"Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself."
To begin with what is the intended meaning of "discipline?" I believe it useful to make the distinction that discipline is not synonymous with punishment. Certainly it has been framed that way in some mindsets. Workplaces(employers) have their own "justice" policies; and straying from their criteria, can result in facing "disciplinary action!" Fair enough, an employer needs some recourse to address employee abuse of "the system." But many of these policies, amount to manipulation and coercion. If you ran an ethical business, which respected the truth, that your business wouldn't be, if it weren't for the employees that operate it; there would likely be, far less opposing of workplace policies. Just because it has been drafted by "management," doesn't make it humane, compassionate or even attainable.
Society has a myriad of different forms and application of "discipline." None of which benefit, or are life enriching, for the recipient.
Discipline in the context of the Desiderata, refers to the day to day focus, of energy and attention to "getting it done." It might begin with what might seem the simplest and most benign of tasks. For example, when you get up ... make the bed. Personal hygiene, decent nutritional intake, adequate rest (did you floss your teeth today? .... this year?)
I'm not sure I have mastery where "discipline" is concerned. I have made strides toward improvement for sure. I used to be convinced that discipline, order, routine, were the bane of a "free spirited" person, such as myself. The problem with that assessment was, I wasn't "free." There was a great deal of order & routine in my family home. Discipline (to be fair) was present in the various forms that were effective and beneficial, for my parents. It also existed in the form of punishment (that which amounts to physical abuse as well as emotional). My dad was in the military and my mom was an operating room nurse - both steeped then, in systems of order, hierarchy, power over etc.
What I called "freedom" was just out and out rebellion toward anything that paralleled my childhood home. Nothing wrong with standing up against tryanny, human rights abuses, inhumane policies.. but what I'm talking about is, I was often a, "cut off my nose to spite my face form of rebel!" This was not authentic soul/heart inspired action in the world. This was knee-jerk, reactionary (I don't care if what you are suggesting is in my best interest - YOU cannot tell me what to do!!") Does that sound even remotely like "free spirited..?"
There came a time where collectively and incrementally my life had to be rigorously scrutinized. It became clear that my claimed plying for freedom, was "freeing" me - of innumerable forms of success, self-respect, any semblance of inner peace, and the list goes on.
My "river" had absolutely no banks - this is the extreme I chose. Of course when I was younger I "studied" - rehearsed and memorized poetry etc.; so it wasn't as though discipline, was an entirely foreign concept. But as got older, teenage years and beyond, my resistance increased, I wouldn't listen to anyone and I certainly wouldn't ask for help. As far as I can determine, this was a infallible way, to glean the hard way to most everything. Perhaps Nietzshe was right; "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." But - "Heavens to Murgatroyd!!"
All that remains is my continued journey with self-compassion, understanding and self-love. There are reasons I made the choices I made... but I am determined, that they won't shape the rest of my life.
Speaking of "self-love" - it turns out "discipline" can be a right and proper form of loving one's self. If I want to give myself the gift of being successful at various pursuits; some discipline in the form of (well first of all) actually starting, continuity, prioritizing, stick-tuitiveness, resilience, determination, ability to put myself (and my vision) first, are a great assortment of tools to have in the box. Turns out the river has some form which directs it and to ensure it gets where it is going. I suppose you could say, I too always, "got where I was going," it was never clear at the onset, where that might be and usually my arrival was marked by - "how the hell did I get here?"
The second half of today's guidance ("be gentle with yourself") - would be another consideration from within the container of self-love. I hope I have made a "case" for some self-discipline, order, form, routine etc. As with most anything these useful approaches can be taken to extremes. Is this conjecture you might ask? NO! Take it from the guy, that has spent vast amounts of time, plying the waters of "extremes."
Too much discipline can become rather tyrannical. This looks like ruthless self-criticism and punishment for any minor lapse in "discipline." It doesn't allow for any "ebb & flow." It's not hard to imagine what - go, go, go.... without any concern for stop (rest) might look like. So then discipline might sometimes look like knowing when to withdraw - it's not all about push, there's a time and place for release.
If one has had a challenge in their life saying "No." Then it can become rather barren to swing the pendulum all the way to the other extreme. (i.e. "I don't care what the question is, the answer is no!)
So a paradox exists here. It is readily considered discipline: to strive, reach, push, sacrifice, exert etc. but how much do you hear, about the discipline of: being gentle with yourself, listening to your body (your heart & soul) learning the difference between quitting (self-love) & that which is self-sabotage.
Learning to trust your instincts, preferences, energies etc. rather than allow others to dictate.
Taking a self-loving stance in the world - hasn't eliminated the ever present influences from outside myself. But it has set me on a path of learning about and practicing to be steadfast, rather than a "bull in the china shop!"