Where does discipline come from? Can I just make myself do something? Can I make myself do many things - an entire program of things? Can I do them every day, or frequently enough to matter? How can I spread that discipline across competing fronts - at work, at home, and in my community?
I’ve built a discipline strategy on two components - daily habits and penalties when I don’t execute on those habits. One of the habits I practice is to Write. I set an achievable goal – four times a week, I’d love to write 500 words. If I don’t write, I pay a fine. I’ve kept this habit going since January 31st 2015, after I created it at a goal setting meetup. I’ve logged 628 instances of writing over the past 3+ years.
The main benefit is that through practice, I’m able to sit down and write something with some level of emotion and personality - especially valuable in my job where few people take the time to do this.
Here are a few things I wrote in the past 12 months that may never have been written without this daily habit…
- My first professional blog post
- Resignation letter from my last job
- Facebook post on dark resolutions
- 4,000 words for my MBA capstone course
- Email to a friend with MBA advice
I paid a $90 fine today, because I’ve been blocked lately. Steven Pressfield calls it “the resistance” - a universal force that he claims acts against human creativity. The Resistance is the voice I hear in my head telling me that you don’t want to read this nonsense. It’s telling me that I’ve got more important things to do, that nothing I write matters anyways.
The Resistance has been strong lately. It’s SO EASY to not write. There are a seemingly infinite number of distractions, excuses, rationalizations, and fears. Writing is just one of 13 habits that I track and it’s certainly the one that gets the least attention. I fail this writing goal frequently. I’m not sure how much I’ve actually paid as I often weasel out but I failed today for the fourteenth time in 3 years. I also failed on 8/8/18, 5/28/18, 4/21/18, 2/16/16, 1/24/18, 10/2/17, 8/3/17, and 2/23/17. I failed on 6/24/16, 5/13/16, 4/1/16, 8/29/15, and 7/7/15.
Part of tracking each writing instance includes a short note, so I can say what I wrote each time and reflect. My journal of notes for this writing habit is a mess with many entries with words like “weasel” and “cheat.” Many entries have a note saying “journal” which is often nothing more than a few words reflecting on what happened on a given day. I give myself credit for those too, because the hardest part of any daily habit is breaking through that resistance and getting started. Whether or not I produced 500 words, at least I sat down to write.