I lack discipline.
The one thing that matters: doing what I say I’m going to do when I said I would. Surprisingly, it is incredibly difficult to do this without discipline or meticulously choosing the things I want to do. There are a few things to take into consideration when making this decision:
Why should I do X?
How long will it take me to do X?
What are I willing to give up to do X? (opportunity cost)
As a human being, I naturally lack discipline and focus. Let’s call this lack of discipline and focus resistance. In physics, we learned an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Sometimes it’s difficult to get in motion when you don’t want to.
The simple solution is to not put yourself in situations where you’re doing things you don’t want to do. The thing is, we often make a million excuses as to why we can’t do what we want to do. Sometimes, they’re valid but most times we’re just facing resistance.
The more difficult option is to discipline yourself to do the things you don’t want to do, building good habits. Waking up early in the morning, eating right, and going to the gym…
A question that’s important to ask is what’s causing the resistance? Why don’t I want to do these things?
There can be many reasons for this some of them include:
Taking on a responsibility you didn’t know you could handle.
Losing interest in a something you initially thought you were interested in. Succumbing to emotions while making decisions.
A lack of sleep because you were up late the night before.
The list goes on…
I’ve learned that it’s important to not beat myself up over letting things fall through the cracks at times. It’s not worth my mental bandwidth to worry about something I could have done. It’s more important that I focus on moving forward by improving the things I’m doing now because that’s the only thing in my control.
Distinguishing what’s in your control and what’s not in your control at any given moment is a good way to remind yourself the weight of the world isn’t on your shoulders.
Let’s say you do face some resistance and mess up, what now?
There are two options either to continue with the bad habits or get back on track by building good ones.
Though at this point, getting back on track is harder than ever.
I’ve adopted a new rule to help me avoid falling into bad habits. If I mess up one day and am unable to go to the gym or have taco bell for dinner I just need to make sure I don’t do it 2 days in a row.
This heuristic allows me to forgive myself if I mess up, which inevitably will happen. It also makes sure that I don’t fall back into bad habits by helping me get back on track.
Something else I often don’t think about enough is, what are the things I do currently that are highly disciplined? Why is that? When was it programmed?
To name a few:
Picking up my phone first thing in the morning. I learned that this is because my phone is my alarm clock. To fix this bad habit I need to buy an alarm clock so it’s not on my phone.
Making my bed every morning as soon as I wake up. This is a habit that was built at a young age that I’ve chosen to stick with.
Not drinking alcohol or eating meat. These are also habits instilled at a young age that I’ve consciously chosen to stick with.
The next natural question becomes, why am I highly disciplined in certain areas while I struggle in others? It’s a function of when the habit was instilled and for how long I’ve been on track.
To dig deeper, staying on track is easier by building good habits instead of breaking bad habits. This is the abundance mindset over the scarcity mindset. Change your environment, replace the bad habit with something good, and be conscious of why you’re making this decision.
If you asked me 2 months ago what my thoughts on discipline are, I would have said it’s unnecessary and just to do the things you want to be doing when you want to be doing them.
Today, I have a much more nuanced answer.
Discipline is doing the things you want to when you want to be doing them. In order to get to that ideal state, I need to control for everything else that can take me out of it. The act of controlling these variables is discipline.
Providing a catalyst
Every week I’ll share key insights from a conversation I had learned a lot from in a series called, Providing a Catalyst.
A few of the major conversations I've had in the past few weeks:
In Vancouver at dinner with a group of friends. All of them were working on their own projects. Person A dropped out of college twice in his first 3 months. Person B is working on a med-tech startup. Person C is planning to drop out of college.
The conversation revolved around a comment Person A made:
"I'm having trouble finding meaning outside of my business."
Entrepreneurs sometimes tie their identity to their businesses. They spend most of their waking hours working on the business with their co-workers. However, having this singular focus has its pros and cons. One of them being it consumes your life.
To maintain sanity many entrepreneurs find an outlet or an 'atelic' activity they can do outside of work. An atelic activity is one without a definitive start or end: weightlifting, training for a marathon, volunteering outside of work etc...
After taking more time to think about his dilemma, I've realized that what he lacks isn't meaning it's discipline. If he had the discipline to take care of the things he thinks are consuming his life then he'd have more time to do the meaningful things.
This is what I'm also focused on creating for myself right now.
This conversation was with a friend who dislikes her job at one of the top technology companies. She dislikes her job because she doesn't feel like she fits in.
I've had conversations like this with many people, they tell me they don't like their jobs. I ask why? They tell me because they're not doing what they want. I ask them what do you want to be doing? Most people are unable to articulate it.
Yes, I know, "it's more complicated than that."
I'm not saying it isn't but in the end, the control is in the individual's hand of whether to continue and be complacent or to move on. Moving on is difficult because as humans we are naturally are averse to change.
I've learned that the key to accepting change is being deterministically optimistic. To know that no matter what happens you'll figure it out. This helps with dealing with the negative thoughts of, what if it doesn't work out?
Lighting a match
I hope these articles inspire you to do something or learn something new.
My friend Brad came to Visit Seattle this past week, we went out to Vancouver and Bainbridge Island.
I'm taking a semester off from college. It's official.
Instead, I'll be focused on a side project I'm working on now! =D
I'll be in NJ/NYC on the weekend of Sept. 9th, let me know if you're around!!
Thank you for signing up and reading this edition of Activation Energy.
- Abhi Vyas
If you enjoyed this newsletter,
it would mean the world to me if you shared it with a friend!