Life is not a Nike commercial.
Being told to “just do it” is not enough.
If it was, you would have “just done it” by now.
BURN THIS INTO YOUR MIND: Self-discipline requires hard and consistent mental, physical and emotional labor.
It is not the path of convenience.
It is not a glamorous way of living and working.
It is not something most people are going notice about you.
As I learned from self-discipline strategist Rory Vaden, “Those who learn to deal with discipline gently and persistently (eventually) flip a switch that they can never turn off.”
And that’s when discipline turns into freedom.
Let’s explore a list of strategies to help you sink into self-discipline:1. Commitment is the offspring of values. If you can’t discipline yourself to do something every day, there’s only one explanation: It’s simply not that important to you.
People always make time – not find time, but make time – for what matters to them. That’s how commitment works: It deletes distraction. It makes you wake up early. It turns habits into non-negotiables. When you’re committed, you drop everything and get to work. Every day.
The hard part is telling the truth about your current level of commitment. And if you’re having trouble with that, here’s an exercise you might try: Write down a list of the five things you’re most committed to. Then open your calendar. See if your life agrees.
If you’re not happy with the result, either find something else that is important to you and commit to that, or take the current thing that isn’t important to you and reframe it as – or reconnect it with – something else that is. How will you use commitment to open the door to discipline?
2. Bait multiple hooks. If you inherited five million dollars tomorrow, would you invest all of it in one stock? Of course not. You’d diversify it across several accounts. That way your portfolio would have a stronger foundation, making it less vulnerable to external conditions.
This same principle applies to creative professionals who have trouble disciplining themselves. Personally, I’m always working on about fifty things at once. Because in my experience, attacking multiple projects simultaneously has several advantages.
First, it prevents burnout. That’s what happens when your creative efforts are more diversely deployed: You don’t give yourself the chance to get sick of something and abandon it.
Second, by varying your creative endeavors, you establish thought bridges, subconscious connections and unexpected integrations between seemingly unrelated ideas. And as a result, you start to notice natural relationships and structures in your work you never would have seen by working on a single project.
Ultimately, this approach relaxes the process and helps contribute to greater consistency in your body of work. Are you willing to allocate your creativity attention to multiple endeavors?
3. Build a portable creative environment. A real artist can be creative any time, any place, with any tools. That’s the mark of a master: She shapes her immediate surroundings to feel in harmony with the small slice of the universe in which she finds herself.
As I learned in Beyond Boredom and Anxiety, “Whether the conditions in which they find themselves are luxurious or miserable, geniuses manage to give their surroundings a personal pattern that echoes the rhythm of their thoughts and habits of action. Within this environment of their own making, they can forget the rest of the world and concentrate on pursuing the muse.”
What are your portable creative environments? What enables you to enter into the creative flow at the drop of a hat? Have these on standby at all times. You’ll discover that by keeping alternative workspaces ready to go with transportable lightning rods tailor made to your tendencies, you’ll feel more in control of your surroundings.
That way, when inspiration comes unannounced, you’ll be ready to pounce. Can you do what you do anywhere?
4. Discipline derives from the wellspring of why. Willpower is overrated. If you want execute what matters most – every single day – you need to tap the reservoir of whypower.
Here’s the reason: When you actively cultivate the purpose driven nature of your work, discipline becomes a non-thought. What was once a desire becomes a habit. And what was once a habit becomes a non-negotiable. A positive addiction. Just something you do.
That’s why I’m able to write for seven hours a day, every day: Because I keep a list of one hundred reasons why I do what I do, in my wallet, and I read it to myself every morning. That’s your challenge: To become a walking translation of stunning clarity of purpose. To pinpoint the deepest motivations behind what you’re trying to discipline yourself to do. Find that, and you’ll have no problem slogging it out every day.
Remember: Daily bread without daily meaning tastes like daily crap. How are you fueling your discipline with a firm why?
5. Cultivate a more acute sense of resistance. Part of self-discipline is learning how to override yourself. That means becoming a master of your disinclination. That means discovering what frustrates your ambitions. And that means not allowing yourself the indulgence of saying you’re too busy.
Here’s the reality: The problem isn’t decreasing productivity – it’s diluted priorities. And you will lose the discipline game if you fall victim to what’s latest and loudest.
My suggestion: Extinguish whatever distractions seduce you. Drown out the world’s chatter and find the energy that urges you forward. And for the love of David Allen, stop performing minor tasks that engulf you in pointless, trivial action.
Instead, create around the constraint. Take the energy you’ve been burning on creative avoidance and redirect it to help you execute what matters. What’s your system for stamping out redundancy?
LOOK: It’s not my job to convince you to be more disciplined.
It’s hard work that nobody undertakes but you.
It’s unspectacular work that nobody notices but you.
It’s inconvenient work that nobody appreciates but you.
But discipline does mean freedom.
Freedom to be, freedom to do and freedom to have – pretty much anything.
I think it’s worth it.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How discipline are you prepared to be?
LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “49 Ways to become an Idea Powerhouse,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
Now booking for 2011!
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