Seeing Discipline as a Good Thing

When I think of the word discipline, I think of what negligent parents are instructed to do to their kids to keep them in line, or of memorizing multiplication tables. It’s a term that grates against what I like to think of as my creative and rather whimsical personality. While I’ve always loved structure, the idea of discipline has always gone hand-in-hand with the concept of routine, of boring, lifeless monotony. Of course, anyone will tell you that discipline is the way just about anyone gets good at anything (even artists), and I knew this. Still, the process of coming around to the notion that discipline and routine themselves are good, rather than just means to an end, has been a long and ongoing one.

In the weeks leading up to my layoff, I’d begun making a special effort to reinforce some good habits and routines I wanted to cultivate. I’m an inveterate time waster, so these were things like going to bed when I had nothing left to do, getting out of bed when my partner did rather than going back to sleep, and procrastinating productively by accomplishing small tasks like doing the dishes when I needed a break from work. This was essentially yet another attempt to break long-held habits from my college years, where staying up late, sleeping in, and doing nothing for as long as it was possible were basically virtues. In any case, those couple of weeks in January were among my more successful efforts, but then I got laid off, shattering key parts of my routine and eliminating a certain amount of outside accountability.

College-me would have glorified my newfound ability to collect unemployment while doing nothing, but present-day me valued routine and had a pretty good time of it yesterday, getting up early and setting out goals. I didn’t accomplish them all, but I felt all right about the way things had gone, and was eager to start to set myself in some productive patterns.

Then today came, and I slipped. A late and meandering start basically sucked up my morning, and I know from experience this feeling of getting behind can send me on a multi-day bender of self-destructive frustration and avoidance. I rallied around midday, aiming to replace the downward spiral with an upward one, and am proud of my afternoon. But it’s a reminder that this foundation is shaky, and success during this time will be built on the wide, steady base of discipline and routine over time.

Discipline is why I’m posting again for a second consecutive day, but it’s also why I’m doing so when I have to leave the house in mere minutes. It’s a powerful thing to master, and if it wasn’t already, it’s definitely going to be one of my biggest challenges as I seek to make the most of that good pink slip.

 

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