite you to take four breaths using a four-count pattern. Breathe in to the count of four, hold your breath to the count of four, and breathe out to the count of four. Count slowly, but at a comfortable pace. Throughout the whole exercise, you should never be struggling or wanting for breath. Ready? Set? Go!

  1. Breathe in…2…3…4.  Hold…2…3…4.  Breathe out…2…3…4.
  2. Breathe in…2…3…4.  Hold…2…3…4.  Breathe out…2…3…4.
  3. Breathe in…2…3…4.  Hold…2…3…4.  Breathe out…2…3…4.
  4. Breathe in…2…3…4.  Hold…2…3…4.  Breathe out…2…3…4.

Breathe normally. That wasn’t so hard, was it! With a little discipline, you shifted from unconscious consciousness to conscious consciousness. You shifted from breathing without thinking to breathing with intention and attention. By gently taking control of an otherwise autonomic process, you disciplined your breath.

And how did that make you feel? Would it surprise you to learn that disciplining yourself to do that simple exercise, four slow, rhythmic breathe, just twice a day, can have measurable effects? It can lower blood pressure, focus the mind, and relieve anxiety. Health. Clarity. Calm. I don’t know about you, but those three always feel pretty darn good to me.

Such are the benefits of discipline and conscious consciousness. By applying ourselves to a task with mindful awareness, we not only change our relationship to the task we also change our brain patterns. Things begin to shift in how we process information, how we react to events, and how we understand ourselves. We experience the wisdom of what the Buddha meant when he said, “More than those who hate you, more than all your enemies, an undisciplined mind does greater harm.”

So what is a disciplined mind? It is not the same thing as a determined mind. A determined mind is a stubborn mind. Such minds are able to sustain desire longer than those who lack determination. But they are still running on will power and adrenaline. They want what they want and they are determined to stay with that desire until they get what they want. That attribute is often admired and sometimes feared in a leader, and it certainly has its place, but it is not as valuable as a disciplined mind.

A disciplined mind is a trained mind. A disciplined mind starts with desire and adds praxis: It doesn’t just relish the thought of getting our needs met; it establishes the routines that make it more likely that our needs will get met. There’s nothing wrong with the former, of course; positive self-talk and encouragement never hurt anyone. But without discipline, the rigorous training of body, mind, and spirit, all that positive self-talk will eventually dry up and produce very little in the way of lasting change.

Wishful thinking is not bad. Everyone is entitled and even encouraged to wish. But wishing upon a star, where we put our wish out into the world with the hope that it will somehow magically come true, actually works against self-efficacy and success.

More than once I have coached a client who was discouraged because God or the Universe or Fate was somehow not rewarding their wishes. They had framed, visualized, and verbalized what they wanted, they may have even put pictures and headlines on a vision board, but somehow it just wasn’t happening. After weeks, months, or even years of holding this hope, they were no further along than when they started. “What’s wrong?” they have wanted to know, “And how can I turn this around?”

In most cases, it’s not that the dream is impossible or unrealistic. Very few dreams are impossible. Most of the time, the problem is a lack of discipline. “Tell me your routines,” it has been said, “and I will tell you your future.” Through coaching, people shift from imagining results to imagining routines. Then, they find the motivation and wherewithal to practice those routines on a regular basis.

I am often surprised and delighted by what a difference this makes. By imagining routines that support their desired results, people get invigorated with energy and grow in their abilities. They often take on challenges that are far more rigorous than I would have thought possible. But once they understand the connection between data, desire, and discipline, they become fearless and faithful in their daily routines.

That’s when good things start to happen. Four, short, rhythmic breaths, twice a day, is easy stuff compared to what many people decide to incorporate into their daily lives. From regular meditation to exercise, from reflective writing to active calling, from habits of mind to habits of behavior, from individual practices to environmental alignments, I have witnessed the power of new routines to create new people and to get different results.

Does that sound like something you would enjoy experiencing? Discipline is not as hard as it sounds. Break it down into baby steps and get started. Do one thing daily that will support your intentions, turn that things into a routine, and see what happens. Don’t be surprised if dreams come true.

Coaching Inquiries: How do you relate to the word “discipline”? Do you think of it as a punishment or a joy? What is one discipline that could make a real difference in your life? How could you get started in ways that would be challenging and yet consistently doable? Who could you talk about this with today?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation. To learn more about LifeTrek Coaching programs, Click HereTop

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.


Your last Provision on how Desire Matters is really good. Thanks


I may have read this before, but your poem Passion really spoke to me. Thanks! May I quote that poem in one of my newsletters?


Love your poem!


Your quest for data is admirable and in many cases appropriate • however • the mentality that leads to “I can eat even less tomorrow” is exactly the kind of control/mindset that is a part of being anorexic and is completely the opposite of health and happiness. It is micromanagement of life to a point where data and control lead to disordered eating or worse. Just a thought… 


I just read the announcement about your evocative coach training program. I met you years ago, when this was just a dream and we were both in Clinical Research! Congratulations on dreaming the BIG dream and seeing it through! 


May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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