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A word about discipline

defining your purpose Dec 15, 2020

We’ve all heard the word. Usually it refers to chores or obligations. But how does it relate to the creative person? Or, to the freelancer?

By definition, “discipline” is tied to conforming to a specific behavior. This can feel incredibly restrictive to anyone with an artistic temperament. People gravitate towards the arts because they have something they want to say...a burning desire to be heard. So, the natural inclination is to rebel from anyone or anything that is restrictive. Why not flip this to use the concept of discipline towards something YOU want instead of complying with someone else’s rules?

So, how can we use the negative energy of resistance in a positive way, channel the need for personal expression into value for ourselves and others?  How can you create positive results if you are rebelling from a conditioned response to a word or idea? 

The difference is that you will be responsible to yourself for the results you achieve. Your obligation will be to the goal you choose. You will be held accountable to yourself…. not to others. You get to be the boss. The only thing is: if you fail to perform then it’s all on you. Blaming others or playing the victim doesn’t work. 

Discipline. The idea need not be restrictive. 

Consistent effort over time yields results 

Just like everything else….the more you practice the better you will get. This concept can be applied to being disciplined about your work, your health, your body etc. You have to learn to walk before you can run. So, small victories or accomplishments will add up over time. This generates self-confidence and experience that can be used to propel you towards your goals and aspirations. The more you practice the better you will get. 

If you don’t have a path to follow what do you do?

When you are on the outside looking in, climbing the mountain towards your dreams can be overwhelming and demoralizing. Why start if you don’t know how to get there? Determining what path to follow may well be the most daunting task you will face. But, just like learning to walk, you can only walk your path one step at a time. You can’t magically leap from the beginning to the end. So, if we were to be logical about this, the first step is to know what you don’t know. Google or Siri will be your friend in answering most any question you might have. Once you have a series of options identified you can evaluate and prioritize your next steps and build a path (plan) to follow. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t know the answer to each step yet. The import thing is to know what steps to take. 

Novice, Apprentice, Journeyman and Master

For generations people followed a well established process to learn a craft or skill. In today’s accelerated world we all seem to want to jump to the end after just beginning. But, life doesn’t work that way. A life is built by building success upon success while discarding the failures. Besides, there are no failures in life. Failure is an opportunity to learn. Removing the stigma attached to the word “failure” will liberate you to try new and different things.

Small gains breed self-satisfaction

Building something of value requires a plan and being dedicated to the execution of the plan. For the musician it could be mastering a phrase at a time of a long piece and then putting it all together. Believe it or not, you can apply this same concept to large, seemingly unattainable goals. 

  • Set small short term goals.
  • Set metrics that will help you judge success or failure
  • Keep track of how each step will enable you to move towards your larger goal.

For the creative, artistic soul, this may seem irrelevant. For some it might be. But, if your goal is beyond your current comfort zone then adopting a new, possibly different process will define a path for you to follow. You can still feel creative. You can still exercise your individual voice. The difference is that you will have accepted responsibility for creating a structure to enable that instead of being a pawn in someone else’s game. 

This requires discipline. 

Discipline is not something to avoid. Being disciplined (to yourself and your career) is just another tool you can use to help you on your way.

Make discipline your friend.

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