How to practice discipline in daily life?


Discipline is not about making to-do lists, setting alarms and eating the big frog from tomorrow. Discipline starts small and is just about doing the same thing at the same time every day, even if it is one simple thing. Discipline actually starts by doing one thing at a particular time and then adding more and more things to do at a particular time of the day. Discipline is more about consistency than about changes in your schedule. Below are some of the key factors (physical, psychological, emotional and cognitive) that influence discipline in various ways. Again, this is a post out of my personal experience of trying to be disciplined and observing myself on how I felt during such experiences.

Our physical being influences our discipline

One of the major problems we face is: we procrastinate stuff that we don’t like to do because the task creates negative emotions in us. However, the best way out of this is to find the best time of the day when you are undisturbed and when you are usually not in a low mood or not going through emotions of the day to do the particular task. Typically, for most people this time is either early in the morning or late in the day. With enough self-observation, one can make out at what times of the day are you best suited for a certain type of task based on how your body and mind feel at that part of the day; the body should be fresh enough to do an unmotivated task without triggering a negative emotion. Usually, if the body has to come out of rest, there will be a huge negative emotion if the task is not motivating enough. But if the body has got adequate rest and has woken up automatically, then doing an unmotivated task when the body and mind are fresh is not so tough. Because, as the day progresses the mind goes through a lot of emotional chitter-chatter and, therefore, it takes more energy to overcome the emotional barrier of doing an unmotivated task.

Overcoming the emotional hurdle of being disciplined

PrioritizingTasks.pngThe left picture describes the prioritization that is to be followed by the disciplined mind. It is easy to think about the mentioned template (picture left) to prioritize tasks, but following the prioritization is an emotional hurdle and is the difficult part as always. It is not easy to execute in the order of priority, but it improves with practice. This also helps you to get maximum productivity because the most self-motivating task (which one will anyways do) is always at the last. You have to start practicing this and the acceptance by your mind to delay gratification of positive emotions task increases with practice (as the emotions start getting regulated with practice). As you keep doing more of a negative emotion task, the task can become less negative emotional over the time and therefore it becomes easier to be disciplined with time.

Every task requires an emotional energy barrier to cross to produce an action. A self-motivating task is one where the emotional energy needed automatically crosses the required threshold of the energy barrier for the task. A negative emotion task is one where the emotional energy produced by the self is not enough to cross the required energy barrier. Moreover, the energy required to imagine or think about doing a task is less as compared to the energy required to physically act on the task. This is why most procrastinators end up thinking a lot and not acting as much as they should. However, with enough understanding and management of one’s own body-mind, one’s daily routine and priority, procrastination can be curtailed and discipline can be brought back one day by day.

Positive Emotional Energy minus Negative Emotional Energy > Energy Barrier required for the task/ inherent to the person

Thinking and consciously working on how you feel or emote about something and changing the way you emote about it is probably the biggest challenge in life and probably summarizes life itself. After all, there is no point in having conscious cognition if all we have to do is what we feel or emote about a task. Therefore, acting out emotionally itself is not the best way to live life. But, your sub-conscious mind tricks you to make you feel that your decision is a thoughtful decision as the sub-conscious builds the argument from the emotional point of view.

Why emotions are inferior to cognition in terms of time?

Your subconscious mind always predicts what is the outcome and feeling of an action or thought event – whether it is a desirable or non-desirable – even before you act on it; it just happens right when you face that stimuli. If it is going to require additional effort or non-desirable action or result, the sub-conscious mind will automatically suppress you from doing so against your nature. However, the conscious mind should override this and take decisions with an understanding of time. The subconscious mind is correct, however, it doesn’t take into account the factor of time. Emotions are feedback at that moment and they don’t understand time on a longer scale. And if emotions don’t understand time then they are definitely inferior to cognition which understands time, because time is a reality for life. 

Thinking vs. Executing – control is the difference

The difference between thinking and executing is a gap in parameters. You will always know all the parameters involved in a task only in its execution and not in planning. Therefore, in sport, there is a difference in going out and actually hitting a cover drive in cricket or a goal in football and thinking of the parameters that are involved in hitting a cover drive or a goal. There is also the parameter of control – thinking and executing differs in control because thinking doesn’t require control but execution requires control of parameters or control of response in feedback. And this control is the feedback of every action on a second to second basis. This feedback actually changes how we execute vs planned. This feedback only comes into play only in execution and cannot be completely taken care in planning or thinking.

A lousy plan, well executed, is often successful. Success only starts when you start execution, else you are in a default state of failure because of entropy.

Thank you.