Hi, everyone! Hope you’re having a great week!
After officially launching my business last week, things have just gotten busier, and it’s pretty exciting, to say the least.
But…I have confession to make and I want to talk to you about it.
This week, I’ve found that I am not fully utilizing a tool and skill that I have generally been successful with in the past, and that’s self-discipline. I’m sure you can relate to this - I have so much to get done but when I find myself feeling somewhat overwhelmed and distracted by the magnitude of it all, and I start to lose focus.
I know the process - I know to start small, figure out what I want to accomplish, and I also hold myself fully accountable for both my actions and in-actions. And I also know that the process isn’t going to be perfect, that I’m going to fail at it at some point, and that part I’m really good at, which is actually comforting. I don’t beat myself up for it, I just have a little laugh, call myself on my own crap and get back to it.
And to get myself back on track, I wanted to make clarity exactly what self-discipline means. According to Dictionary.com, it’s “the ability to control one's feelings and overcome one's weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.” Summed up for me, it’s a tool to stay on course and reach my goals.
Additional research finds that self-discipline is often compared to self-control (and is in fact listed as a synonym), which is defined as “the ability to control oneself, in particular one's emotions and desires or the expression of them in one's behavior, especially in difficult situations.” Although very similar, I view them as two parts of the same equation. I believe that self-control deals with the short term (put that cookie down!), self-discipline with the long term (don’t even buy them in the first place). Or what about this? You need self-discipline (the tool) to learn self-control (the now).
Self-discipline (as well as self-control) is a learned behavior that requires practice and repetition, and that’s great news for anyone who feels they don’t have a strong grasp of it. And It makes logical sense that those who practice self-discipline are both happier and less stressed: they have a goal, create a road map of steps to get there, and in the process gradually remove the fear of the unknown, gaining knowledge in the process. And we all know that knowledge is power.
Now let’s face it, if the process was that easy, we’d all be doing without any problems or missteps. But staying focused and on course toward achieving a goal, particularly those of a grand scale, takes sacrifice, a lot of work, and usually some outside help. A view of the entire project can be overwhelming and unattainable in one large chunk, so break it up. For example, when I decided to write a 30,000-word manuscript, rather than telling myself to sit down and knock it out, I committed to 1,500 words a day. That sounds attainable, right? That’s only 20 days. And what’s amazing is, probably because the pressure was off, that I usually ended up producing between 2,000 and 3,000 words per day, reducing the total time it took.
My payoff will be that I am able to share my work with you right on schedule. I’ve been planning it for so long, learned so much, that I know I can help some of you. You see, I am furiously putting the final touches and making edits to my first book, Close the Gap, 7 Transformational Steps to Move You From Today to Tomorrow (working title, subject to change), to make my self-imposed publishing deadline of June 15th. Why is that so important to me? Because it’s a promise and a commitment I made to myself. There’s no real penalty (monetary or otherwise) if I miss it by even a day or two…but I’ll be the looking at myself in the mirror, knowing I broke a promise. And while the goal is still very realistic as we’re well over a month away, I’m also launching my podcast next week, developing a really exciting new coaching programs for my clients, improving and tweaking my image program, and entering the last 16 weeks of my degree program. I’m not listing these activities here to brag nor am I whining about my heavy to-do list - I just want you to know that you’re not alone and that getting distracted can happen to the best of us.
So, you may be wondering, “how will she get herself refocused on self-discipline and her goals, and how does that skill actually work?” You see, I found myself this week falling into a familiar comfort zone (Danger! Danger!) of waiting until I “felt” motivated or “ready” to get something down on paper. Or the screen, you know what I mean. “I’ll just sit here scrolling through motivational quotes on Pinterest or find something creative on TV.” And we all know I end up watching Friends on TBS, anyway! Thankfully, that little voice inside me that I trained long ago to not let me get complacent (i.e. lazy) started screaming…What the heck are you doing? Get into your office, start babbling, doodling, typing song lyrics…something! And sure enough, before I know it, I have another chapter finished as well as outlines for upcoming podcasts.
Like I said before, self-discipline is a learned behavior that we need to practice and repeat to attain success in achieving a goal. That being said, you will run up against conflicting priorities from time to time and may mistake them for distractions. No matter what they are, they’re right for you and you should define them before you are called upon to make a choice. For example, watching this week’s GOT was a priority for me, and thank goodness there are only a few episodes left until I get my Sunday nights back. (And a shout out to my friend Stephanie, who got me hooked on that show.) I hate to admit, but I’ll confide in you…in the weeks before Season 7 started, I binged the entire first six seasons. Gotta love Netflix. Also, if my son calls, unless I’m in a session with a client or in a meeting, everything stops; he lives in another state with his own amazing life, and he comes first. Same thing if my niece texts me and wants to chat. She lives clear across the country, and if a 17-year-old high-school senior wants to chat, I’m in. My point here is, don’t drive yourself absolutely bonkers with guilt and ignore your other priorities when they come calling. Just do yourself a favor and be aware of your priorities and when you are willing to turn things off. And then stick to them.
Another distraction can be Social Media. I like and need to post content, look up someone’s name, or research a company or event, but I also know the minute a cute fuzzy animal picture pops up, I’m sucked in (you need to have self-awareness - and I just can’t resist). To combat this during business hours - please don’t ask me about outside of that boundary - I try to allow myself to sign in only once. Operative word here is “try” …honestly, let’s be real, it doesn’t always work.
While doing research on the topic, I found multiple tips to practice and develop self-discipline:
Remove all temptation for distractions. Turn off notifications and remove the unhealthy food from your pantry. Ok, I’m good with this one.
Acknowledge your weaknesses. Refer to the above tip.
Create new habits. But start small and realistic, you’re only human. You don’t train for a marathon by running 26 miles your first day. For some of you, the first step may mean buying a good pair of running shoes.
Leave visual reminders for what you want to do. I’ve posted pictures of my book cover in strategic areas of my home to remind me what I’m not working on when I’m doing something else. And that has worked a few times this week.
Change your perception. This is a total mind shift and you have to believe in yourself.
Drink hot water and honey. Nope, not my thing. My point is, that would never work for me and I know it, so I’m not going to try to change myself for this. You have a goal, don’t work on changing something about yourself, adding another layer onto your already full plate. (And I can't find one mention of caffeine. Can anyone really operate without it? I know I can't).
Rise early (5am), go for a run/walk and watch the sun come up. While that sounds lovely and I do enjoy breathing in the crisp morning air and the bathing in the quiet stillness as the sun rises, I’m a night owl, and usually do my best creative work after 10pm. I’m aware of my natural rhythms and do my best to not fight them.
Forgive yourself and move on. Let’s face it - something isn’t going to work the first, third, tenth or even twentieth time you try it. The point is to not give up, keep track of what isn’t working and try it from a new angle. Thomas Edison didn’t fail… he just found 10,000 ways that it didn’t work. Success!
So, let’s all agree to stop beating ourselves up and keep moving forward. As a professional with a proven track record of getting things done that most others don’t or can’t, I sometimes struggle with it, and I’m OK with that. I just want you to encourage you to step up and do your best with what you have. Right now. Like the great Wayne Gretzky said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Take your shot. Do not concern yourself with perfection, how you think something should be going, or what anyone else is doing. Just focus on your end result - blow it out of the water!