On Self Discipline
I lack self discipline. I do. It's something I have always failed at. I'm good at being busy, but I am poor at disciplining myself to make the most of the time and resources I have and put in consistent effort day in and day out. It's not because I have no will power, I have plenty of that. It is perhaps that in many areas of my life I am self indulgent and lazy. What's oddest though is that all the times in my life that I remember trying to change this about myself there have been so many voices trying to talk me out of it. They have gone out of their way to assure me that I am fine just as I am, that I shouldn't be too hard on myself.
For example, once I found myself talking to a university counselor because I was not doing my best, and I was dealing with the stress that comes from lack of organization and poor planning. My adult self thinks he ought to have told my 17 year old self, "Yes, you need to be more disciplined, you need a plan, you need to force yourself to do unpleasant things from time to time in order to avoid the mess you find yourself in right now."
Instead he patted me on the head, assured me that I was doing very well compared to some, and told that I would probably end up a professor someday. He gave me all I needed to permit myself to once again slide into laziness and disarray. I knew better, but I was happy for the excuse. I wonder if this encouragement to remain mediocre is a fault of Canadian culture, which is where I grew up, my family culture, or western society in general.
There were notable exceptions of course. The principle who was sure I could so better, and told me so, kindly. The prof who believed in me, the music teacher who could tell I was coasting, barely putting in any effort, regardless of what my grades were. My father recognized it, but will be the first to tell you he was losing the struggle in his own life. So how could he effectively help me to change?
The truth is I was poorly trained. And now as an adult, I must do the harder work of training myself. And I must do it for the sake of my children as well as my own. For if I am not disciplined I can hardly expect them to become so, can I?
The truth is, I need to stop listening to the soothing voices that assure me that I'm doing the best I can. I am often not doing anywhere close to my best. I coast, skate by on minimal effort, fake it with gusto, and my family suffers when I do. But of course, those people who assure me have never seen my best, so how would they know the difference?
I know, God knows, that I can do more, that I am capable of more. I can participate in this life I am living much more fully than I do.
So no more excuses. This is the year of training myself to show up, all the time, to check in, to use what I've got and use it wisely. If I have more than others it's my responsibility to use it, rather than just keep up. Don't you think?
Image by photographerpandora