In high school, I grew seven inches between the start of my sophomore year and completion of my junior year. Seven. I went from one of the shortest girls on my softball team to one of the tallest. I was suddenly thrown from a wing player to a post player on my 1-19 sophomore basketball team. I had arms for days. (Still do) My shirt sleeves fit poorly. (Still do) My jeans were never near worn out before needing to purchase new ones. And as one friend later told me, I was “so lanky and awkward.”
Most growth, like physical growth, is often uncomfortable and cumbersome. It requires us to adjust our actions, attitudes, and abilities. It stretches us. It exhausts us. It excites us. Growth doesn’t allow us to stay put and stay the same. It has the potential to satisfy us, free us, and improve us. And for the most part, we all agree that growth is good.
So what’s this bit about growing with discipline? And why start here.
In his book, Onward, Howard Schultz discusses the seemingly reckless abandon with which Starbucks grew in the United States. It was fast and furious, similar to my abrupt 7-inch height change in high school. And for both Starbucks and myself, it was painful. Schultz continues in the book to describe the lessons in leadership he has taken from this growth. It changed him as a leader and it changed him as a person.
Amid many options, Merriam-Webster primarily defines discipline in the following way.
1a : control gained by enforcing obedience or order , b : orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior, c : self-control; 2: punishment; 3: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.
I don’t presume to speak for Shultz and so inferring here, let’s agree that he might be referring to both the “self-control” and “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character,” definitions. Upon further look, self-control is further defined as, “restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.” And this seems to really hit the mark.
Growth must be accompanied by training and molding towards and in-line with moral character, because simply put, growth without restraint, especially as exercised over one’s impulses, emotions, or desires, is reckless. To allow impulse to lead growth can result in reckless irrationality. To allow emotions to navigate growth can result in reckless reactivity. To allow desires to dictate growth can result in reckless regret.
While some impulses are helpful and based on the need for survival, impulses when in relation to growth are often unhelpful. Impulses fail to take into account the logical and calculated, the long-term goals and associated necessary actions. Rather, they strive to keep the status quo and stay comfortable. They may dream and promise big with little ability to follow through. Impulses are exactly that, impulsive. The hard practice of disciple is essential to advantageous and upward growth. Quite possibly, the forfeiting of restraint over impulses, emotions, and desires quickly compromises the very growth one is hoping to gain.
So as you look toward growth, be it physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, or otherwise, I encourage you to first look at the how of what you hope to do. Come up with a plan, a discipline, that will align you with the goals and values you desire to live by. Plan ahead regarding how you will overcome the temptations to sidestep that discipline. Stick with that discipline regardless of momentary discomfort. And enjoy the fruits of growing with discipline.
Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.
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