I have had written out 300 words about discipline, but somehow I felt it sucked. So I deleted it.

Instead let's go with the three things I have written down before:

  • Discipline means you are showing up every day, even if no one cares
  • Discipline = Routines + Schedules (sticking to them) = Freedom
  • Discipline is not a prison, it enables margin

The bold things are underlined on paper, bold is hard to do there.

The second and third point are quite equal, so I will put them together. Let's get this written.

Show up every day, no matter who's watching

I really like this definition. When I started to date my girlfriend I was always fascinated by her discipline when it comes to nutrition and fitness routine. She only ate healthy and worked out 5 - 7 times a week, no matter what.

She didn't tell anyone, or post it on Instagram, she did it for herself. She wants it, she wanted to get into shape.

That's what I see as (self) discipline. Doing it, doing it for yourself, without thinking about, if someone will ever notice or watch it. Independent of the credit that you would or won't get.

There is no point in telling on Instagram that you are working out 5 times a week and only eat paleo, veg or whatever when your stuffing burgers from Mc Donalds into your face every other day.

Routines, Habits and Schedules

Now we know what discipline is. But how do you get there?

First you need a goal, a vision, a mission. Something that you want to attain. Without a goal, you are just running in circles.

Let's pretend I want to learn singing. Maybe I really do, who knows...

Ok, that's my goal, after some research I would find out, to reach that goal I need to

  • learn to control my voice and train that
  • practice 3 times a week
  • take several different voice acting classes

That would mean, every day, I need to use at least 30 minutes to work on my goal. I could sing in the bathroom while showering, or while cooling down from my workout, or while preparing coffee. It doesn't matter when I do it, I just need to do it and be aware of the when.

And I should tell my girlfriend about it, otherwise she could think I am torturing an animal while making coffee.

Write it down. I have done this in the past. And do it from time to time. So my morning routine could look like this with the singing incorporated:

  1. Wake up and put on fitness clothes
  2. Work out
  3. Make coffee and train voice
  4. Shower
  5. Get to work

This routine wasn't there from one day to another. Effective routines take time to build and have to be build piece by piece. To get an idea, how to do it, read this article.

And now you are doing this every single day, at least for one month.

Sure, if you would come up with a routine like the above tomorrow morning you would probably lose it after day 2. Take one step at a time. Before one step in the schedule doesn't feel like tying your show laces, don't add another. That's the secret on how to build an effective routine.

And where is the freedom here? It sounds harsh and strict to have a such a schedule and such a ruleset to live by.

When was the last time, you thought about tying your show laces, or on how to ride a bike, or on how to type on a keyboard? It's in your muscle memory. You don't need to think about that anymore.

Routines, habits and schedules do the same to your brain. You don't even think about working out anymore, you don't think about cooking healthy, you don't think about if you should put on your pants. You don't think about doing quality work.

You have changed successfully your defaults and have more time and more headspace and don't need to think about every little decision.

Your head is free to think and is not bothered by everyday questions, about what's next. You know what's next and can focus on your task or on the free time that you are enjoying with loved ones.

That's freedom.

Back to the future...