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What is discipline?

Defining and understanding what it takes to be disciplined

As a chronic procrastinator, I have always struggled with the idea of discipline.

 

To me, discipline has always been a painful subject to consider and a death sentence to practice.

 

I don’t know what it means to be disciplined. I can only recognize it in others.

 

Despite viewing discipline as anathema to my creative hedonist soul, I crave it. I need it.

 

I need discipline because I know that discipline leads to success and even greater things.

 

I want greater things for myself. So I want to be disciplined.

 

And I seriously hope that a little goes a long way.


 

What is discipline?

I think the major reason that I have never been able to understand how to be disciplined is because I have never tried to define it.

 

Why would I? It was too painful to consider.

 

But given the craving, I’ve been giving it some more thought. I’ve been taking something big and painful and breaking it down into smaller and more bearable pieces.

 

Here’s what I have so far:

 

Discipline is…

 

Delayed gratification

I’m old enough to remember waiting an hour to download ONE song (56mpbs baby!).

 

I remember getting excited at the prospect of having that song in my library in an hour (for free…). In just one hour, I would have the start of my own music library.

 

Yes, I did realize that it would take forever for me to amass an actual music library on my old dinosaur computer, but it didn’t matter. I had the time.

 

Now the thought of waiting for anything is painful. What little patience I had was wasted downloading music. I can’t stand waiting for anything or putting in the time to see any worthwhile change.

 

It’s awful and extremely limiting.

 

I lack patience for most things and I am always looking for instant gratification. I want everything I want and I want it now!

 

I had convinced myself that waiting is stupid. With all the technology we have at our disposal, waiting is a choice.

 

I had it all wrong.

 

Delayed gratification isn’t about waiting to get something you want. It’s about using your time to get exactly what you want.

 

You’re not waiting so much as investing time to get something better.

 

Delayed gratification is one of the core tenets of discipline because it takes skill to see what’s worth waiting for and practice to reinforce it over and over again.

 

You have to train yourself to wait for satisfaction.

 

And it’s fucking hard.

 

Self-abnegation

I can’t read the word abnegation and not think of Divergent.

 

It was a so so read and a crappy movie, but the idea of totally denying yourself anything other than the absolute necessary is appalling.

 

What is the point of living if you can’t enjoy every second of it?

 

Self-abnegation is directly tied to delayed gratification because it represents the amount of time you have to go without your “treat”.

 

During this time you are denying yourself exactly what you want right now for something that you actually want and need, later.

 

You go without for now to get even more later. It sounds like a no brainer until you have exactly what you want right in front of you.

 

To deny yourself a simple pleasure and especially a guilty pleasure, is true discipline.

 

You have to embrace FOMO and indulge in it for however long it takes to reach your goal.

 

And while abnegation may be a mental thing, it still leaves the bitter taste of medicine in your mouth.

 

Control

Not spitting horrid tasting medicine out of your mouth takes sheer willpower and control.

 

No matter how good something is for you, part (if not all) of you will reject it. Sometimes vehemently.

 

I never sit down to write with any kind of pep in my step. It’s always a matter of controlling my reactions and my inclination to be distracted.

 

Control your need to do anything other than what needs to be done. That is discipline through and through.

 

Controlling your mind is most similar to doing a plank. It’s a simple move that has you shaking after 60 seconds of doing almost nothing.

 

And I shake and tremble and fidget like crazy when I’m trying to keep my impulses under control.

 

It’s a major struggle that never gets any easier. You have to keep working at it like you would train a muscle.

 

Otherwise it atrophies and you have to start all over again from scratch.

 

Patience

I very much believe that patience is an acquired taste more than it is a virtue.

 

It tastes like shit to me because of the whole instant gratification thing, but being patient is about being content to take your time.

 

You’re not in a rush to do things for the sake of getting them done. Anyone can do that if they want to.

 

Being patient means you do the right things, in the right way and in the right amount of time it takes.

 

Even if it seems like it takes forever in a day.

 

Being patient is about self-reflection and understanding why you’re in a rush to achieve a goal.

 

If the reason isn’t compelling enough, you can learn to appreciate the time it takes to reach your goal.

 

We all want to be richer, more fit, more successful, more better at everything and we want it ASAP.

 

Why?

 

What’s the rush?

 

Where there’s rush, there’s pressure. Where there’s pressure, there’s stress. Stress ruins everything.

 

Learning to be patient takes time, but it’s a practice worth learning in time.

 

Habit

Instead of virtues, we should focus on habits.

 

What are the things we need to do every single day to be and stay disciplined?

 

What does it take? How long should it take? How often will I do it?

 

Habits are the building blocks of discipline. Good habits, that is.

 

Each (good) habit you create and build upon creates the kind of discipline that allows you to achieve damn near anything.

 

Want to get fit?

 

Improve your eating habits little by little to shed fat.

 

Work out a little harder and a little longer each day to get toned.

 

Take the stairs when you can.

 

All of these little adjustments become habits that lead to great results over time.

 

On the flip side, bad habits can pretty much destroy anything you have built previously and do away with anything you’d like to build in the future.

 

You have to choose and optimizing the right habits. Wisely.

 

It takes equal parts of mindfulness and deliberateness to create the right disciplinary habits.

 

You have to be mindful of what you do and the effects it has on your life and goals. If it’s positive, keep at it. If it’s not, see how you can get rid of it.

 

You’d be surprised how hard it is to be honest with yourself about your habits. Try to be if you want to be successful.

 

The right or effective habit isn’t something you can easily put on autopilot. You have to be deliberate with your actions. Doing things haphazardly, even the right things, leads to suboptimal results.

 

Do the right things the right way.

 

Masochism

You can’t be disciplined unless you enjoy the pain you put yourself through to achieve your goals.

 

Over time, hopefully, the pain becomes more bearable as you start seeing results.

 

But the pain is always there.

 

And you really have to be into it in order to endure however long you need to to achieve your goals.

 

Discipline is worse than being beat in a gimp suit.

 

No matter how important the project or how dire the circumstances, it’s always better to do nothing. Nothing is easy.

 

Having the discipline to do things is hard.

 

And yet some people indulge in it like fine wine.

 

How?

 

Just like the dopamine you get while doing a grueling workout, your body has a way of rewarding you for every accomplishment you achieve.

 

Some people can smile while doing burpees. Others can smile while eating ramen as they work on their startup.

 

I find myself beginning to relish the #hustle. The pain is only temporary.

 

Eventually I’ll go numb and really begin enjoying this entrepreneurial journey.

 

Focus

This is my Holy Grail.

 

I have always dreamed of attaining it, but am only given glimpses of what it.

 

I have felt intense focus over many things, very few of them useful in the pursuit of success.

 

I can binge watch shows and recall everything so I can translate in real time to my mother who also cannot focus well.

 

I can focus on two things at once like someone speaking to me while I am trying to listen to someone else’s conversation.

 

I have a hard time staying focused on work that needs to be done. It takes a lot to keep me from drifting into the distraction zone. Which is nearly every zone for me.

 

You can’t be disciplined without being able to summon an intense amount of focus for the necessary task at hand (not just the bullshit tasks).

 

I want to be known as a prolific writer. I love writing once I am in the zone, but the zone is hard to attain because I need to focus twice as hard.

 

The first focus is on what I am doing to make sure I am writing the right words in the right order so I can convey my idea fully.

 

The second focus is to forcefully shut out any would be distractions. I can easily go check my email, go on Instagram, stand up and stretch or research something about sumo online.

 

I have to fight myself by focusing to ignore these time wasters.

 

I think it’s like trying to hold two tigers by the tail. I usually end up getting mauled.

 

I think if I were to meditate more, I’d be able to train the right “focus muscles” so I can better handle the two tigers.

 

Meditation is hard because all you can do is focus. If you’re not good at that, then you can’t possibly meditate.

 

It’s a bitch, but the benefits are worth it. Even if it’s only a reduction in the amount of times I am mauled by the tigers.

 

But I’ve been learning to create a third kind of focus.

 

It’s a kind of focus that reminds me why I am doing this. The work that I put in little by little (the habits) are the building blocks of the life I want.

 

I have to stay focused on the carrot I have dangling for myself.

 

That motivates me to do what it takes to minimize and ignore distractions while giving everything I write all I’ve got.

 

The right kind of focus takes your mind off of the pain of discipline. If that makes sense. You focus on what you want so you can get through what you need.

 

That makes discipline a lot easier to bear.

 

Determination

Staying determined to put in the work to achieve your goals is all about having the right focus.

 

It is all about the carrot.

 

I am guilty of losing focus easily in the face of adversity because I let myself get distracted by my fears. I focus on what I can lose instead of what I can gain.

 

You can’t be disciplined by letting yourself get run down by fears and doubts.

 

You have to stay determined to do the work even when you think it won’t work. You stay determined until you make it work.

 

That is much easier said than done because it’s easy to be doing the wrong kind of work as well.

 

Even then, you have to get over it and figure out how to do the right kind of work.

 

Being determined makes you bull headed and kind of stupid in a way. You don’t take in anything other than what you need to achieve your goal.

 

You dismiss common sense, complaints and red flags. You just keep trudging along fueled by your determination to see a thing through.

 

I think if more of us were determined like this, we’d all be achieving great things.

 

Instead, it’s mostly pompous assholes who win the day because their sheer force of will to get their way. Determination is wonderful or awful thing depending not the circumstances.

 

Determination makes shit happen. Good or bad.

 

Given that, why not be determined to achieve your goals? There’s proof all around us that it’s almost all you need to fuel your success.

 

You can make your own shit happen.

 

Putting it all together

I am still working on this bit… mostly because I am still learning what all of the bits are and how they work together.

 

But I am determined to make it happen. Hehe.

 

I’d like to create the kind of impact that makes lives better for others. Happier. More fulfilling. More free. More prosperous.

 

I have the feeling that by writing prolifically — sharing my thoughts, wins, failures, doubts and fears and everything else on my journey accomplishing my goals — will help others live better lives.

 

Or at least inspire them to.

 

Of course I want to do more tangible things like

  • helping the Hispanic community break into corporate America and the startup world

  • Make great writing more accessible so we can kill shitty writing and increase the value of the written word

  • Become a different kind of influencer who espouses curiosity and questioning established truths as a way to learn

  • Help break women out of the “acceptable roles” that keeps us trapped and unable to tap into our true potential

 

I don’t think that list is right and I don’t think it will hold true for long. I change my mind a lot as I explore exactly what’s right for me and set the right goals to work towards.

 

I do know that without a massive dose of discipline with each of the essential elements, I won’t achieve dick.

 

It takes a lot just to figure shit out and it takes 100x that to begin making things happen.

 

I finally get that. I am in the figuring it out stage and using my time wisely so I can go hard when the time comes to work.

 

Kind of like sumo wrestlers who use all of their “spare” time to do grueling exercise and train with as many different people as possible so they can better prepare for the non stop tournaments.

 

Discipline leads to excellence and I want nothing less.

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