If only I would have more discipline

I just need to be more disciplined, a client said to me during a conversation. Hm-hm, I answered. I was not completely convinced. Sure, discipline is functional and without it you will get nowhere. But the key to more fulfillment does not usually lie in more discipline, in more having to. 

For years I’ve cursed myself for my lack of discipline. I was a trainer in project- and time management and to be very honest: I sometimes sweat like a pig. Not because I couldn’t explain it well, it was always positively received. But I felt like I was not good enough at it myself. I am able to make a project plan. I also make a plan every single day, because yes, I am a time management trainer, right? And still I rarely managed to stay on track with my planning. So often I have cursed myself for my poignant lack of discipline. To keep me to my list, to maybe become a vegetarian, to go running 3 times a week, for so much more.

 There is no one size fits all

I see many different people, I have never seen two identical ones. Then why would 1 system work for everyone? Anyone who has read books about begins successful knows that successful people adhere to a strict discipline: they get up at 5am, drink a protein shake, run 10 kilometers, meditate, efficiently go through their e-mails and end up scoring a successful day. That’s perfect if you are an early bird or a list-kind-of person. I am not. But if I stick to my own system, I am perfectly capable of organizing myself and end up getting a lot of things done. Through the years I have drastically changed my course in time management: I start from personal style and preferences, the rhythm of your body and your brain and most importantly your strengths. Not everyone can become an excellent payroller, not everyone can be fascinated by Excel. Not everyone can work with pomodoro where you have to decide what you will be doing for the next 20 minutes. Do what fascinates you, in a way that matches with your brain, rhythm and preferences. You will get better at it and it will cost you less effort.

It is not about discipline, it is about motivation

Most people are able to get a lot done, as long as it is useful, meaningful or worthwhile. Rather than cursing yourself for your lack of discipline, go search for your motivation. You should have to change jobs? You should have to be better at writing reports? Why should you want that? And is it important enough for you? Do you want to get promoted or do you want to find another job because of your ego. Or do you want to remember it with joy?

Exhaustion is the biggest enemy

From my colleague Sofie I once received the book tip The Shift van Chip & Dan Heath, a story about the elephant, the road and the rider. The elephant lets the rider guide him, as long as he does not get bored and the rider does not fall asleep. Your willpower, the discipline, is the rider. It is not tireless. If you constantly have to restrain yourself to keep up with your lists or to finish that report, that will cost you a lot of energy. The rider will get tired. And the elephant will want to play. If your elephant is never allowed to play in the river but he really wants to, then this will be the moment he wins. Then everything is lost. And you end up watching Netflix for 3 hours straight, read your e-mails first and eat your chips and chocolate for midnight. Balance is important. Allow the elephant some fun, allow the rider some rest, smooth the path by finding a system and a job that match you. Exhaustion is fatal. Translation: do mostly things that you like doing, that you are good at and are able to get even better in, find a system that matches your rhythm, find the ‘flow’. Then scoring a successful day will become the easiest thing!

 

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