Self Discipline Doesn’t Work? Really?

Really. Self discipline does not work. Not for the long run.  Not even for the short run.

People turn to self discipline when they  they think they should do something they really don’t want to do.  It’s like having a boss, parent or spouse on your case about something you should do but have not. It’s no fun. So why we do this to ourselves and call it discipline?

Here’s the way it works. When you are doing something, really engaged and fully concentrating on getting it done, you are not aware of liking the process or not.  You are simply too focused on the project. We do not hate doing things, we hate thinking about doing them. And if in the middle of the process of getting it done, the thought comes up that “This is not fun.” Have another thought “So what! I’m just going to get it done as fast as possible so I can turn to things I like!” Motivation focused. Not a lot of anger directed at yourself. Not a lot of judgment. Just getting it done with as little effort as possible spent focusing on anything but the task. In most cases, the barrier can be broken through by just starting – taking the first step toward getting it done.

In the late 70s, I spent several years as a buyer for B. Dalton. In those tabulated but pre-computerized times, we had to review on paper lists of weekly sales of hot titles in over 300 stores and design reorder quantities for each store for each title. We had to calculate the reorder size (in our own heads) based on the quantity on hand, upcoming publicity, the sales in the previous week(s), sales trend, store location/size and several other variables at each store. Pressure was always on from management not to over order and certainly not to run out of stock, in NYC, LA or Bemidji! I learned to stay fully engaged in the process and ignore or laugh at thoughts about liking the process or not because I was focused forward, on the payoff. I wanted to have the highest sales and the lowest rate of returns!

In his article, The Myth of Discipline, Leo Babauta discusses self discipline from a the perspective of habits. Enjoy the process!

(Adapted from a post on May 24, 2011)

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