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Building Discipline Sucks

There are millions of abandoned blogs out there. I should know, I’ve abandoned a few starts even in the last year. And before that, I had a couple Open Diaries which fizzled out, a Xanga…a few others. Actually, Open Diary and Xanga aren’t good examples, since I kept up with each of them for over a year. But for each one I kept up with, there have been several abandoned on the vast plains of the interwebs.

As the new year approaches, many people will be making resolutions to change something about their lives. And like the blogs, these resolutions will be religiously kept for a short period and then disappear.

Discipline is on my mind tonight because I just worked out. Specifically, I just worked out after an exhausting day at work. I hate doing that and I almost didn’t. But I did and I have been doing.

As I worked out, I was cheered up a bit by feeling that I was developing discipline as well as better health. And I started thinking about why working out has stuck this fall, when it hadn’t before.

1. We had a strong motivation to work out. Micah’s blood pressure has gone up this year and was approaching levels which would require medication. Our doctor told him to get it down.

Micah took this very seriously and has been exercising every day since. His blood pressure went down 10 points in the first month. He’s also lost weight (he was never fat, but perhaps slightly overweight) and developed more endurance. His goal is to get it down another 10 points so that it’ll be well-within normal.

The threat of needing medicine and of being categorized as unhealthy (not in shape is different from numbers you can quantify) was enough to get him to exercise every day, even though he doesn’t like it much.

2. We do it together. I tag along every day but Tuesdays and Thursdays (scheduling reasons). Micah’s the one with the motivation. I’m not terribly fit, but I’m a great weight and have perfect blood pressure. I don’t have that same push.

By joining him, I borrow some of his momentum. It becomes more than a chore, it becomes a thing we do together. Sometimes that’s exciting because we’re spending time together. And when I felt discouraged in the beginning, having him there and still going kept me from packing it in.

It helps if your buddy is really motivated.

3. Find something fun about what you’re committing to. Micah had been exercising a couple times a week before this fall, and he always listened to talk radio. Now he’s started listening to the Brothers Karamzov instead. That gives him something to look forward to when he doesn’t feel like going.

If he stayed home, he would have to work on his dissertation and wouldn’t have the chance to enjoy a story instead. And he wants to know why Dmitri’s hands were covered in blood…

4. Do it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just not done things. Working out, writing in a blood, writing that novel I’ve got outlined, taking that class, reading that book, sitting down for a quiet meditation…I just don’t do it.

No book, no blog, no one but you can make you do it. This blog post is worthless to you unless you actually do it. Otherwise it’s something you’ve read, something that’ll make you feel vaguely guilty and then you’ll forget about.

I can’t change your life. I have a hard enough time changing mine most of the time.

But if you choose to do it just once, then you can choose to do it just once more. That’s how I build a flossing habit (seriously). That’s all it would take for me to be a much better writer or to complete more quilts, or to actually meditate. Having motivation, having a buddy, finding something fun, those are all things that will get you to do it.

But you can find reasons not to even if you have a strong motivation, and enthusiastic buddy, and know it’ll be fun.

So if it all feels overwhelming, try doing it once. Then the next day (or week) try doing it once. Keep on doing it once.

Discipline sucks. But if you build it, things get easier.


Christine December 16, 2008 at 10:18 am

“writing in a blood”? I hope you mean in a blog — or perhaps something sinister is going on in DC these days!

TStrump December 16, 2008 at 1:40 pm

The problem with discipline is that we can get easily distracted – TV, going out, doing ‘fun’ things.
I don’t know how many times I wanted to do a blog post, but ended up watching TV in bed because I was so tired …

Alisa December 16, 2008 at 3:16 pm

Sometimes its very hard to stay on track! Its good to know that you have options and if you find yourself “drifting” then you can try another option. Alway try to keep your goal in view i.e. what motivated you in the first place. Be well.

Your Sister December 16, 2008 at 7:13 pm

I love that you are writing in blood these days. Keep up the good work, dear!

mrsmicah December 16, 2008 at 7:47 pm

Never fear dears. I must have been distracted by something when writing that. Can’t think what, actually….

The question now is whether to fix it. 😛

daddy t December 16, 2008 at 10:36 pm

I had never carried through on any project I had ever started when, in 2004, I began writing. The way it started was this: I hated writing letters, but knew I needed to write to my mother and do it regularly, since we only see each other once a year.
My solution was to try an experiment: write in the form of stories or news items. So I began, afraid that it would not last. I even stated as much in my first email letter to her, with a promise to try anyway, get started and see what would happen.
It wasn’t long until I began sending the “stories” out to friends, relatives, and acquaintances. Now my “readers” number about 90. How many of them actually read my stuff is a mystery to me and will always be, I guess.
Four years later, I am still going, with my longest break lasting almost 2 years due to mental distress and medical problems. When my health improved, I plowed ahead again.
I still go through dark times of brooding over whether someone is not going to like my stories or style of writing, and just from the fact that I am laying my life down on the printed page for all to see. That is terrifying to me when I think about it too much. During those times, I get really depressed and quit for awhile and seriously consider never to write again.
That has just happened in the last few days. Then the next thing you know, I’m back at it.
I enjoyed your writing on the subject. Thanks!

money funk December 18, 2008 at 2:25 pm

and don’t they say it takes roughly 30 times before it becomes habit? some good advice there. 🙂

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