Blog 7: Bottomless Discipline? Hmmm…

This is the seventh installment of the I Can. We Can. blog series by Fitness Firestarter, Kathy Palokoff, and Self-Care Coach Extraordinaire, Carolyn A. Brent.


So far so good.  I am in my seventh week as a Fitness Firestarter with the goal of losing 100 pounds and transforming into a self-care aficionado. To date, I have experienced five really rocky days, but generally I am almost enjoying this new journey. 

What’s most important to me, however, is that I don’t feel the intensity that I have in the past while dieting.  I don’t feel compulsive, overwhelmed, passionate, ecstatic, or any other big emotion. I guess I just feel peaceful, which is a strange feeling for me when it comes to taking care of myself. So being the optimistic fatalist that I am, I keep expecting the other shoe to drop and a repeat of past experiences and feelings.

That’s where Carolyn and her book, Self-Care: A Guide to Tapping into Your Deep Beauty and Inner Worth, comes in. She’s helping me keep that shoe from dropping by making this process thoughtful, compassionate, and formulaic.  Here is her formula for self- care: 

Fierce Determination + Laser-Focused Actions + Bottomless Discipline = Deep Beauty + Inner Worth

For me, the most challenging word in this formula is “discipline.” I think that I have always treated discipline a bit like a dirty word (and I am not talking Fifty Shades of Grey.) As a child of the 60’s, I don’t like rules or people telling me what to do.  I pride myself as being a rebel.  So being asked by Carolyn if I am really willing to make discipline a top priority got me thinking hard.  

I had to honestly answer “no” and then examine what I have gained in my life by not putting discipline on the top of the list. Here are the four things I put in the what-I-have-gained column: fun, adventure, creativity, and freedom. 

But upon further reflection,  I wonder if this assessment is true.  Right now my weight is keeping me from fun and adventure. Right now my eating often distracts me from creativity.  Right now my freedom – especially as I age – is at risk if I do not practice the discipline of self-care.

I also have had to reframe my view of discipline and myself.  I am actually a highly-disciplined person. I need and crave discipline. I run multiple companies and am a person that people count on. Give me a client deadline, and the work will be done well no matter what.  So discipline is good, achievable, and necessary.  

This means that I must also act disciplined when it comes to food and exercise.  Without drama. Without whining.  Without rebellion.  It won’t be easy, but I can.  And we can. 


Kathy, I am excited. I see your growth and know you are genuinely engaging in total self-care on a daily basis without inserting harsh restrictions on yourself. Instead, you are modifying your lifestyle by selecting healthier choices in all areas of your well-being.  

Now you are enjoying your new lifestyle of peacefulness. Doesn’t it feel good to have peace of mind, body, and spirit? Please understand that the more you practice your new lifestyle, the more your mind, body, and spirit will crave it.  And, you will never want to repeat your old habits.

I clearly get why the word “discipline” can come across as a negative word since dictionaries define it as making people obey rules or as a punishment. Who would want that? In truth,  discipline is just the opposite.  

Let me remind you of my story.  I put my health on the backburner for several reasons; the primary one was fear of losing my six-figure income.  As a caregiver, I needed to pay the high cost of private assisted living for my beloved dad, which was well over $6,000 per month.  

At that time, I was working in sales in a tough industry. One day I broke my fifth metatarsal, which is the small bone in your foot. My manager informed me that I was still responsible for my sales numbers. Although I was covered under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), I continued to work due to fear.  This fear kept me going to work on crutches and a foot-to-knee cast. Eventually, I graduated to wearing a foot boot for over three months.  That decision to work had long-term consequences to my health and almost put me in a wheelchair.

 So I was disciplined when it came to going to work and taking care of my dad.  But I was not disciplined when it came to taking care of myself. After many years of placing my health on the backburner, I finally made up my mind to put my self-care as the top priority.  I no longer wanted to be depressed and in emotional and physical pain.  I had to use the same discipline I exhibited caring for my dad.  I had to focus that same bottomless discipline on myself.

As I matured, I’ve taken the word discipline to a different level. Now I view discipline as the quality of being able to perform, function, and act in a way that allows me the freedom to live my life without excruciating pain. I manage my pain through nutrition, holistic health, exercise, and spiritual growth. 

I have also used bottomless discipline to heal from abusive relationships in my life by practicing forgiveness and love.  Every day I rejoice in an intentional way of living, based on fierce determination, laser-focused actions, and bottomless discipline.

Thank you, Kathy, for the robust discussion about discipline. Yes, I Can. We Can. 

About Carolyn Brent

Dr. Carolyn A. Brent, is an award-winning bestselling author and a National Physique Committee (NPC) Masters Women's Figure Champion at age 60. She is an expert on both self-care and caregiving; she is the founder of Across All Ages and two nonprofit organizations, CareGiverStory Inc. and Grandpa's Dream. Carolyn's research and extensive collection of published works have made her a notable figure in her field. For seventeen years, she worked for some of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies and has worked as a volunteer at various assisted-living facilities. Her award-winning books include The Caregiver's Companion: Caring for Your Loved One Medically, Financially and Emotionally While Caring for Yourself and The Caregiver's Legal Survival Guide: Navigating through the Legal System.

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