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.
After my posts and thinking about discipline last week, on Sunday I decided to order Habits of Grace by David Mathis. It arrived yesterday and the study guide that goes with it is set to arrive either tomorrow or Friday.
It’s a book that’s been on my radar for a while both for it’s subject matter, and if I’m being honest, it’s design. I’ve resisted buying it in the past because I’m aware I already have a large pile of books to I’ve yet to read, but having spent some time in prayer, reading, and thinking around this subject I decided it was time to get my finger out and order it.
I’m looking forward to diving in over the next month, all to often it’s easy to start grinding things like discipline in terms of hobbies and passions. As a Christian grounding the desire for discipline and self control in God and my faith is of far greater importance. Doing that is far easier to say than it is to do, and so I’m hoping that this book, along with building momentum by writing here on my blog will help that muscle of discipline grow into more areas of my life.
Mom: “Remember … don’t forget to write to me at least once a week – even better – every day.”
Me: “Every day! There wont be enough to say every day!”
Mom: “You will find that the more you write the more you will have to say, because then everything is important. If you only write once a month, there will be nothing important enough to write about.”
I’ve been thinking a little more about the link I posted to Austin Kleon’s blog the other day. I finished it with the line
Instead there should just be turning up to write down a thought and seeing where it takes you.
It’s a sentiment that you hear quite regularly around the Internet these days. Just keep turning up every day and do the thing—whatever your thing is.
The phrase turning up is just a less intimidating way of saying be disciplined. Turning up to write a blog post everyday is a discipline, just as reading your bible every day is or getting up without pressing the snooze button.
As I get older I’m understanding more and more that learning to be disciplined is one of the most important things you can do. It can effect every area of your life and it’s easy to assume that discipline is something that you have or you don’t. That you’re either able to be disciplined or you’re not, but that’s not the case. Discipline, I’m learning, is something you can develop. It’s like a muscle, the more you work it the stronger it gets.
The hard part, I believe, is not getting started but maintaining and developing. Everyone can start something, doing it for a couple of days before they get distracted or it begins to feel like work, and then stopping because it requires effort to continue. But that’s where you need to begin exercising that muscle of discipline, when things feel too hard keep going regardless, over time how hard it feels will disappear and instead it will become something you do each and every day.
So join me in learning to be disciplined. Starting tomorrow morning decide what time you’re going to get up, set your alarm and then get up when it goes off. No snoozing, no rolling over, just turn off that alarm and get up. Then do it the next day, and the next, until it becomes something you just do.
Seth Godin made his 7,000th post to his blog yesterday.
That’s one post a day for just over 19 years. That’s both inspiring and humbling at the same time. Inspiring because it makes turning up to post on a blog everyday doable and something that is entirely achievable. Humbling because I haven’t managed to complete a whole months worth of posts everyday for a long time, let alone a whole year.
There’s one thing that we can learn from anyone who is able to repeatedly turn up like Seth has been for the last 19 years. It’s a skill we can all learn. Posting to a blog everyday for 19 years isn’t only for people who have a large following, we’re all capable of doing it, it just takes a bit of discipline. So here’s to the next 19 years Seth, and everyone who blogs with any regularity.
As I sit writing this the BBC are showing their roundup video of the Rio Olympics. Normally when it comes to the Olympics I’m pretty glued to it for the few weeks that it runs. This year, maybe due to the time difference, it took a week or so for me to get in to it.
It was only when the track cycling came on and Team GB started to win medals that I started to watch. The success of the British team on this field is mind-blowing, every four years the team hits form perfectly and brings home gold medal after gold medal. Similarly, the success of the Brownlee brothers in the Triathlon, so consistent year after year resulting this year in the first triathlete to retain the gold medal. Then there’s Andy Murray, only weeks after winning Wimbledon, retaining his gold medal. Not to mention the many other athletes who’ve won medals for Team GB, helping us as a nation to finish second in the medal table.
Most years by the end of the games I’m inspired. I want to try a new sport, or return to an old one I used to play. This year is a bit different. I’ve not been inspired to go and do sport, but instead by the dedication that unites these athletes. Each and every one of them has a level of dedication that blows me away. They are able to apply themselves for every single day between olympic cycles. For four years they are able to focus their energy on one thing so that they can give themselves the best possible shot to win that gold medal.
During one of the events one of the commentators picked up on this. I don’t think it was what he meant, but the way it came across as he spoke of it was that these athletes seem to have a gift none of the rest of the world does. Not in terms of their sporting prowess, but in their ability to apply themselves and dedicate themselves to their chosen discipline. It’s an easy mindset to fall into, but it’s also a dangerous one.
Discipline or dedication is not a thing that we just have, it’s something we can learn. Each and everyone of us can learn discipline and self control in order to focus on something. In order to grow and develop into a great writer it takes dedication and discipline to turn up and write each day. For the artist it takes hours of painting, the musician hours of playing their instrument. Dedication is something we can grow in and get better at. The more we dedicate ourselves to do something, the more likely we are to do it. For the olympic athlete, turning up to training on a wet Monday morning in November makes them more likely to turn up for training on a wet November Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Likewise, writing a post for this blog on a Sunday makes me more likely to want to write one for tomorrow. I don’t want to break the chain or waste the time I spent the day before.
As many people are want to say on the internet at the moment, the key to everything is showing up everyday. The key to winning a gold medal is showing up everyday with an unrelenting dedication to your sport. The key to growing in dedication to our chosen discipline is the same.
I’ve had this article from Federico Viticci in my Instapaper queue for along time and finally got a chance to read it over the weekend. Despite it’s age I wanted to share it just in case anyone else is like me and has had it saved to read for a long time.
First up, kudos to Frederico for making the changes to his life he has and not slipping back into old habits. Second, the idea of using my iPhone to track elements of my life has always connected with me (I like stats!). Several times I’ve tried it with MyFitnessPal and Sleep Cycle but they’ve never stuck for some reason, but seeing the motivation behind Frederico’s methods has struck a chord with me. I’m not recovering from a severe physical illness but I am recovering from a mental one and there’s definitely a connection between my mental well being and how I feel in my body. Positive attitudes in one area of my life filter through into other areas and it’s with this in mind that I’ve decided to have another go at putting that Health app to good use. My thanks to Frederico for highlighting some apps I’d never come across that are much more pleasant to use than ones I’ve tried previously.
Here’s to another attempt at tracking some stats about my life and to living more healthily.
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.
This is a very well timed article. Since going self employed I’ve come to realise how important my routine involving an hour long commute was in preparing myself for a days work. This article has some handy tips at spotting routines and establishing new ones.