Amy Gross on Discipline

It’s like catching a glimpse of yourself reflected in a store window. Or conjuring up a fragment of a tune. Yesterday I ran across a wonderful article I had clipped from a very old Vogue magazine, from a time where covers featured models and clipping really meant getting out the scissors. It was called “The New Discipline,” (Vogue, January 1979) and was written by Amy Gross. It’s so good I wish I could just quote the whole thing.

Gross is talking about entering the eighties, and longing for or experiencing a new discipline, a desire to be grown up from the sixties’ idea of “freedom.” It remains one of the loveliest descriptions of “discipline” I’ve ever read. Some snippets:

~ Discipline is remembering what you really want … a technique for reaching from wish to fulfillment.

~ Discipline simplifies life, enforces clean decisions, asks tough questions. 

~ [Discipline says] Choose one. It is the art of refusal.

~ The new discipline is not obedience to an external power but an internal system. The new discipline is guided not so much by rules as by rhythm. The rhythm of alternatives.

~The new discipline is gentle rather than punitive. It is a way of getting the best from oneself. It is remembering, keeping in mind, what you really want.

She uses a quote from Rollo May: “Will is the capacity to organize oneself so that movement in a certain direction or toward a certain goal may take place.” 

Gross goes on to write: “Will – the clarity of aim – is most of discipline, and the mover is energy. Urgency must be a factor too… And patience. ..  And a certain still-point…”

The eighties fell far short of this model, indeed were probably the antithesis, but I for one am willing to try again. Thank you, Amy Gross.

4 replies
  1. Lance E. Osborne
    Lance E. Osborne says:


    Thank you for sharing this snippet of wisdom from the big-hair era. Especially the bits on "will." The Rollo May quote reminds me of Lance Armstrong’s struggle to "keep moving" while fighting to recover from cancer. I  believe I will read your blog at the dinner table tonight.



  2. John Spence
    John Spence says:

    I am so excited to learn of this new book, it sounds wonderful and will soon be on its way to my office via "one click" on Amazon. Years ago I was asked to do a major speech on "Excellence" with a capital E — t0 nearly 1,000 people from IBM. I did a ton of research and boiled it all down to three key watchwords: FOCUS — DISCIPLINE — ACTION.  I am overjoyed to have a new resource on the exceedingly vital topic of discipline. Thank you so much!

  3. Pamela
    Pamela says:

    Sandy — I cut the same article out. I went to look for it, and can’t find it. So I took to the internet — and here you are.


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