For me the pattern is now perfectly clear: the later I come at the task, the more time I’ll spend dancing around it before beginning in earnest. If I can make contact at an earlier hour, the urge to dance away from it is diminished, because I only have so many dance moves, and I’ll run out long before lunchtime.
This entire article is jammed full of insights, only one of which did I quote above. I’d say that I have learned those same things. But absolutely I have not learned them in a single year. Where’s my time machine? I need to get this to my 16-year-old self.
If someone were to ask me to identify the single primary quality that an artist or entrepreneur should cultivate in himself, I would say depth of commitment. Because depth of commitment either embodies all the other virtues or establishes the fertile field in which they can take root and grow. Depth of commitment presupposes courage, passion, recklessness, capacity for self-discipline, and the ability to have fun. It implies perseverance.
The end for self-discipline is personal improvement; the end for discipline lies beyond the self. This distinction helps explain why individuals can be incredibly self-disciplined and yet see very little external achievement as a result. Sure, they never miss a day writing in their journal and never lose their temper, but those displays of self-mastery don’t automatically lead to outward success.
There are lots of ways to talk about this distinction; the particular way described by McKay comes from an author he’s interviewed. I’d never thought about is as “discipline” versus “self-discipline.” I’d always thought of discipline as a thing, and then the “self-” prefix in “self-discipline” means that thing done to myself. And I’m not going to change how I use the words, “discipline,” and “self-discipline.” I see why they’re using “discipline” and “self-discipline.” I think I’d prefer to use, “inward-directed,” and, “outward-directed,” discipline. Everything I do to myself is self-discipline, but when my goal is to change myself, then it’s “inward-directed,” and when my goal is to change the world, then it’s “outward-directed.”
But the point of the distinction is very interesting. Do I actually have goals which are the, “why?” behind my self-discipline? Are those goals an appropriate mixture of inward- and outward-directed?
Everyone wants freedom. We want to be physically free and mentally free. We want to be financially free and we want more free time. But where does that freedom come from? How do we get it? The answer is the opposite of freedom. The answer is discipline. You want more free time? Follow a more disciplined time-management system. You want financial freedom? Implement long-term financial discipline in your life. Do you want to be physically free to move how you want, and to be free from many health issues caused by poor lifestyle choices? Then you have to have the discipline to eat healthy food and consistently work out. We all want freedom. Discipline is the only way to get it.
This is a two-chapter excerpt from a book, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown, a book about being an essentialist.
At the beginning of 2018 I latched onto the idea that by saying, “yes,” to something I am cutting off a nearly infinite number of opportunities. Whereas by saying, “no,” I am cutting off just one opportunity and leaving space for a nearly infinite number of other opportunities. That makes, “no,” the obviously better default answer, yes?