My immediate association to the phrase “self discipline” is “yuck.” That sounds boring. The opposite of the joyful, spontaneous life I want to create. And yet I’ve learned that without self discipline, those wonderful things like joy, spontaneity, and creativity don’t come easily.
There’s nothing Puritan about my definition of self-discipline. It should never resemble self-punishment or self-denial. But it does mean doing things you don’t want to do. You do those things because you value the outcome. Short term pain, long term gain. And the more practice you have under your belt, the less “pain” there is in the “short term pain” stage. This quote puts it perfectly:
“Do something every day that you don’t want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain.” -Mark Twain
With practice, you can beat resistance. I’m all about making this easier. Break tasks up into small chunks! If you have to do dishes and you hate doing them, set a timer for ten minutes. Or five. Whatever you can stomach. If you’re dreading going to work, remember you only have to get through today. One day at a time. You’ll deal with tomorrow when tomorrow comes.
I’ve found that fulfilling responsibilities (“adulting”) and fun have a special relationship. Each feeds the other. If I don’t go to work, keep my house clean, or care for my body, I won’t be able to do what I love at all. I’ve had a couple brief periods of unemployment, and it’s amazing how little fun I had. You’d think with all that free time, I’d be living the life of Riley. But in reality, being sedentary and without direction really hinders my creativity. The momentum I build getting the adult things done helps me get the creative things done, too.
Perfection is not the goal here. There is such a thing as working too hard. My sink perpetually has dirty dishes in it, and my clean laundry is rarely folded until just before I put it away. I only have so much energy, and I prioritize creative activities over having a perfectly clean house. But I do maintain a moderate standard of cleanliness. For me, it’s about finding the middle ground.
What motivates you? How have you balanced adulting with what you love to do? Or are you one of those people that adulting and fun are one and the same? I’d be interested to hear other people’s perspectives.
Image courtesy of LibelSanRo, Pixabay.com