How To Develop Discipline As A Character
How to build the power of discipline and achieve not a perfect life but a better one, in which you are not the slave of your desires.
According to Merriam-Webster, discipline is the act of training or developing by instruction and exercise, particularly in self-control. It also defines it as “punishment.” But the true meaning of discipline is far more nuanced than the dictionary definition. Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments. Contrary to popular belief, discipline is not a restraint but an unlimited (sort of) freedom. The power to control what not to do will serve as fuel to do more. Or in the beautiful words of Aristotle, “what it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.”
In this article, we’ll explore how to build the power of discipline and achieve not a perfect life but a better one, in which you are not the slave of your desires, but the master of your work. Grab a notebook.
First and foremost – Find your why
We do a million things in our lives, but we can not put a purpose behind all of those mindless activities. Why do we watch that Turkish movie? Why do we watch hours and hours of reels and shorts? Why do we religiously stalk that co-worker’s social media profile even though it is making us feel miserable, unaccomplished, and lost? It is simply because we are moving through life mindlessly. Some of the activities we do are just ways in which we hide ourselves. The way to combat mindless activities is by proactively questioning the purpose behind most of our daily activities. When you can identify the purpose of any activity, prioritising it will become easier. And when you have something to prioritise, you have your first item on your to-do list. Let’s get it done.
Showing up is more than hailing a taxi and being on time. Showing up is being present at work, no matter how you feel. Showing up is the opposite of “doing what you want, when you want”, which really is a recipe for disaster. We would not have Vincent van Gogh's greatest works had he simply… gone to sleep. Showing up is the single most important step you must take in order to breathe life into whatever you’re creating or getting done, regardless of how you feel about the weather or whatever excuse you have. So now that you’re sitting at your desk, how exactly do you do it?
Mess up your perception of time
“Messing up” your perception of time does not mean working for endless hours and losing track of time. It means thinking in terms of “activities” you need to do instead of the “time” it takes to do those activities. In doing so, you’ll save yourself immense amounts of frustration and restlessness. Because when you say, “I will sit and work until I finish global trends” instead of “ I will study global trends for an hour,” you will have a high probability of getting the job done. Locking yourself in time frames (read pomodoro) will put you in a situation of distracted flow in which you will only work for a limited amount of time even if you want to keep going. Just like medieval times, set your estimation of time in terms of activities and not “hours”, at least when you’re working. This is going to take a bread, instead of this is an hour’s work.
To reward yourself after a good day's work is a common and seemingly harmless belief. But that is the worst thing you could ever do to yourself. Just don’t ever do it. Stop your friends if they’re doing it too. Why? Dopamine.
When you reward yourself for finishing a task, you are inadvertently creating a connection between the dopamine rush of the reward and the feeling of completing a task. But to complete a task, you kind of have to actually do the task. Here lies the problem. You are not in love with studying global trends, but you love the idea of finishing it. You crave that dopamine rush you will get when you reward yourself for completing a task. But there is no completed task. You don’t know how to complete the task. You’re flipping the pages to see how long you have to read and, you’re visualising yourself after you have finished all you have to do and you’re happy and successful. But you're not. You are just sitting at your desk.
The only way to break the dopamine curse, or at least use it to your advantage is to associate it with the task itself. Reward yourself while you’re working on said task. You can do this by using words of affirmation and support (I am doing great, I am making progress, I will achieve my goals because I am here doing what I need to do….) This will create a connection between dopamine and the process of working. And this is how you fall in love with working.
Disciplining yourself is not a punishment, but if you are hard on yourself, it can become just that. Kindness and self-acceptance are extremely crucial to self-discipline. This is a difficult journey that will push your boundaries, and you can not do it with self-condemnation. You must learn to work with the voice in your head. Learn to be a parent to yourself. Will you treat a child or even an adult the same way you treat yourself? Will you be as harsh? As critical? As unforgiving? You are important when you’re working. And you are equally important when you’re not. Never associate your self-worth with the amount of work you do. Be a good parent to yourself.
Last but not least, get a routine
How was Rome built? Brick by Brick or whatever sort of clay they used. You can’t just wake up and decide to be disciplined in a day. It takes patience, hard work, strategy, and consistency. You can start small, but you must not quit. If you want to run a marathon, start with 10-minute exercises. If you want to start reading books, start with a page. But do it every single day. Start scheduling your days. Google Calendar is a great tool for effective planning. Be specific when writing down goals and task lists. As the saying goes, specificity brings clarity.
Now that you have an action plan, it’s time to reflect. Take a moment and sit with yourself. Are you satisfied with your self-discipline? In which areas of your life do you need to exercise self-discipline? Are you going to keep the promises you make to yourself? How badly do you want the things that you want? When you burn out, make sure to kindly reflect on your day. And don’t skip a meal, you can’t achieve your goals on an empty stomach.