Self-Control vs. Self-Discipline

More discipline, less control
Simply how a forest grows


In this world of perceived freewill, the term “self-control” has an odd connotation. Some shy away from the word “control”, others flinch at the word “self”. Some, however, take to the phrase and see the beauty in its structure.

For years, I’ve personally struggled with the term self-control. I realized it was not the concept of the term, but the word itself: “control”.

“Control”, to many, is the antithesis of creativity, of expression. Control, to the fullest extent, can become obsessive or compulsive — if not both.

When one is made aware of their oppression, it is natural to break free, much like plants reach for the sun, human nature is also growth oriented and designed to transform. I spent months walking through nature, observing the patterns in botanical life contrasted with that of human nature — two elements of the planet that both resemble life.

Nature has this inexplicable way of following its own structure, its own order. Its own… disciplineTrees start as seeds, then sprout roots, branches, bark, stumps, leaves and so forth. By design, a leaf follows a pattern based on its genetic “coding”. A flower or fruit may sprout from some trees. Bark, itself, has an array of patterns.

All of these natural constructs have a pattern — they have a discipline that they simply follow. They do not resist, nor do they seek to change. Rather, they adapt: if a wall casts too much of a shadow on one side, the trees naturally sway towards the light so as to better photosynthesize.

Plants. Emotionless objects breathing and conceiving life, without hassle yet often preceded by chaos, without conceding to their own weaknesses. Rather, they seek to overcome, overtake, and overreach. They do not destroy, but they regenerate and provide.

If plants could get it right, perhaps humans could follow some form of discipline too — and by discipline, it is not limited to punishment and reprimand. “Discipline” can be defined as “an area of practice“, such as “playing the guitar”, or “writing a novel”. The discipline of an action, a commitment to a passion.  Instead of jumping around building unfinished nests in various trees, we could lay our roots in one place and actually cultivate the spot in which we land.

Be self-disciplined in the areas that are important to you. If your career is your priority, commit to that and resist temptations that hinder it. If your relationships are important, then focus on maintaining the bridges you’ve built with people as you continue to branch out through them. If your self-improvement is a goal, then find 2-3 achievable goals (e.g. learn a language in a year, learn 2 songs on the guitar in a month, give something interesting and useful to the community etc…).

Make a checklist each time one of your goals has been accomplished, and if you are unable to commit to the list then clearly those “goals” were ideas and not results. Hence, make realistic and achievable goals, even if you have to start with the basics, like eat healthily for 3 consecutive days, then eat healthily for 3 more consecutive days, and then 3 more until you hit a month… until you realize you’ve actually committed to yourself for 4 weeks.

You can do it, just prove it to yourself.




The discipline of an action
a commitment to a passion.


One thought on “Self-Control vs. Self-Discipline

  1. ‘Make a checklist each time one of your goals has been accomplished, and if you are unable to commit to the list then clearly those “goals” were ideas and not results.’ Love that. Being honest with myself in distinguishing ideas and goals.

    Liked by 1 person

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