Musing about discipline this morning. I’ve always thought of myself as lacking in discipline in many areas, yet this morning I realized I’ve become more disciplined about nearly every facet of my life. I’ve developed more discipline about how I manage my money, about how hard I work, about the kinds of food I eat, about the level of fitness I’m able to achieve, and so on. Some of those things were already somewhat in place, but the past few years of hardship seem to have cemented my discipline across the board — especially where work and money are concerned. So if those areas of discipline are in place mostly out of a fear-based reaction to hardship, well, is that what discipline is? Aren’t there people who are just born with an ability to work hard, delay gratification, put their heads down, and/or just do whatever it takes to get a thing done? How do they do it? And the rest of us who learn discipline as we grow, are we all reacting to some insight of what lack of discipline in any given area could bring? Is discipline for us generally linked with fear?

Thoughts?

Musing about discipline

8 thoughts on “Musing about discipline

  • November 27, 2003 at 3:09 am
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    My main reaction to this is to think: “Wow, you ever thought of yourself as lacking in discipline?” I’ve honestly never thought of you that way. To me you’ve always seemed very driven; you decide what you want and go get it.

    That said, I think you probably have developed more discipline over the years. I think most of us have.

    -J

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  • November 27, 2003 at 3:25 am
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    Well, that’s interesting. (Thank you, by the way. You paint a very flattering portrayal of me. 🙂 ) So you draw a connection between ambition and discipline — which seems obvious enough, but I wonder how related the two really are. I mean, I sometimes joke that I’ve succeeded, when I’ve succeeded, by being able to b.s. my way through things. But I think it’s true, to some extent. So I see accomplishment and discipline as being only somewhat related; in my case, I don’t think any of my past accomplishments prove I’ve been applying discipline, because through some of my most successful and accomplished years, I think I’ve been fairly lazy. How do you view it: do you see the two as related, in yourself or in others?

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  • November 27, 2003 at 4:53 am
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    I think you’ve put your finger on it: discipline is often linked to fear–“I must do THIS or else THAT will happen.”

    From what I know of you, you strike me as extremely disciplined and driven.

    My ideal is to do things for positive reasons. I don’t always succeed, but that’s my ideal because that works better for me. Fear paralyzes me–to quote Dune, fear is the mind-killer. If I’m doing things because I want to do them, I’m much more likely to do them than if I’m afraid of the consequences of not doing them. The end results can be much the same:

  • I pay my bills on time and keep my kitchen clean because it gives me satisfaction to be organized.
  • I eat well because I like the way I look and feel if I do. I listen to what my body wants. Sometimes it wants chocolate. 🙂
  • I work out most days because I enjoy it and love the way it makes me feel afterwards.
  • I do projects because they interest me and include something I want to learn and tell people about.
  • I like making money because it becomes a sort of game.

    I could pay my bills because I was afraid of bill collectors, work out because I was afraid of gaining fat I do not want, pursue my career because I wanted money and so forth, and all these things would still get done if I were disciplined, but I wouldn’t have half so much fun and when discipline failed I’d have no motivation.

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  • November 27, 2003 at 10:48 am
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    I’m very full of pie right now, but in brief:

    1) Good “b.s.”ing is a skill. One that’s sometimes a part of ambition, and getting what you want.

    2) I’m not pointing at accomplishments as an indication that you’re disciplined; I’m pointing at mindset and mental energy.

    3) I definitely think of ambition and discipline as related, but neither as related quite as directly to success.

    -J

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  • November 27, 2003 at 12:52 pm
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    I guess I could say that discipline, for me, could be linked w/ want more than fear. I want to be able to buy the materials for personal projects, go out to different places, etc … therefore, I make sure I do my job well, get to work on time, etc …

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  • November 27, 2003 at 2:37 pm
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    A friend and I often disagree on the meaning of this word. She thinks it has negative connotations associated with punishment and I don’t. I personally consider deriving motivation from internal satisfaction being disciplined. I clean my kitchen because I like the way that feels in the long run, and I still have to have the discipline to get my ass off the couch when I’d rather stay there in the moment. I love the way I feel when I work out, and I still have to stop whatever else I’m doing to go work out. I know I feel better when I get enough sleep and I have to choose to go to bed even when I’m enjoying commenting in LJ or whatever else that I’m doing at the moment.

    To me, choosing one thing with delayed gratification over one with instant gratification requires discipline on my part. Fear of consequences doesn’t enter into it. To me, discipline in this sense means deriving my motivation from internal vs. external forces. In this sense, , I’ve always been impressed with your discipline in delaying your gratification and doing what will satisfy you in the long run.

    Until recently, I feel I’ve been driven by instant gratification and fear of consequences more often than not and I haven’t considered myself very disciplined. However, that balance is shifting and I’m gaining more of what I consider discipline. At the same time, I’m less motivated by fear now than I’ve ever been in my life, so I know for me the two are not connected.

    Interesting question.

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  • November 28, 2003 at 2:09 am
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    1) Good “b.s.”ing is a skill. One that’s sometimes a part of ambition, and getting what you want.

    Fair enough. I agree with that.

    3) I definitely think of ambition and discipline as related, but neither as related quite as directly to success.

    I think you’re on to something. In fact, I’m beginning to think there’s some kind of push-pull relationship between ambition and fear, and perhaps between laziness and discipline. Or between laziness and motivation. I’m envisioning them as a quadrant, with fear and ambition measured on the vertical scale and laziness and motivation/discipline measured on the horizontal scale, and maybe potential for “success” in whatever form is greater as you move up and out on the quadrant. I don’t know. It’s interesting, though.

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  • November 28, 2003 at 2:16 am
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    I could pay my bills because I was afraid of bill collectors, work out because I was afraid of gaining fat I do not want, pursue my career because I wanted money and so forth, and all these things would still get done if I were disciplined, but I wouldn’t have half so much fun and when discipline failed I’d have no motivation.

    That suggests that the application of discipline removes the possibility for fun, and I question that. For me, I think it’s more like the “Just do it” philosophy gets me off my ass and then the fun kicks in. Sometimes. Not always, admittedly, but the potential is there. I don’t always think my morning run is a hoot when the alarm goes off at 5 am, for example, but once I’m out there I usually can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.

    But your points are still interesting. I do think being positively motivated is more healthy and effective in the long term than being negatively motivated, but I wonder if there are any advantages, maybe short-term advantages, to negative motivation. As in, producing more dramatic results in a shorter period of time, but not being as long-lasting, or something like that.

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