Here is a quote about how to cultivate self-discipline which has always bugged me:
“Success is having the discipline to do what you know you should do, even when you don’t feel like doing it.”
It has bugged me because the quote sums me up in many ways!
The word “success” is so ambiguous.
And “should” often unreasonably sparks feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, frustration and self-rejection.
My experience so far…
Meditation is the most stripped down approach for how to cultivate self-discipline. And it’s in this practice where words like “success” and “should” have no place.
Having said that, it’s definitely something I have done more when I’ve already been feeling good and something I have done less when I wasn’t in the mood.
This is essentially backwards!
The purity of meditation is precisely to give yourself space to “sit” with and accept any feelings you are experiencing, especially negative.
And with this stripped down approach, self-discipline organically flowers to other areas of life.
Without it, lack of persistence grows on itself.
So here is the crux of my dilemma.
In recent times, I have actually shown great discipline to:
- Reverse a spinal issue I had by training Wing Chun kung fu 40-50 hours per week
- Reclaim phenomenal fitness by playing and coaching squash, including building and running a squash fitness website
- Write a book, edit and re-write it countless times (which I will persist with until publication on 6th June this year)
- Learn conversational Turkish
And in these periods, my mind has been and is clear, purposeful and optimistic.
Now I have a 9-5 job.
I always make big plans to continue devoting energy to my interests and projects when I start back at my job.
Inevitably, though, it starts to crush my spirit.
— Change jobs, you say?
I’m not too good at having a boss of any kind.
— Get a job you like?
I’m an introvert who appreciates work. But not solely for a pay-check.
So I end up completely disconnecting from the plans I made and, with it, the purposeful outlook that fuels my spirit.
Extended time spent at a job spirals me into a state of despair.
This is how I get stuck in a rut…
When I do something I am passionate about – even if it is difficult and/or uncertain – I tend to heartily go all in.
It consumes my energy, bordering on obsession, 24/7.
So as soon as I need to get up at 7am and go to a job to work for someone else until 5pm every day, I’m
fucked thrown off balance.
Now, what if making money weren’t an issue?
I would focus a large portion of my time on the following:
I’m kind of a simpleton. This is enough for me.
When I focus on these, which are all interconnected, it helps me express myself better and share a space of love.
And it serves as a base for exploring fun, creative and purposeful activities, like writing.
In the midst of coming and going to and from a job, I have realized that if I fail to take opportunities of little snippets of time throughout the day and week to do these, I get stuck in that spiral of despair and dread.
Unfortunately, this is not a new realization.
But this time I see it’s not motivation that I’ve lacked – it’s clarity.
And this is the answer to the question: How to cultivate self-discipline?
Such is life – we try, fall, get back up, get pushed over, get back up, make some giant leaps, take two steps back, gather ourselves to try to pick up momentum again and continue…
…all while trying to maintain hope.
As The Architect in the Matrix said:
“Hope. It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength and your greatest weakness.”
Here is my clarity:
A goal to be free from the obligation to go to a job is an end-result.
Instead, I need to first focus on the process or systems or habits that encourage how to cultivate self-discipline.
I must find ways to inject these little self-discipline pillars into pockets of the day. I must do it, especially when I don’t feel like it.
In this way, that self-discipline will organically spread to other areas without obsession.
As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, says:
“Thankfully, you don’t have to be the victim of your environment. You can also be the architect of it. You can decide to design something to make your good behaviors easier and your bad behaviors harder.