When I was a baby I must have practised endlessly to be able to stand and walk. I wasn’t aware of it then, driven by something wordless, but it started by making sure my eyes could focus, then lifting my head and playing with my hands and feet. Finding out what all the different parts were for! Then gradually I moved to rolling over, pushing up, sitting, crawling and finally I made the big leap. It must have felt so good taking those first wobbly steps! Too bad I can’t remember what it felt like.
Back then the learning was driven by instinct. In a way, that was easy. Ever heard of a baby giving up trying to learn to walk because they did not have enough discipline?
Neither have I.
I had to do 42 rounds of four seasons to understand where discipline originates.
My first attempt at learning to play the guitar was when I was 19. I bought a guitar, bought a teaching book and off I went. I have since repeated the process, I think, twice more. Changed some of the variables, like ditching the book for a real teacher. And all 3 times I came to the same conclusion. Not enough discipline. Can’t push myself past the basics.
Now, after 1 year and 2 months of being ‘back in school’ officially, working my ass off to become fluent in structural dynamics consultancy and a couple of more years before that unofficially, I know why I never managed to learn to play the guitar. My desire to be able to play wasn’t in balance with the amount of work and time and misery that was required to learn it.
Discipline is born out of wanting something enough to be willing to do the required work for it. So far I have spent an average of 1 to 2 days a week studying for this program. That’s 7 tot 14 hours a week, which would equal 1 tot 2 hours a day. Every day of every week of every month. And it will probably go on for years, am in the second year right now.
I am pretty sure that if I would have practised the guitar for 1 to 2 hours a day when I was 19, I would be an adequate player right now. Even when I had only started the daily practise on one of my later attempts I would right now be very happy with the result of my capabilities. Because I just looove music.
But when I grew older I learned there was other stuff I loved even more than music.
Like great thinking, marvellously clear thinking which lifts a veil from your eyes which you didn’t knew you had. Exceptional thinking which seeps into your actions, changes your behaviour and makes life a different experience all together. And this program I am in allows me to study and practise just that.
And so it is that I find myself slaving away week after week, weeks that are stretching into years now. Despite it not exactly being a joy ride. Quite the opposite often. I have felt deep fear and discomfort at being an absolute beginner, because I had to practise this with real clients! For countless hours I studied and worked while dread flooded my system, being confronted with false assumptions in my own thinking (or let’s call it plain stupidness). I got bored from the endless hours of typing out the sessions that I did with my clients to be able to analyse what I did and missed, I over worked myself due to the anxiety of all the newness and the stretching my system needed to do. I was lonely in the work. I did a session, felt good about it, then learned I had fucked up, and fucked up, and fucked up again, for months on end. There was a moment when I was like, hmm, it could very well be that I will ever be able to learn this well enough to be able to do it as a professional. That was a moment of choice. And in that moment I realised I was fascinated enough by this work to go for it anyway.
So I failed and I failed and I failed some more and, like a baby, unseen yet, learning did grow in me for nine months. And only when the tenth months started did I find myself giving birth to something that vaguely resembled a human being, my first moment of success. From then on I improved, even though I managed to keep doing some spectacular failing as well from time to time, and I started to see there was a reasonable likelihood for me to be able to get this under my belt.
All that endured misery, just for the love of it.
That’s how I learned that it was never my lack of discipline which made me drop out of university, drop out of learning to play the guitar, drop out of all those endless things I have started and never managed to keep to long enough to become really fluent in it.
It was just that the love I felt for the outcome was not equal to the amount of energy I had to put in in learning it.
My little girl who is not little anymore but counts 20 proud years is learning the same thing. She followed her mother in dropping out of college. She did this after trying and failing and trying and failing again at getting herself to do the required work. She was afraid to drop out. Afraid to fail at life in a society which says you need to follow a certain path to be able to be successful. Afraid of herself, her inability to make herself do it and what that would mean for what she wanted out of life.
And then she did drop out. And then she fell in love. And then she followed him to his caravan close to the beach where he spends the warm half of the year teaching wind surfing. And then, while earning financial independence as a bar tender in a beach club she started learning wind skating, wind surfing, golf surfing. And she kept to the surfing, even when she suffered a concussion from the mast hitting her head, being very cold from falling in the water all the time (northern hemisphere you know), spraining her foot, having to be on the water at 6 am in the morning because that was the rare moment when the waves were just right. That’s right, my girl who had the hardest time ever (and often failed) to get herself out of bed and to school in the morning, ‘gladly’ got up at 5 am to be at the beach at 6 am.
We talked about our mutual learning to learn experiences and she said she was complaining a lot, about the weather, the wind, not being able to learn a certain thing, her physical exhaustion. But that she somehow did like it, sometimes only afterwards. Yes, I realised. Liking something does not show in the fact of pretty feelings all the time, it shows in the fact of finding yourself returning to something over and over, despite the unpretty feelings that accompany it as well.
So, she too was never too undisciplined to stick with something. She just never had enough love for the things she tried.
A lot of young people move into being an adult, not knowing what they love enough to put their full effort behind. That’s what you get when you are raised in a society which focusses young peoples minds on passing tests, doing just enough to be able to move through the system of education. And be spilled out at the end of it, never having learned what true learning is, where true discipline and intrinsic motivation come from. Young adults often have lost the thing they were born with, comfort with failing and ease in learning, discovering what they like and don’t like while playing around.
You can’t choose what to love, what to like. Love happens to us, both for people as for the things we pursue. Ever tried to like soccer, even when you prefer tennis? Or tried to have yourself fall in love with a chosen person?
Robert Fritz (the creator of structural dynamics) says something like; if we could choose who to love we would surely pick someone who didn’t annoy us, wouldn’t we? Yeah, if we could choose what to love enough to pursue, we would pick something that is easy and wonderful all the way. But that is not how it works.
So I managed to love something that equals learning to play the violin. A hard thing to get accomplished in. Something that takes years and years.
Sometimes when I tell people of this work I am doing I see the unspoken thought in their eyes. “Great, another one to join the big heap of coaches and the like.”
And mostly I don’t tell them, because it is much better experienced than explained, why this is a spectacular work which does not belong on the big heap at all. (but it irks all the same when I see them making this assumption) What I do sometimes tell them is that I happened to have a lot of clients who are a therapist, psychologist or some other sort of helping professional and that even those people find in the session insights which are totally new for them and will most probably change the way they approach their own clients forever. And sometimes I also tell them about the clients that I worked with who have literally decades of therapy and all flavours of self help sessions behind them without ever managing to get to the big and long desired change that they do find in working with me. Imagine that and then take into account that I am still a child in this work.
If you have a personal topic that you want to thoroughly research through the work of structural dynamics I advise you to book a session with the master, Rosalind Fritz. Or you can book a session with me. They are mostly free since I am still in training. Here is more info about those sessions.
And here you can read more about how this work applies to projects or businesses in which you design the path of least resistance to your goal using principles copied from nature like structural tension.
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Picture credits dancer with violin player: Woman photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com
Picture credits woman with guitar:Music photo created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com