There’s an odd pressure when you’re trying to exercise the muscle of discipline, it’s tempting to want everything you do as a part of that to be the best that it can be. Sometimes you need to just push through and exercise that muscle. When you’re starting out, quantity is often more important than quality. You need to get used to doing something regularly before you can focus on doing it better, otherwise the fear of not good enough can hold you back and prevent you from making the progress you want to make.
I’m great at making statements and promises about things that I want to do. It’s easy. I think of something I wish to do, decide there and then a means by which to do it, then post to my blog declaring it in the public domain.
In principle it’s a good tactic. The public declaration should be enough of a motivation to make sure I stick to something, but the reality is that more often than not I fall short. I might stick to it for a couple of weeks, but then life will happen and that’s it, the idea slides out of existence. Why? Because of a lack of discipline.
When it comes to discipline I’ve generally been quite good when it comes to doing something that really matters, or something that I have to do. The trouble was when it came to doing something I wanted to do, like writing for this site. So as part of getting back into it, I’ve been taking little steps, to build integrity, trust and discipline.
Building integrity with myself is critical. The number of times I’ve set out with an aim to do something, then not succeeded to do it are countless, and this carries over into starting new things. Whilst the intention and desire can be strong, the belief that I can do it less so. It’s been erroded by years of unfulfilled promises to myself about starting to write on a regular basis.
The trick, I’ve discovered is to start small. It’s not a new technique, but I testify that it’s starting to work. I started with The Week in Links, my weekly post sharing a few links to good articles or interesting things that I’ve seen around the internet over the week. As of the time of writing, I’ve now posted an edition of that post for nineteen weeks running. I’ve built integrity with myself that I can post to this site on a regular basis, on a schedule I decided and wanted to commit to.
Now I have built some integrity and belief that I can do something I want to do and not just something I have to do. I’m building trust in myself that I can actually do it. I trust that I can manage the rest of my day well enough, to be able to set aside time to write.
The trust in myself that I can do this, builds the discipline that I need to actually do it. Having established a pattern of turning up each week to post The Week in Links, I’m now disciplined enough to carve out that time each week to make sure I keep doing it.
It’s a knock on effect, or maybe more of a circular cycle. The more belief that I have in sticking by my stated intentions, builds the trust I need to be able to make those intentions in the first place. In turn, that builds the discipline I need to execute those intentions, thus giving myself more belief. It’s why this week I’ve added another step into my morning routine so that I can be sat here at my desk and do a half hour of writing before my work day begins. Not only am I building trust that I can work on writing for my site with regularity, I’m also building trust that I can get up and go through my morning routine with the time to do all that I both want and need to do.
Of course there is another side to this. If I do miss one of my carved out writing slots, I must not give myself a hard time about it. Life happens and I won’t always get to do these things. When that’s the case I need to be able to say nevermind, reset and go again the next day remembering that for the past however many days I’ve been able to do it.