Discipline vs Motivation
If I had to start over with no attitude and I get to pick one, I would choose discipline over motivation. Motivation is a force required to do something, while discipline is a habit. Discipline is reliable.
To live a disciplined life, there are a few things one can do:
Build Good Systems
In general, customise a system that works for you. A system is the overall macro structure of how you are going to work.
Systems are like a map and direction of how we move towards the goal.
A few ways to begin:
What is the best time for me to do my best work?
Observe by time of the day, days of the week, weeks of the months, quarters of the year
For me, beginnings are the best for me. January is my favourite month (tho I think that’s because my bday is in Jan), mornings and mondays are my favourite things. For weeks of the month, I noticed no patterns. For quarters of the year, I do notice certain patterns at different phases of my professional life. I gravitate towards certain activities more, like planning or partnership or networking. I just observe, and structure my tasks around that.
What are the priorities in my life that needs to be done?
Organise what needs to be done, be it personal or professional life. In the end, they all fight for the same 24h in a day. You have to put them on the same playing field to organise them.
It was only 2023 where I came to this conclusion. Exercise is important now, and it is blocked in my cal. And to make it even more binding, I book a class. That adds social and economic pressure to force me to go. Bc I believe a healthy life creates a healthy mind, that then allows me to do my best work. Exercise was not a priority before that.
How do I want to celebrate success?
Success is not things. What routines do I want to build, what little things I want to create, even if it’s just for me.
To me, that is taking a walk at 10am or 3pm outside. It means taking an intentional pause when I see my timer going for too long and I’ve been staring at the screen for too long. It means taking 1 week off a quarter to reflect and plan the next quarter. Sometimes, it is as simple as going to the mall next door and buying an ice cream.
Break it down
How to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Break shit down.
First, define what success looks like for your goal. Then find 2 reasonable objectives you can achieve within a fixed timeframe (quarterly goals). And break those objectives down to actionable key results that can be achieved on a monthly basis. Keep breaking them down to weekly and daily tasks, where relevant.
Relevant questions to ask: What will it take to hit the first milestone? What are specific weekly goals you need to achieve? How much time per day will that require? What days and times will you do these things? How will you hold yourself accountable to doing them? How will you track and measure your progress?
Principles are the reasons why you do what you do. It is linked to your beliefs, your why, your mindset unique to you.
Principles act like the flashlight to shine the way, when we feel lost.
A few ways to begin:
Spend time to reflect on your WHY. (see find your why)
Be real with yourself. Why do you do what you do. For fame, for glory, for advancing the world, for money. There is no wrong answer. You can choose to lean in or update your why. It’s fine.
Create a database and start collecting reminders aligned with your why
This can be quotes, sayings, movie lines, your own thought process. And organise them according to your WHY, your values or categories in life. Whatever makes sense to you
Reflect them on a regular basis.
If the principles stopped working, then say thanks for the good times and archive them.
An example of a principle that stopped working for me:
If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself - Napoleon. Mr Bonaparte might have almost made France great again, but that is not sustainable if you do everything yourself. Instead, my new principles are
hire the best people then get the fuck out of their way.
We are creatures of habits. A system, paired with principles you strongly believe in, are inputs. The output is a routine that you can rely on. And once you allow things to run on its own, you can be sure that your efforts are compounded to achieve those large goals, with the help of time. Time reveals you or exposes you. And systems, principles and routines help to keep the goals on track.
Routines are the routes to get us from where we are, and move towards the end goal.
How do you want to begin?
Humans are quite simple. You can condition yourself easily. Condition yourself to begin when you listen to a type of music, or when you start the timer, or write the 1 most important thing you want to accomplish today with other outstanding tasks.
You can condition yourself by doing the tasks before you begin your work. E.g. I played Canon in D all my studies years, and now when I listen to it, I immediately go into Deep Focus Mood. I’m so conditioned to focus mood bc I time my tasks. When I don’t feel motivated, I just click the timer, and naturally begin to work.
Structure your cal
As we get more and more digitised and less “paper and pen”, leverage everything digital has to offer.
Set up your cal to help you do your best work. Organise your cal to keep those deep focus moments (e.g. mornings) free of clutter so you can focus on your tasks. Time block your cal, and keep experimenting with this until you find something that fits
I cannot emphasise this enough. Baby steps towards our goals, also baby steps towards new routines and habits.
It’s easy to spend 1 day planning a brand new routine. But since we are creatures of habits, to get out of one and into a new one requires a lot of mental energy. Instead, start small, tiny pivots. You still feel like you’re doing your routines, but you’re adding breaks in between, adding exercise into your schedule, etc.
There is no perfect model. Bc humans are not perfect, and also we are in different stages of life all the time. A routine that worked for me in my uni days of studying is clearly not a routine that works for me now.
But general systems and principles stay the same! I still leverage Canon in D to focus. I keep observing when is the best period I do my best work (e.g. Q4 is generally not to do the work-work, but to focus on strategy, plans and future direction. Not networking) Also, I used to deal with stress with eating ice cream. That clearly didn’t work bc I got fat. So now I deal with stress with exercise. I’m loving it. Healthy life, healthy mind.