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On Discipline

Look at a river as it moves toward the sea. It creates its own banks that contain it. When there’s something within you that moves in the right direction, it creates its own discipline. The moment you get bitten by the bug of awareness.” – Anthony de Mello, Awareness

Sometimes I fight active avoidance in the work I do, and find myself pushing through tasks that I have no desire to tackle. There are plenty of things that make my mind overflow the banks and wander in the wrong direction, and the pandemic has illuminated my routine and forced me to reconcile what matters in the job, in writing and in exercise and fitness. But the days flow differently when you’re constantly working from home. Work time blends into off time and vice versa. Writing time this morning was blown up by casually reading work email and reacting to the urgency of others. Discipline is not just doing the right things, its not doing other things at the wrong time. Learning, and re-learning, to say no or not yet.

“Discipline equals freedom.” – Jocko Willink

This is where those handy habit loops become an essential part of your day. They allow you to keep promises you make to yourself to keep moving forward. For the most part those habit loops have kept me on track, but I see some drift in my habits over the last month, beginning with vacation when the only thing I stuck with was the writing. Deep inside you know when things are off, and when corrective action is needed. Reflect on your current course, and then decide what to be and go be it.

It is a simple two-step process:
1. Decide the type of person you want to be.
2. Prove it to yourself with small wins.
– James Clear, Atomic Habits

When you’re on the right path, doing the work is relatively easy. Sure, you can drift now and then, but resetting is natural, like setting the sails when the wind shifts. Discipline, when applied to the work you love, becomes natural through repetition. And that’s the trick, doing what you love. Following your path. Sounds positively dreamy, but there’s truth in it. Hate your work? You’ll be miserable as you force yourself down the trail of tears. Love your work? The word work disappears altogether and you focus on optimization instead. Yeah, optimization. I said it. There’s a business-speak word for you, but seriously, isn’t it better love what you do and focus on making the most of your day instead of hating what you do and focus on making it through the day?

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” – Rumi

I’m not one of those writers who pretends to have it all figured out. This blog is me figuring it out in writing. We’re all works in progress, aren’t we? Might as well enjoy the work as it progresses.

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One Comment

  1. Certainly thoughts to ponder. No matter what they say, or appear to do, does anyone really have it figured out? I suppose we’d buy their book (eg Tim Ferris) if it appears so. Sure, we can absorb ideas. Personally, I keep following what seems to provide happiness and satisfaction, bumbling along. Sometimes with help from friends to find a way out of a rut. Yes, this may take varying amounts of discipline and planning, to make any apparent progress. But I assure you, it’s always a gamble to avoid pitfalls. Risk vs reward. It’s up to you how to balance. Sometimes the weather report is questionable, but raise those sails anyway, prepare for the worst, but always hope for the best!

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