You Want to REALLY Make Change? Try the Discipline Diet

Do you know what a “wearable” is?  Now there’s a word that didn’t exist ten years ago.  Maybe even five?   Today many of you know what I mean; others own what I mean. And more will in years to come.  Wearables are the devices we wear to track our activity – steps taken, calories consumed – and they are, we are told, the future.

They will be our children’s on-board computers. Windows into our health; reflections of our choices.  They will answer this critical 21st century question: Was I disciplined today?
Tap, tap, tap and the FitBit provides the answer.  Click, click, click and the wearer feels secure in her sense of progress, maybe even worth.

Did I do enough today?

Discipline — in diet and exercise, even recreation and hobbies — has become a modern preoccupation. So much so that one of the world’s fastest growing industries is, in effect, a discipline monitor.  The world is awash with self-betterment regimes and the soft and hardware to enforce them, promising us stronger, healthier, more capable versions of ourselves.  We have accepted wholly, perhaps intuitively, that monitoring our behavior is critical to achieving wellness, even fulfillment.


Why, then, when change goes from the individual to the collective – from the personal to the professional – do we forget the role of discipline in effecting change? Why when it comes to our workplace does change – or collective betterment – become an event on a calendar, a process with fixed beginnings and endings, a responsibility of someone else?    Why do we forget that personal discipline underpins every effort to shift the status quo – whether that’s weight loss or learning an instrument, improving your relationship with your partner or training your dog?

In order to create a different reality you have to make the decision to somehow show up to today differently.  And every day after that.  To behave differently, to see possibilities you once thought impossible, to explore capabilities you never knew you had.  In a world of Me + You + Us, there’s no way to create a different Us without attending first to Me.

Was I disciplined today?  Did I do enough about Me today?

Do you ask yourself that question when you’re trying to bring about change at your workplace?
Because here’s the thing about discipline, it’s underpinned by curiosity.  Grit and stamina will keep you going, but it’s curiosity that will bring you satisfaction.  The curiosity to track progress, to understand actions and reactions, to explore if x then y.  To ask yourself if 1+1 equals 2 every single time.  Or if there’s a way to start to change the equations in your life.  With curiosity you begin to understand the variables impacting your situation, and ultimately feel a greater sense of control over them.

I know, I know, I’m a consultant, I shouldn’t be telling you this.  I should tell you that the events or processes that I run for you will “work”, that I’m the workplace guru who’s going to make it all right for you.

But that would be a lie.

Because it’s you.  It’s you having the discipline to write emails differently, share your opinions more with your business partner or boss, to ask more questions in meetings or let someone else share their answers.  It’s you being curious enough to attend to the impact that small shifts in behavior make, tracking them like tiny steps taken towards your collective wellness.


So imagine you’ve got a work wearable on.  Yes, there it is around your wrist, just another computer you use at the office.  A personal computer that gives you critical feedback about your authenticity – your willingness to show up – and your empathy – your interest in and engagement with Others.  This computer is helping you answer the question:  “Was I disciplined today?” It keeps you on track with your daily doses of discipline for making change.

  • Ask questions:  Forget answers, try exploring, digging, suspending the desire for efficiency and expertise in a space of not knowing.   A place of curiosity.
  • Use silences: Try not firing off that email, or answering that question immediately.  Let issues sit and use that empty space to reflect on them and all your options for reacting to them.
  • Keep journals:  Keep notes on what’s shifting and what isn’t, even a collection of post it notes will do.  Because they support your mindfulness, giving structure to your awareness.
  • Tell stories:  Stories are the source of human connection. Share more of them, and see how people react.  See if it creates new space for you to interact and co-create together.
  • Watch closely:  Become a keen observer of yourself and others, and use that observation time to sharpen up your empathy muscles.  Why do others act and react the way they do?  Why do you act and react as you do? Become a keen observer of human behavior – it will serve you well.

Basic stuff, right? Simple behaviors that serve as the foundation for change. A diet of manageable actions that, taken together over time with discipline, make such a profound difference. That imaginary wearable of yours will help you on track.

Written by Jillian Reilly

1 Comment

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