how to achieve your goals without discipline
It’s Beltane season.
The time of the year that is so dang lovely that it seems like the rest of the year has been leading up to it — the peak of daylight, of sunshine, of flowers and bird song and our full outward expression of our selves.
For me, the year begins at Winter Solstice. I envision how I want my life to look, and I set intentions in that direction.
But I take things slowly, and I’m gentle with myself.
I let those intentions percolate, and around Imbolc (Feb 1st) I make actionable plans. By Spring Equinox in March, I’m just beginning to Unfurl. I’m getting my blood flowing, getting moving, getting started.
By Beltane, it’s undeniable: the time to be disciplined about my goals has arrived.
Beltane is the time to take consistent, meaningful action, to focus on our solar (rather than our lunar) selves, to put forth into the world, to manifest.
It’s the time to do the work.
But there’s a snag: I’m not that into discipline.
I was raised in a rather puritanical sort of way, and for a long time I leaned hard into “discipline” and withholding enjoyment of any kind. That’s not my way any more.
I’m not into forcing myself to do things, limiting my desires, or really being “disciplined” at all.
I’ll admit, I’ve swung a bit far in the other direction.
I recognize, nonetheless, that focus and commitment is necessary to make sh*t happen. And I want to make sh*t happen.
Recently, I was driving home from a day of working outside, thinking about the soft serve place that’s conveniently on my route home.
Let me tell you, I love soft serve. It is joyful and spontaneous and delicious and very much a treat for me. But it’s also sugar and processed nonsense and I had just eaten soft serve the day before, also on my drive home from work.
My rational self knew that making a daily habit of after-work soft serve would not be a helpful one.
But I didn’t want to say “no.”
It goes against my ethos to deny myself the deliciousness that I’m craving. And even though I’m no longer saying “no” just for the point of saying “no,” it still makes me cranky and ushers in a bout of self-pity. Also not helpful.
So I asked myself, “How would it be to not get soft serve right now?”
I immediately saw myself driving home, and making a peanut butter-banana smoothie. Still delicious and satisfying and definitely a treat, but a better option than Soft Serve Day 2.
Self-pity was not part of the picture at all.
It was an easy choice.
I went home, made the smoothie, and was very pleased with myself.
“How would it be?” removed the judgement from the situation.
The question gave me the opportunity to imagine an option outside of “Getting soft serve = happy, indulgent, but unhealthy Amanda. Not getting soft serve = disciplined, puritanical, miserable but healthy Amanda.”
The next day, I was driving around, hashing over an exchange I had with someone in my life whom I consider, in my better moments, my “loving challenge.”
This person is in my life, here to stay. And it’s a challenge.
I was thinking over the exchange we’d had, thinking that we’d never get along, and it’s just going to get worse and worse over time and we’ll be those people who create tense social situations that no one wants to be around.
I realized that I was stuck in my head, searching for more and more evidence that this was true.
I paused, and asked “How would it be if we were best friends?”
Immediately, a series of images came into my mind: us texting memes to each other and finding inane things to joke about. Issues that we could be “on the same side” about. Finding delight in their sense of humor.
“How would it be?” took me out of my head space and into my heart space, the space from which new ideas are born.
We’re taught that new ideas come from our brain, but that’s simply wrong. Our brain’s job is to store information, and retrieve that info to compare it to present situations. It’s like a Rolodex.
It’s our heart that’s responsible for forming new connections, generating innovative ideas, and synthesizing stories to arrive at a new understanding.
That’s when I realized the full power of “How would it be?”
“How would it be?” not only dares us to envision the texture and details of a possible future, but it also opens our heart to an unforeseen way of achieving that future.
“How would it be?” is a powerful, immediate way of breaking a thought pattern or response pattern. It invokes our imagination rather than our intellect.
“How would it be?” replaces discipline with curiosity.
And curiosity is a lot more interesting.
I want to hear from you!
Have you used curiosity to imagine a new future?
What are you working towards this Beltane? How do you want your life to be?