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Why I've ditched the word "discipline"

Have you ever wanted to break up with a word? 

For some it’s pronunciation, like moist. (I can see some of you cringing.)

It might be in spelling, like quinoa…can anyone spell this without autocorrect?

And it can be in the definition. For me, it’s the word “discipline”. 

As I look over Merriam Webster’s definitions of discipline, these three are where my problem is rooted:

  • control gained by forcing obedience or order

  • to punish or penalize for the sake of enforcing obedience and perfecting moral character

  • to train or develop by instruction and exercise especially in self-control

Wondering what my beef is?

When I hear people use the word discipline, it sounds something like this, “I have to be more disciplined! Why can’t I be more disciplined?” It carries with it an energetic tone of force, which indicates it’s an idea they’re not internally attached to. Rather it might be a societal aspiration, a parent’s voice or a directive from any other outside source…not themselves. 

All too often it’s accompanied by the person feeling bad that they can’t make it happen…so shame and guilt. And if that’s not enough, add in a mental dialogue that sounds more like an energy-draining argument. 

Take a moment and feel all those things in your body:  force, push back, shame, guilt, the argument and energy drain. It feels icky to me. 

That’s the problem I have with the word discipline. It’s a pretty sh*tty environment to plant seeds that you want to thrive and grow. (And with a personal core value of freedom, discipline feels very dang constraining.) 

So, I’ve landed on the word “dedicated” instead. Let’s look at the Merriam Webster definition:

  • devoted to a cause, ideal or purpose

  • given over to a particular purpose

When I read this, and more importantly when I feel this, it’s peaceful. Can you feel it?

Dedication has a spirit of prioritizing my future desires over my immediate desires. They don’t need to argue, one just gets done first. 

It's aligning my actions of today with the future picture I want to create and that future picture is providing me with necessary guidance…even through small detours. It celebrates progress over perfection. It’s accompanied by grace and understanding. And it feels encouraging. 

This is much better soil to grow from. 

But most importantly, its motivation comes from within. The dedicated person is choosing to take actions that align with their own desire, like walking out a calling. 

So, that’s where I’ve landed…dedication over discipline. 


Quite simply, it helps me move forward. And I’ve been more successfully dedicated to a slew more things than historically I ever found discipline for. Proof is in the pudding. 

What small reframe could help you move forward? 



Plus a few other links of interest:


1. TIMEOUT, a 2-day private coaching retreat! Travel to the resort town of Traverse City, Michigan for an escape from distractions to clearly think, regroup, prioritize, and plan. 


2. Could your team benefit from upgrading their leadership? Inquire about Leadership Essentials Academy, a 6-month leadership training & coaching cohort for new and emerging leaders.


3.  Time for a new journal? Pick up a new copy of my Know Thyself Journal for daily support towards your most important intentions for the next 90 days.


4.  Are you into individual assessments? Here is a link to take a free Core Values Assessment (CVI). It only takes 10 minutes and measures your innate, unchanging nature. Take it yourself and feel free to forward it to a friend, too. 


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