I am one of those people who cringe when I hear "self-discipline" because it is something that I have spent years beating myself up about not having.
I am a responsible person. I get things done. In reality, I accomplish a whole heck of a lot. So why the disconnect?
Mostly because I have a terrible habit of judging my process and finding it lacking. I have internalized a particular ideal of what my process "should" look like which runs completely counter to how I naturally work.
It's one of life's little paradoxes that change won't happen until we learn to accept ourselves in all our messy glory. In order to grow into who we already are, we have to let go of the desire to "fix ourselves."
Trying to change ourselves doesn’t work in the long run because we’re resisting our own energy. Self-improvement can have temporary results, but lasting transformation occurs only when we honor ourselves as the source of wisdom and compassion. — Pema Chödrön
The approaches that are right for me feel right...they are something that I look forward to doing, not something that I have to force myself to do because I think it is the "right" thing to do.
It's not about finding the right system or the right routine or the right approach. It's not about "making" myself be <more disciplined, more organized more responsible, more productive, more "not me"> but rather getting to know myself better.
I can start with how I naturally function and then find things that work with that. I don't have to try to make myself into someone I am not but think that I need to be.
Boiling it all down, these are the practices that have helped me:
- Acceptance (of who I am, that I am not broken and don't need a system to fix me)
- Understanding (of how I work naturally so I can work with myself rather than against myself as well as an understanding of various approaches to habits)
- Experimentation (giving things a try and knowing that if they don't work, then I have learned something about myself and it has nothing to do with my moral character)
- Flexibility (remembering that approaches work until they don't, that sometimes there just will be times when I have to go with how things are even if they are not perfect and that is ok, that figuring it out is a process, not a destination).
Do you want to know the second most exciting aspect of all this? Discovering that I don't actually have to fight my nature to "get things done."
Do you want to know what's even more exciting than that? Discovering that there is actually more to life than "getting things done." Recognizing that I can let go of the understandable but misguided compulsion to constantly judge myself using this (or any other!) criteria.
I certainly don't have "it all" figured out yet. Maybe that is part of the process as well. Letting go of the illusion that I ever will.