September 18th, 2008

Insanity and Discipline

Today’s thought is about discipline and insanity. There is that common definition about insanity that it’s the practice of doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Which is, as far as I can tell, pretty much the same as discipline.

All right, not exactly. The idea with discipline, I think, is that you get better at whatever it is one is practicing and the results improve. I now feel slightly better about encouraging T.R. to practice his flute and less like I’m promoting insanity, at least in him; Syd, who is insanely sensitive to all sounds he doesn’t make himself, is another story.

The question, then, is how to tell if the results are improving. With flute, it’s not so hard: when it starts to sound like music. (T.R. is actually a fairly respectable beginning flute player. He plays recognizable songs.) In other places, I find it more difficult. Take, for example, exercise. The evidence that the discipline is working comes not from it looking like exercise (and who would seek out such a sweaty goal?), but from the long term performance changes and the adaptations of the body. In general, that’s not measured on any one day. It’s a trend. Which is to say that I could have a terrible workout or a completely uncoordinated day at ballet and still be progressing toward the goal.

So part of the trick is to watch the trend and not the individual performance. For a person like me, this is some serious challenge. I am mired, often, in how I feel in the moment. A bad day, a bad performance, and what I have been doing seems clearly insanity. A good day and a good one: voila, discipline.

Crazy, ain’t it?