The Role Of Discipline

I promise I’m not turning into a productivity blog!

The Role Of Discipline

Something I’ve been thinking about, as it’s one of the things I’m trying to work on this year, is discipline. The role of discipline in getting stuff done, I think, is misunderstood. A lot of people have realised that leaning on it too much can lend itself to a certain grit-your-teeth forced-ness that isn’t very pleasant or (long-term) very useful, so you get a lot of talk about acting entirely from volition or whatever.

The role of discipline, for me, is to assist in dysfunctional relationships between desire and enjoyment. It’s something akin to a catalyst in chemistry: something that can help lower the activation energy for something. Discipline what you apply to get you over the hump and into something that’s you want to do but for whatever reason are having trouble with; usually some kind of effortful fun, or something it takes you a while to enter flow with.

I might feel a bit lazy and not want to go for a jog: discipline can be applied useful here, as I’ll feel better once I'm doing so. If, however, I’ve got a stinking cold, forcing myself to go for a jog isn’t helping anyone—it's not for forcing you to do stuff you hate or that will make your situation worse. If I’m hemming and hawing between reading a book or watching Netflix, discipline will nudge me into at least cracking the book open.

You may need to deploy discipline more extensively—sometimes if you have a significant and complex goal or project, there might be a lot of uncertainty, skill development etc required, which can be uncomfortable and may require discipline to hold fast to—encountering new stuff can be 'continuously uncomfortable' in a way that makes it easy to look away. But things change as you’re in different state. Your day-to-day shouldn’t, necessarily, require all that much.

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