Discipline: Key to Freedom?

I heard a great quote the other day on the Tim Ferriss podcast. He was interviewing a former Navy Seal named Jocko Willink. Jocko said his personal mantra is, “Discipline equals freedom.” I’ve been thinking about that ever since and it is haunting me. Because I know it’s true. And I know a lot of my current dissatisfaction with my career, financial and physical fitness circumstances are due to my lack of discipline in those areas. I know it’s true because I can look back at specific times in my life and see it’s truth in action. One example that comes to mind vividly is when my first daughter was born. There was a parenting fad at the time with a curriculum called Growing Kids God’s Way (A mainstream version of this is titled On Becoming Babywise). It was an action plan for the first 5-15 months of your child’s life that promised a happy child and thus, a happy life.

One of the biggest hooks to the program was the promise that by following its guidelines, your baby would learn to sleep through the night as early as 8 weeks old. The premise was simple: Feed your baby, then allow her to play and have awake time, then put her down for a nap. If was a three hour cycle of feeding (half hour), wake time (one hour), and sleep time (1 1/2 hours). Sounds easy enough, right? Ha! Try waking up a sleeping baby to feed her. If she’s not ready to wake up, she’s falling asleep at the bottle.

Enter the cold, wet washcloths. Baby girl not happy.

After she’s finally done eating, you have to keep her awake for another hour with nudging and prodding and more washcloths. Finally, by the time you’ve gotten her to stay awake, it’s time for a nap. Guess who doesn’t want to sleep now? So, it’s in to check the crib every few minutes to comfort her and quiet her down and reassure her that you haven’t abandoned her as she tries to settle down and go to back to sleep. It doesn’t help when her grandparents greet your plans and goals with skepticism. And say things like, “Babies don’t have schedules. They do what they do and you just have to go with it.” Fortunately, the book predicted such skepticism, which strengthened its credibility.

But the book also pointed out that God is a God of order and discipline, and that by bringing order and discipline to your baby’s new world, she (and we) would have peace and freedom. And you know what? It happened! By 10 weeks, not only had Hannah learned how to go to sleep when it was nap time and bed time, but she was sleeping through the night. And she was happy and never colicky! And we had freedom! Freedom to make plans around her schedule, freedom to sleep all night with no worry or guilt, freedom to resume our life while integrating this new little person into it.

For example, if we knew she was going to be up at 6:00am for breakfast, we could either eat then, or plan for 7:30 or 8:00 when she’d be taking her first nap. If friends or family invited us to dinner, and we knew she was going to have a nap from 4:00pm-5:30pm, we could make dinner plans around 5:30 or 6:00. The discipline of training her in the first few weeks of her life resulted in freedom from randomness and unpredictability later on.

One of the best validations occurred one night when we crossed paths with our neighbor. He and his wife had also just had a baby a few weeks after us, and they were not interested in the plan we had told them about and were trying to implement. On this night, we were coming home to our apartment and passed him on his way out. It was about 8:30 or 9:00pm and he had his daughter in a carrier seat for the car. “Headed out?” I asked. “Yeah,” he said, “taking her for a ride to try to get her to fall asleep.” “Good luck,” I said, hiding a smile until I stepped inside my apartment. I smiled all the way to my daughter’s room and put her to bed for the night. And then enjoyed my freedom to spend the rest of the evening with my wife, instead of driving aimlessly around town.

This post went way longer than I had intended. So now, I would love to hear your thoughts on this:

  • Agree or disagree?
  • What discipline(s) in your life have benefited you and given you freedom in that area or others? In what way(s)?
  • What did you have to do to make that discipline a part of your life? OR…
  • What discipline(s) are you working to implement or improve and what struggles are you facing in your quest to do that?

I look forward to hearing from you.

To Your Best,



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