One of the most common questions that I receive from readers has to do with a word that, to be honest, I despise.
That word is discipline.
People always want to know how to be more disciplined in the writing process and in their lives. They see me and they think I am more “disciplined” than them.
I try to explain to them that no, I am not more disciplined than them, and that I simply learned long ago that trying hard to be “disciplined” does not work. I try to explain to them that I am not more disciplined than them, I am simply more devoted. I use my devotion to my passion to motivate me in the long-term, and this deep devotion, in turn, makes me appear more “disciplined.”
I think what confuses most people about discipline is that they think that discipline is an action and not a result. They think discipline is something they have to do in order to be successful, instead of something that comes as a result of their devotion to a particular project.
In order to become more disciplined, you have to understand that discipline is what comes out of you committing yourself to something you absolutely love–discipline is not something you do in order to pursue that thing you love.
If the latter is what you think discipline is, then no wonder you suck at discipline: you got it all backwards. You have to start with your deepest love and then work from there in order to achieve discipline.
You must be devoted to something first, before you can every become effectively disciplined at it.
The Simple 4-Step Formula To Becoming More Disciplined
Here is the simple formula to becoming more disciplined:
1. Drop the effort to become more “disciplined.”
Trying hard to be more disciplined hasn’t worked for you thus far, has it? It has only given you more excuses to punish yourself, hate yourself, see yourself as inadequate, inefficient, lazy, stupid, irresponsible. It is a great tactic to constantly set yourself up for failure because it continually forces you to compare yourself to others.
“Let me see,”–you often think when your goal is to be more disciplined–“who is more disciplined than me? They are more disciplined, and he is, and she is…”
You always come up short when you seek to be more disciplined.
(In fact, trying to be more disciplined is one of the many roulette tables you visit when you play The Perfection Game.)
2. Find out what your “little loves” are
A far more effective productivity strategy than trying to be more “disciplined” is trying to be more motivated by love.
Instead of focusing on becoming more discipline then, examine and research the things that you love. Become absolutely aware of the things that bring you joy–even the things that you think are not that important: like a love of anime, or a love of fine wines, or a love patch quilts.
These random little loves may seem innocent enough, but they are your “bread crumbs.” Bread crumbs that will lead you to your true loves and your true passions. Collect all these “bread crumbs,” these little things that bring you love and joy, and start letting them lead the way to your big love (or loves).
Take these little loves seriously and they will slowly but surely lead you directly to your true loves.
3. Let your little loves lead you to your big love
You will begin to notice that the more you follow your random little loves, the more they will lead you to your one, true love.
For example: a random love for making origami may move a writer to take a class in origami. Once this writer perfects this new skill of his, he may find himself randomly inspired to write a story where the character does origami for a living, and then is contacted by a detective who needs help solving a crime in which the murderer leaves origami puzzles as clues to his identity.
You see, in this example, a random little love for origami led this author to uncover his big love for this new novel he wants to write.
(Life often works in roundabout ways like this. Don’t get frustrated by it: instead enjoy the whimsy and wonder of it all!)
Do you see how, in this case, what seemed like a random little love ended up leading the author in this example to uncover his bigger love?
Follow your little loves: they are like little “breadcrumbs” that will lead you to your bigger love.
4. Trust that your big love for your work will make you more devoted to that work
Now that you’ve uncovered the project you have a big love for, you might recognize that you are more motivated to work on this project than the one you were previously trying to “force” yourself to do out of this need to be more “disciplined.”
You might even realize that you are achieving discipline simply by the act of following your big love for this project.
You may be shocked to uncover that your new-found “discipline” came out of no effort on your part–and that the “discipline” simply came as a result of your devotion to your greatest love.
This is how true discipline is achieved: by devoting yourself completely and utterly to your greatest and deepest love.
I know that some of you will say that discipline can certainly be achieved without love, and this is true. But discipline without love is often only short-term discipline: no long-term discipline can ever be achieved without love. Without love you will eventually burn-out, lose patience, lose the will, and thus you will cease to be “disciplined.”
Emmanuel Swedenborg, a 17th Century Swedish philosopher and scientist, believed that not only are we driven by our deepest love but that we are our deepest love.
Our deepest love is us.
Let me repeat this so you can understand it better: the more you follow your deepest love, the more you will uncover who you really are, and the more you can drop down into the natural flow of life.
In such a state, there is no need for discipline–discipline is simply granted to you.
I know: you think that my advice is too simplistic and therefore will not work for you. But before you judge it, try it first. Really make an effort to follow your little loves, until they lead you to your big love; and then allow your devotion to that big love to generate the long-term productivity you so deeply desire for yourself.
Try it, and I guarantee you that one day you will thank me.
Today’s Courage Exercise
Stop your dead-end efforts to become more “disciplined.” Instead, start following the bread-crumbs of your little loves. Let those little loves lead you to your big love. Finally, let the devotion to your big love keep you productive over the long-term. Then, as you become more productive, look at what you are doing and laugh at yourself: you have achieved discipline–the discipline you had been desperately searching for–simply by following your deepest love and becoming more of who you really are.
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