Damn. Only a few weeks into it and I’ve already broken my commitment to do this at least twice a week. It’s not a paid gig, but unpaid gigs are the best gigs. And commitments made to self are the most important commitments. That said, I’m going to break with western tradition here and not beat myself up over minor, inconsequential personal failures. I’ll save that for the monumental, irreversible f#@-ups.
In my defense, this last week has been an abnormally busy one. My routine was shot to hell. I spent three days doing actual physical labor: scrubbing, shoveling, hauling, taping, painting, and more. This may not sound like much, but to a body that’s accustomed to sitting at a desk forty hours a week, it’s something. I have the aches and pains to prove it.
The act of sitting down a couple nights a week and trying to write something is a discipline like any other. Discipline is a dirty word, which is understandable. It implies doing something other than that which is most comfortable. It gets a bad rap because initially it is imposed on us from outside authority: first from our parents, then our teachers, and so on. In this form it feels constricting and oppressive. In contrast, I would argue that discipline that originates from our own will - that is self-imposed – is freeing and expansive. It’s a step toward self-mastery. A person who is constantly at the mercy of their every impulsive whim and desire is not a free person.
Bear with me, reader, if I am sounding preachy. If anything, I’m preaching to myself. That’s one of the things I do here.
This concept of self-discipline, I would argue, is the single most important factor in the success or failure of accomplishing anything. What one deems worthy of accomplishing is their own to decide, but whatever that is, self-discipline and the harnessing of will power will be required.
This past week I missed my regularly scheduled appointment to sit down here and churn out a blog post or two. My excuse was time. But the truth is, when something is truly important, we make time. This is an activity that I generally enjoy but the minute I try to impose some structure and requirement to it, it becomes a problem. It starts to feel like a chore. This is something I’ve encountered with almost anything I’ve ever enjoyed or taken much of an interest in. Rarely is it ever good enough just to do something. No – you have to continually do it better. This urge for more and better, I wonder if it’s universal or if it’s peculiar to the American psyche. We do seem to emphasize winning and success like no other – save possibly the Chinese who clearly have a great deal to prove to the world, and themselves.
I’m off on a tangent…
My point - or what began to form in my mind as words started appearing on this page - is about the importance of habit. We can scrap the word discipline and just call it habit. Achieving any great thing begins with forming the right habits. This is obviously no great original insight on my part, just something I’ve experienced and can personally vouch for. My natural personality has always seemed to me to be quite undisciplined. Lazy even. But for those things I deemed important, once the inspiration fully crystallized, the will to overcome my inherent limitations appeared. That didn’t mean it was easy. But eventually, the right habits formed and the struggle subsided. They were (and are) small things, daily things.
And so it continues. I envision where I want to be, figure out the small steps and habits that can get me there, and move gradually in that direction. The difference now from ten years ago is that I understand the importance of enjoying the journey and am not so focused on the end result that the path leading there becomes a burden. Accomplishing something by brunt force and aggressiveness is fine in your late teens and twenties but feels like bad form in your thirties. At this stage getting from point A to point B seems like a process that should be undertaken with quality and grace. Resentfully forcing oneself to perform the mundane tasks necessary to achieve a longer term goal is a condition to be overcome.
There’s a balance between carefree spontaneity and conscious, purposeful action. Finding that balance is an important aspect of the Art Of Living.
Now, how I managed to arrive at these conclusions from the starting point of scolding myself about missing a couple of blog entries is tonight’s mystery.