Discipline Is a Bad Word
Discipline is a concept that gets mixed reviews. Sometimes it’s associated with overwork and pushing yourself too hard. Disciplining someone else, like a class of unruly students, or being disciplined. It conjures obedience (to someone else’s rules) and punishment.
But what of discipline as a virtue that leads to success? A method of work that lets you reach your objective. Self-discipline is simply a regular practice you stick to. Emotions and intuition aside.
Discipline Is Repetition
There’s not too much ‘how does it feel’ with discipline. It’s a repetitive step in reaching an objective. Writing every day, running three times a week, meditating every evening, making your bed every morning. You get the idea. And herein lies its saving grace: the repetition. You get used to it. It becomes a practice. With time, research says usually 21 days, it becomes ingrained in your routine. So much that missing your practice (whatever the task is) can put you off.
Emotion and (False) Intuition
Then you set up a disciplined practice in order to reach an objective, there isn’t much room for emotion or false intuition. Why do I say false intuition? Because that feeling or impression that we should stop is usually fear or self-consciousness masquerading as your intuition. I excelled at that, thinking the voice telling me to stop because it was trying to protect me was my intuition.
Where do we falter? When we confuse lack of discipline with an intuition or emotional message. Usually something fear based that creates anxiety over the task and the desired outcome. Lack of faith: the feeling that it won’t happen. Don’t think this is an intuition that it will not happen. That’s fear talking.
Notice how often we refer to feeling, as both emotion and intuition, when we give up. ‘I wasn’t feeling it’; ‘It doesn’t feel right’; ‘I wasn’t feeling up to it’; ‘I had a bad feeling.’
Discipline to Write
I wrote a lot before writing a whole novel. And it’s sequel. I have two unfinished manuscripts on my hard drive. And several other projects at various stages.
I set out to write two pages a day. My logic was that after a year I’d be around 720 pages and that somewhere in there there would most likely be a book. So I worked at that, 500 words a day, no more, no less. Give or take, there could be some variation, but it’s beat to stay with the plan, as I’ll explain below.
Even when I was tired, when the creative tank was empty I wrote my 2 pages. Sometimes it was another story altogether, because I was out of ideas. At times, it flowed and at others it was slow. Sometimes it was crap. But even that I saved, even if it was in a blurb file, because it all counts. It is all leading somewhere.
Two Keys to a Disciplined Approach
Show up. Seriously, just f-ing show up. You’re tired, it’s late: do 30 minutes of spinning instead of your regular 45, or even 20. Just don’t skip. Consistency allows you to form a habit. Consistency allows for progress to happen. Skipping just isn’t an option.
Not Overdoing It
Don’t set the bar too high. Again, I’m serious. If it’s nigh impossible, you will give up. There’s a balance between discipline and doable. And each time do what you set out to do. No more, no less. If you overdo it, you’ll get fed up or discouraged. It’s the bar-too-high principle again. Look for the happy medium. Reduce and keep going rather than stop completely.
Every time we do out task, whatever that is for you, you’re taking another step towards your objective. It’s another block towards building the result. Some days will be fantastic, some average, some really tough. But you show up and tell yourself it’s better than nothing. It’s something and all those add up.