Even disciplined people say they can’t do discipline well! What is it about self discipline that’s so scary?
Entrepreneurs tend to be motivated at least partially by self-determination, our ability to decide how our time and energy will be used. That’s a premium level perk of entrepreneurship for me. And I suspect for you too. Discipline can feel like somebody making you do something when you don’t want to.
Discipline can suggest a rigidity that is the antithesis of creativity. Where will we get our great ideas if we’re not following that shiny object?
Being free-flowing and responsive to opportunity is a good thing, but for anything to really change, for anyone to change, commitment followed by consistency of action, that is, discipline, is essential.
You probably knew that. You have probably experienced it. A time when you applied real discipline, and the results were dramatic.
So what is it about discipline that we resist?
Automaton precision comes to mind, a military-style adherence with no say in what happens. But that’s not you, is it? You get to decide what you’re disciplined about, and how.
Discipline is often confused with a lack of freedom. If anything, the opposite is true. If we’re the prisoners of our momentary whims, they are what are calling the shots, not you. Discipline is a way to create order in what can be a chaotic world.
If the D word freaks you out, think of it as a focus on what’s needed. With one of my clients (let’s call her Pat), we call it ‘focus on the basics’ instead. When Pat views it that way, she actually gets a lot done. It’s a needed change in perspective for her. Would calling it something else help you apply discipline?
Whatever you call it, discipline is a hallmark of a successful entrepreneur. Create yourself a corral, i.e., the boundaries that you’ll use to define what you will and will not do, and you can gallop around all you want inside of it. It doesn’t mean you need to create a 10 foot high wall. It just needs to be high enough to contain your wanderings, so you get done what you want to do. And you can move the corral anytime you want to find greener pastures.
One truth about discipline: The more discipline you have, the more consistent action you take, the more impact you have. You don’t get derailed easily. You make the most of the time you have.
I grew up in a German household where, as you can imagine, discipline was revered. It didn’t leave a lot of room for spontaneity, though. When I became an entrepreneur, I reveled in breaking free of all that structure. Later, though, the skills of discipline learned at my mother’s knee became useful again. I was able to get a lot done and meet deadlines, which many of my competitors didn’t do. Instant competitive advantage!
So the D word isn’t all bad. Like so many things, it’s all in how you apply it.
Overdo it, and it becomes a shackle. Under-do it, and you can start going in circles, for all your perceived freedom. Like Goldilocks and the three bears, your discipline can be just right, a harmony between focused, consistent action and the ability to adjust as needed. That kind of discipline has big rewards.
What’s your relationship with the D word? Arms-length, or a useful tool to have impact and income? As always, you get to decide.