Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Desire, Devotion, and Discipline

desire: -noun, a longing or craving, as for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment; an expressed wish; request

devotion: -noun, profound dedication; earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc.; an assignment or appropriation to any purpose, cause, etc.

discipline: -noun, activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training

Those three words are benchmarks for any kind of accomplishment or success in life. They are what is necessary in any vocation, relationship, or personal goal to which we aspire.

Trick number one is knowing what we want. We might have an inkling, but how many of us have sat down, given it good long thought and pinpointed the things that we desire in our lives? How many of us have made a list? I'm guessing not many. Often I'll ask people, "What do you want? What is your desire in life?" There are a lot of lengthy pauses, and a lot of "I don't know for sure" responses.

Thing is, you can't chase a dream unless you know what it is. So, I encourage you to think about it. Make a list, and don't leave off anything that you might think is too little or too big, or too silly. Those three things don't apply. Put everything you desire on the list from a ready supply of chocolate to a new bicycle to your dream career to your dream mate to bungee jumping. It's all part of who you want to be and who you want to become.

Once you know what you want, what are you willing to devote to it? What's the extent of time, money, energy that you're willing to expend? There's a line from a wonderful book by Clarrisa Pinkola Estes, called Women Who Run with the Wolves, a line that I ask myself whenever I'm contemplating starting something new. That line is, "What could he take from me that I wouldn't freely give?" I simply substitute the "he" in that sentence with whatever I'm after. "What could a career in art take from me that I wouldn't freely give?" "What would planning a trip to Australia take from me that I wouldn't freely give?" See how it works?

Devotion itself is impassioned commitment. Commitment is when you tell someone you'll be at the meeting at 3 p.m. sharp. Devotion is when you tell someone you'll be there - always. Commitment to a cause is donating used clothing to hurricane victims. Devotion is taking everything you've got, leaving your current life, and helping hurricane victims rebuild their homes. There is nothing wrong with "mere" commitment. I'm simply pointing out that true devotion requires passion. It requires something feverish and raw and driving.

Now you know your desire, you know you're devoted to it, so what's next? Discipline. Passion is great, but passion without some kind of tether will just run all over the place. Don't get me wrong, it's great to go wild, but after a while a mindless chase will just leave you exhausted and pretty much nowhere. You need some kind of discipline to keep all the cogs clicking.

People think that my days are completely undisciplined, that I just kind of roll out of bed and do whatever I want to. That would drive me crazy. While I have a lot of flexibility in my day, I do have a standard that I hold myself too. I still wake up early, usually between 5 - 6 a.m. Once I'm beaned and awake, I check emails and do some social networking (that sounds so much better than "yakking with friends on facebook"), then I sit down to write my posts here. Then I tidy the house a bit. Then I spend the afternoon working on whatever art project(s) I need to get done. Even if I don't have any pressing projects, I still make myself busy in my art studio. I need to keep it fresh, keep it flowing. I do these things five days a week. Saturdays are for errands, Sundays are for relaxing. Unless I'm really inspired, I try not to do any writing or artwork on Sundays. It's good to have a day to just unwind and rebuild. Seven days a week of anything will become aggravating. Suffice it to say, there's method to my madness.

These things are principles everyone can use and build on. I am not unique. I'm not an expert. However, I'm often asked what works/worked for me, so there it is.

For those who don't know me, I'm not much on self-help types of books. So, me recommending any such thing is worth taking notice of. That being said, if you need a little more help getting started, I strongly urge you to check out my friend Paul Boynton's book, Begin with Yes!, available here. Through a simple conversation - a series of questions and suggestions - he will show you how, one baby step at a time, to take action and make your dreams and goals realities.

Another excellent book to read along these lines is by yet another friend of mine, Scott Trudo. The book is called Live Your Passion, and is available here. By the way, there's a short piece in Live Your Passion about... ta-DA! ... yours truly.

Desire. Devotion. Discipline.

Demand it from yourself.


  1. Lovely post. I've been pretty good at recognizing my dreams and going after them. It's such an interesting journey, isn't it? Nice to"meet" you.

  2. This is an excellent post. Thank you Barb.

  3. Thank you, both... and nice to meet you too, Karen!

  4. Love all your d words today. They fit with mine for today.... drive.

  5. Great post! This goes along, a little, with my own post, but you've taken it much further. i also had on my mind "drive". And i just realized, i never finished reading 'Women Who Run with the Wolves'. Hmm...


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