All You (Probably) Need Is Discipline
I was born into the prosperity of cold-war era Austria. This sounds dramatic and to some extent it was. Tschernobyl hadn’t happened yet and Germany was still divided. We couldn’t cross over to hungary that easily and we’d still have to show our passports when crossing borders in general. Still, for us middle-class kids, life was good. Even after Tschernobyl went down and we weren’t allowed to eat mushrooms anymore, or sand, we had a great time.
My parents raised me to be curious, with very little rules except the ones that kept me safe from injuring myself through my own stupidity. I grew up to be a rebellious kid and challenge authority very often. Not to create a ruckus, not to break any rules. But to get answers. I was raised by getting answers to all my questions. Never once my parents said “It’s like this because we tell you so.”. If I asked why the sky is blue, they made sure to dig up a book (way before the Internet) and tell me exactly about air, what it was made of and why it scatters the blue wavelengths of visible light more when stacked up high enough. They did their best to feed my hunger for knowledge.
So. I grew up “free” in every sense of the word. Free to express myself in any way and form. Free to say “no” to my teachers when I felt pressured into climbing a wall in physical education, because I was afraid of heights. Free to dream and chase my dreams whenever I wanted.
But I also was free to quit.
I quit Judo classes just after a week because I was bored with doing summersaults. I quit several activity clubs because even back then I wasn’t too fond of people.
I never even started learning the flute, like many of my friends, because I didn’t know that being 16 years old and able to play the guitar would make me attractive to the opposite sex. Big missed opportunity there. Needed to wow them with my weirdness.
I had a hard time getting my driving license. Not because I was stupid or clumsy while driving, no. Just because I had a hard time showing up at all the required courses, simply because “I had to”.
Where I live, a popular proverb is “I have to die!” which you’d use to respond to someone who is ordering you “have to” do something.
By the way I was raised, I was blessed with a warm childhood full of love, play and exploration. I could develop my creative mind, my language skills and self-esteem, because I was never told to “shut up” — just sometimes kindly explained why it’s important to let other people talk now. I was raised with a lot of respect in a very calm an peaceful setting and I’m really thankful for that.
But I was also raised without much discipline or consequence.
I didn’t have to do stupid exercises or chores, just to cement the authority of my parents over me. I was, depending on my developing skills while growing up, more or less seen as equal. Whenever I was tasked with a chore, I did it on my own terms, out of free will. My parents would take their time to explain to me, why it would be beneficial to do chore X or Y. I did learn to cook just by helping my mother and later on explore it further myself. I did learn to clean up and keep everything in order (I’m just not good at it) as well as tend to my own needs. Like washing my clothes and all that boring grown-up-stuff we all end up having to do deal with eventually.
But I was “programmed” to only do things I don’t enjoy, if someone (or myself) can reason them to me. Explain to me, why it’s beneficial to do X or Y. So “stupid” orders by someone who I deem intellectually below me, won’t work. I don’t accept authority just by status.
Now, as you’ve probably guessed the current times have proven to be very challenging to me, just like for most of us. There are many things to endure, that don’t make immediate sense. So I started using my time studying the old stoics and philosophy, as I always tend to do in times of crisis. I learned to try and make the best of the current situation and like the stoics said, turn every obstacle into a chance.
Plenty of chances nowadays.
Upon hours of soul-searching, I realized something that was nagging me for quite a while now.
I lack discipline.
What a revelation, right?
Don’t get me wrong, I can plow through heavy workdays, no problem. I can sit through plenty of painful dentist visits if I have to (and I often have to). I can also finish my painful sport routine, or run my 10 miles run, even though my thighs are already burning and it feels like my cadaver begins falling apart.
I can do that.
But I have a hard time doing it every day.
I lack the discipline to keep doing things with delayed rewards. Like building up a certain physique or writing a book. Great. An out-of-shape wannabe-writer that lacks the discipline for long-term goals is exactly what the world has been waiting for. That’s probably why I focus on short stories and articles right now (and also for practice).
After some more soul-searching and self-exploration (of the mental kind) I seem to have broken free of my old ways, at least a bit. I‘ve been faring a tad better with long-term goals, that require lots of discipline, for a while now. Let me share my thought-process with you in hopes to spread some motivation to my fellow procrastinators.
Progress is often born out of necessity
Now 2020 is shyte. There’s no way around it, unless you’re Tim Apple or Jeff Amazon. You might be under tremendous amounts of pressure, stress and anxiety. Good. Why not use these “less than ideal” times for change. To get out of your comfort zone. Heck, most of us have no other choice left and the comfort zone is gone anyways. Once everything else is so stress- and painful already, you might as well go for that personal phase of change you’ve put off for so long already. Embrace the inconvenience, the pain, the anxiety, chances are, it will all come for you anyways.
Only when you’re staring into the abyss and someone threatens to push you, you’re ready to turn (your life) around.
2020 is that push.
Once you’ve already lost your perceived “security” (be it financial or otherwise, but it was never real anyways) and your bubble of comfort has been burst, you will realize, that this shiny veil of your bubble was the resistance that kept you from stretching your wings.
History shows us, too much comfort bears stagnation. Comfort is over. Stagnation bears Nihilism. If everything loses value and meaning, Nihilism rears it’s ugly head. It will come for your dreams, your mental wellbeing. For your everything. Fight that. Give meaning to your life by your actions. If nothingelse, seek guidance in philosophy.
Think like this: Whatever you have to endure right now. No matter how hard, uncomfortable or outright unbearable it might be, someone else has already suffered through it, came out alive, and maybe even better, on the other side and wrote about it, for you to benefit from their findings. You don’t have to invent the wheel all anew for yourself.
Ancient life was harsher than everything you could imagine. Make use of that old wisdom on how to cope with difficult situations, be it loss, uncertainty, illness or worse. Read up on Seneca, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and Euphrates. It helps. A lot.
Think less, do more
No, I don’t mean don’t think at all. Just don’t overthink. Like the stoics said, don’t focus on external situations you can’t change. Focus inwards. Make the best of the situation you have. Use obstacles as chance. Don’t tether your mental wellbeing to external influences. Think it through. Once, twice, maybe even three times. Then get going. Stop overthinking.
Better to do something than nothing. Get acting, try to start some kind of online business, try a different career path, work on your health, write that book, try to be as independent of the circumstances right now as possible. Go for it. Do it. Do it for a while and then honestly evaluate if it’s going somewhere for you. If not, try something else, but be relentless. Never quit. Use the most valuable thing in the world. Your time. And use it wisely.
Success, by habit
This is the boiled-down-logic of most books on improving your life, written by one of the countless, self-proclaimed know-it-all-gurus of self-improvement.
You are not what you want to be in X days.
You are, what you do EVERY day.
Yes, change really is now.
Routines form habits
How to create a habit that benefits you? By routines. Just by thinking about something, then deciding the best way of action and simply doing it, stupidly, day after day. Here and there you evaluate, if this works for you. After a few weeks, a habit will form. Starting with something small helps, like drinking a cup of fresh water at a certain time of the day, every day. No excuses.
Discipline creates Routine
You know what you need to create routines? Discipline. Here is where so many of us, myself included, stumble. You might be able to power through something if your goal is clearly defined and alredy in view. But if you need to build a routine first, which then will become a habit, which will then, probably, transform your life for the better — that takes discipline. Boatloads of it.
Like a nifty sports-shoe once said:
“Just do it.”
Like a fine facebook-meme once said:
“Nothing in the world that’s worth having, is easy to get.”
It starts in the morning
Don’t push that snooze button. Get up. Make your bed, the second you’re up. Do the little things first. It will set up your mind for the day, powering through things you don’t like to do. Small motivational successes that become routines, also become habits and are the fuel for the bigger undertakings. It’s snowballing. Start with the snooze button. Then after a few weeks, maybe wake up an hour early. Go running for 40 minutes or so. You will hate it with all your guts, but stick with it, stay disciplined, never let it slip except you’re ill. No excuses otherwise. Sooner rather than later, it will be a habit that you will not want to live without.
You can turn everything into a habit.
What else would you do?
When in doubt. Always ask yourself this:
What else would wou do?
Why not stick to your routine?
What would be the benefit?
Be lazy? Play videogames? Do nothing? If it’s not improving your situation in a way to counteract outside influences, better your situation or grow you as a person, it has no value. Sure, you have a right to relax. Just having a lazy day is awesome. But put all your rules, responsibilities, chores and routines first. Reward yourself with an hour of playing videogames, or a cold one.
But put the reward always after the chores.
This is basically like educating yourself, being your own parent. People that have been in an environment where high discipline is necessary, like the military, or professional sports, benefit from their discipline in all other aspects of their life, even though they may have other issues to work on. Which will be easier, if you’re disciplined.
Discipline may be HARD to attain, but it makes EVERYTHING EASIER.
Here’s another inspirational proverb, that’s making the rounds on Facebook:
“If you choose the easy way, your life will be hard, but if you choose the hard way, your life will be easy.”
Think of it like this: Every creature on this planet works. Every beetle, ant, deer and giant squid has a job to do. A job so important, it governs their whole existence. So do you. Do you really think, your job on this planet is to play videogames, lay lazy on the couch and make Jeff richer?
I refuse to beleive this.
The time is now! No better year than 2020 and onwards to discipline yourself, when literally the whole world has conspired against you and your old, comfortable ways. Hardship comes knocking at your door.
Open it confidently.
Thank you for reading. I hope this had some value for you. Please note, that all of this is purely based on my personal opinion and experiences in life and I didn’t want it to sound like “everything is fine, you just need discipline”. No. Nothing is fine at the moment but I personally just refuse to not go and seek the chances in this mess of obstacles. Also, english is not my native language, but I tried my best. Recommendations to improve my grammer or vocabulary are highly appreciated. This article does not contain any affiliate links. Stay smart, stay healthy, stay disciplined.