I sat down to write, according to my writing schedule, so that I’ll make the cut for the next week of publication; every two weeks, as promised. It’s always a slight stress-factor, as I approach the deadline. I take it quite seriously, as I have the opportunity to bring encouragement or comfort to someone’s life. I’m drawn to write about the process, as it fits into this week’s topic: freedom and discipline.
As I started the writing process, I thought about the different areas of my life, where I have to apply discipline. Interestingly, I found myself thinking about all the things I’m bad at! This is so interesting, because I went over to the negative and self-critical mode immediately. I felt guilt for all the things I could improve on. I would hope I were in the minority of people who automatically think this way, though I’m afraid that’s not the case. Luckily we’re not slaves to our thoughts, remember! Suddenly I had an aha moment: discipline and guilt have a causal relationship. The absence of discipline causes guilt.
We’ll never be perfect however. We’ll never be perfectly disciplined. So are we bound to living lives of constant guilt? Great question, and to be honest, I’ve sat here an hour thinking about an answer. Here’s how I’d like to begin: freedom can be used to produce freedom. But it can also be used to produce captivity. Take a very simple example: freedom to use credit cards can produce a shackling debt. An opposite example would be to use freedom to doing consistent healthy exercise and reaping the benefit of well-being and increased agility. This means more freedom.
So freedom has the potential of creating either more freedom or captivity. Maybe we could come to the conclusion that true freedom isn’t necessarily doing whatever one may want. I’d like to see discipline as something that’s not restrictive, but rather as a tool that has the potential of creating freedom. For example, one of my passions is to financially live like no one else now, in order for me to live like no one else when I’m retired. What this means is that I want to be disciplined in my finances, in order to achieve a greater financial goal. In other words, my discipline now will produce freedom in the future.
A key to the guilt issue is motivation. I’ve heard a thought that discipline never works, because only through motivation, can you accomplish a change in behavior. What’s the difference? I like what J.D. Meier, the best-selling author of Getting Results the Agile Way, says: "I like to think of discipline as 'what to do' and motivation as 'why to do’.”¹ So discipline and motivation work hand in hand. When you have your motivation figured out, guilt isn’t what’s driving you anymore. Now the real force behind what you do is why you do it.
Why do I bear the weight of writing, when it’s something that brings stress into my life? Because I’m passionate about filling a void I see in the world. I love wisdom, because of its life-bringing properties. I’m able to use my freedom to either fulfill every surface-level desire I have and achieve nothing, or I can sacrifice in order to invest into others and find true fulfillment.
We have to stop thinking that saying "no" is binding, but rather understand that it has the potential to bring more freedom.
Glued down to my writing chair, yet I feel more free than ever.
1. Meier, J.D. “Discipline vs. Motivation.” Sources of Insight, May 18, 2009. Sourcesofinsight.com/discipline-vs-motivation/.