Sunday, April 6, 2014

Self-Discipline and Purpose


"I think the guys who are really controlling their emotions are going to win."

Tiger Woods

"A man without decision of character can never be said to belong to himself.  He belongs to whatever can make captive of him."

John Foster

"We are what we repeatedly do.   Excellence then is not an act, but a habit."

Aristotle



In listening to the audio version of The War of Art, and now having written 500 blogs, I think it is time to take my work even more seriously.  It is time to go professional.  By this I mean more than being paid.  Obviously, that is my hope.  What I mean is that I want to take this work more seriously.  Yes, I’ve written a lot.  Yes, I write almost every day.  I’m proud of those achievements.  Now I wonder if I can do more.  I’m not criticizing myself, but rather encouraging myself.
Here are some things I’d like:
·      Ultimately, I’d like to wake up early every day and write for three to four hours a day.
·      I’d like to work in a more orderly environment.
·      I’d like to read more.
·      I’d like to write books.
·      I’d like my writing to take me on the speaking circuit and have my Muse travel with me.
·      I’d like to have more self-discipline and stay focused when I write.
·      I’d like to be writing in my house on the beach.

Except for the first and last ideas, every one of those desires is possible now without any discernible change in my life style.  All I need is self-discipline.  I don’t have to wait for some day.  Today is the day.  Here’s an example of how that has worked in my life.
Whenever I would go to a bookstore, I would look wistfully at the blank journals and fantasize about filling them up with my writing.  These journals were different shapes and sizes.  Some were large and some were small.  Some had leather binders or velum paper.  Some were lined and others weren’t.   Some looked ancient as if they were from another era.  Others looked business-like, as if they were ledgers.  They all looked wonderful.  The idea of constantly writing in them gave me peace, joy and excitement.  Then when I was in San Francisco, a friend loaned me her copy of The Artist’s Way.  One of the first suggestions was to write three pages a day, first thing in the morning without fail.  While I haven’t done that with 100% consistency, I’ve done fairly well.  I’ve easily written, by hand, over 150 pages.  With few exceptions, I haven’t even read any of it.  I just want to do the writing.  I’m filling up journals of different sizes and shapes.  It feels good.  I’m making my dreams come true and it isn’t radically changing my lifestyle.  It just requires a little self-discipline.
So can I do the other things on my list?  Yes.  As I said, it just requires self-discipline.  When I use the word “just,” I don’t mean it to be a small or easy thing.  If self-discipline were easy for me, I wouldn’t mention it all.   “Just” means “one thing.”  The one thing that is required is self-discipline.  That’s a large “one thing,” but it’s not impossible.  It takes a decision, sometimes sixty decisions every minute, to stay focused, but, again, it’s not impossible.  It’s all in my head.  All of my problems and many of my solutions are in my head.
When I say that my problems are in my head, I’m not saying they aren’t real or that they should be ignored.  I’m saying that my thoughts about them are usually the greater problem.  This is why some things bother me greatly one day and on another day I just laugh about them or don’t give them a second thought.  The “problem” hasn’t changed, only my view of it.  Sometimes it’s possible to go from stress to peace and then back to stress again over the same issue.  Even that tells me that peace is possible, and that a different perspective is possible.
The solution is also often in my head.  This doesn’t mean that I have all the answers or shouldn’t get help, but often my solution begins with becoming peaceful.  When I am peaceful I soon realize that there actually is a solution.  Stress often keeps me from seeing even that much.  Peace, however, helps me to see that the problem isn’t as big as I thought it was or that I can create or find a solution.  Sometimes peace itself is the solution.
Again, this takes self-discipline.  I don’t think we can achieve Purpose without self-discipline.  Most skills worth having, like inner peace, require effort and practice, even if one has a natural proclivity towards it.  We are created to be peaceful, happy and productive, but the Enemy, the internal and external force that keeps us from our mission, fights against us constantly.  So it’s a battle.  But battles are meant to have victories.  To be victorious in my battles, I need to Get Started and Keep Going…and practice a little self-discipline.