“Natural talent counts for little unless it’s supercharged by self-discipline.”
This gets me every time I read it. I got some disappointing news yesterday that has had me deep in thought. I decided to sit down and put it all down on paper. I took some random green copy paper that my office mate has lying around for scrap and made four columns:
1. My interests
2. My assets
3. My liabilities
4. My desires
It wasn’t like I learned anything new about myself, of course. But it seemed weird writing it down. There’s scribbles and doodles and cross-outs and such. Some words were easy to write and others hurt a little. And I don’t mean the liability section. I can list my flaws and weaknesses with ease. It doesn’t take trouble being honest there — I’m keenly aware of them. No, the difficult part was writing down what I really want. It’s hard because it seems completely unattainable. I can think of 10 reasons for each desire on why it won’t happen. (There’s a subtle hint to a liability.) it’s easy for me to justify and justify and make excuses for why the things I desire can’t happen. But, the real truth is harder to swallow.
Recently I had come up with what I thought would be my five and ten year plan. And then Wednesday happened and I’m side-railed. Now I definitely had another excuse for why I couldn’t go for my goals and no one would blame me … In fact, they’d probably say, “yes, of course, you must do such and such. These things happen. You’ll have to adjust and quit this and that.”
And honestly, it makes logical sense to agree with them. Avoid danger. Go the safe route. Etc, etc, etc.
But I’m looking at my desire column and there’s this deep-seated feeling that I can’t shake inside. It’s simmering. I know it. I can ignore it. I can douse it with rational thoughts. I can distract it with my 4th and 5th place desires. But that little flame of hope …. It’s feisty.
While working on the future plan I’ve done some reading. Varied sources. It’s easy for me to claim that I struggle with fear! I can freely admit that to thousands. Yes, I. Am. Fearful. Check.
But, I want to whisper behind my hand with a lot of distracting back noise going on …. i lack discipline. Shhhhhh. Don’t tell anyone. Don’t admit that publicly — so shameful. Ouch. I’m blushing just to type it out and admit it. Makes me feel like the biggest poser.
Not that I wanted to open Pandora’s box of my life, but looking at the contents cooly and clinically does have merit. I’ve consolidated my readings and thoughts into some key ideas on developing self-discipline. I do not speak from experience — unless you count the failure kind — but I found these ideas helpful.
1. Drop the excuses. It’s the easiest method of derailment and one that no one had to teach us. This is default mode.
2. Don’t wait till you feel like it. Good luck. If you only do things based on when you feel like it, you are a living disaster. I almost wrote walking disaster, but that would imply there aren’t people who only feel like laying on the couch — and I’m sure they exist.
3. Make it a non-negotiable. I know people who will not miss their favorite tv show, but skip out on going to work if they don’t want to.
4. Make outside deadlines. When people are expecting you to do something, when you’ve put yourself on the line, when you’ve invested you time and/or money, you increase your chances of following thru.
5. Forget about the negative Nancy’s. Some people are very well-meaning in their advice for you to stop. It’s these logical, kind souls that get me the most. They really seem to have my best interest at heart. But, truthfully, the friend who holds my feet to the fire is a blessed one. It’s easy to blow off the obvious negatives, but it’s those subtle ones that really bite. And that may be you and me!
6. Finish what you start. End of story. See it thru. Endure.
7. Do one thing. Then the next. And then the next. (As my dad is fond of saying — how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.)
8. Don’t get off-trail by extras. What I mean is — you can get discouraged and quit when you don’t see results and feel unfulfilled. So, you look for that satisfaction in watching a movie, playing a video game, going out to eat, etc. All these things have a “satisfying” completion to them and briefly make us feel like we “did” something. Meanwhile the elephant in the room is waiting for you.
Ahhh …. Self-discipline. The attribute I want, but struggle to develop. I’ve started to tell myself “no” in some small things. This is just the drive up to the mountain, I still have to begin to climb it. But hopefully I can use the things I’m learning as my climbing gear and get started. I don’t have a motivational coach, intense personal trainer or copious amounts of extra time. Pretty much like everyone else. But each choice is mine and I must live with the consequences.
“Self-respect is the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grown with the ability to say no to oneself.” Herschel
Gotta go, time to tackle the foothills ….