What is Self-Discipline?
I recently heard an excellent talk in church about self-discipline. The speaker, Bruce Carlson, defined this as “Taking right action regardless of your emotional state.”
Why am I bringing it up here??
Aren’t creativity and self-discipline diametrically opposed? Doesn’t creativity only thrive in an environment with few boundaries, expectations and limitations like insurance?
Doesn’t self-discipline imply limitations that take all the fun out of everything?
I would say no to both of these questions, because they are too general. Each individual will take a different approach to any task, and anyone can learn more about both creativity and self-discipline. In fact, I believe they go hand in hand.
Carlson discussed 5 parts to self-discipline, and hearing his take on them in this context was pretty electrifying for me in my current mode of designing a new kind of normal for myself. Here they are, with a brief explanation:
- Acceptance: Perceive reality accurately. Ask: Where do I stand? What is easy for me? What is hard for me? Denial leaves no room for reality.
- Will Power: Learn what it can do and what it can’t. It is the ability to set a course, then engage. It is a burst to overcome inertia. Willpower is the spearhead of self-discipline. It is like D-day and the storming of the Normandy beaches. It is unsustainable over the long term. Use it to create self-sustaining momentum.
- Industry: Work that challenges. The superficialities of life are attacked daily by hordes of people. The challenges are often skipped over. The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever you want to accomplish, you can do, with hard work.
- Hard Work: Putting in the time and doing it over and over again. Pay attention to personal capacity rather than seeking easier ways to do things. His analogy was, “If I have a skilled and industrious programmer and a 5-year old computer, I can get more done in a year than with a lazy programmer and a brand new machine.”
- Persistence: Keep working in spite of circumstances. Press on. Failure is a result of self-abandonment.
Where’s the Creativity?
Creating is a process, whether you’re cleaning your kitchen, knitting a sweater or writing an app for a smartphone. You’re not going to create anything if the process stops. Self-discipline (which really means, when the words are examined, to teach the self, not to shackle the self in endless torment, rules and domination, so relax about the term, okay?) acts as the fuel to keep the process moving. In whatever direction and as far as you, the creator, want it to go.
Back to the Beginning
When I think of taking right or appropriate action in spite of my emotional state, that means that if I want to learn more, or get another blog post up, or do a better job editing videos for EduKnit, I have to overcome my emotions, which might be anything from “I’m tired,” to “I’m terrified by the ever-present spectre of total failure.” I have to choose to move onto the next step, whatever that might be. For a fiber artist such as a knitter, the roadblock emotions might be, “I’m confused,” “I’m bored,” or “I’m frustrated.” Use the principles of self-discipline to get you past that and back to learning, enjoying and most of all, creating.
What does self-discipline look like from your perspective? How do creativity and self-discipline work together for you?