Becoming Friends with Discipline
Written By Regular Contributor, Hannah Lewis
I think it’s ok that we don’t always enjoy doing the work we’re meant to enjoy. Whether it’s a hobby, side hustle or freelance career, sometimes work that takes a while can mean you lose momentum. I find this is especially true among creative people.
I hear a lot about how to stay motivated and how lack of motivation means people have trouble finishing projects. But I think we shouldn’t be focusing on how to stay motivated.
Motivation is scatty. If she were your friend, you’d tell her to arrive at 6 when the party starts at 8:30 in the hopes she’d get there on time. You wouldn’t ask her to pick you up from the airport and you probably wouldn’t ask her to feed your cat while you’re away. Sure, she’s a blast when she turns up, she’ll want to hear all about your trip and she probably loves your cat. She’s cool but point is; she’s unreliable.
So if we don’t wait until we Feel Motivated or attempt to Stay Motivated, how do we keep focus?
I think it’s less about keeping yourself motivated and more about keeping yourself disciplined.
Like I’ve said, I especially find long projects tough going. Added to that the parts that are hard and time consuming and go wrong.
I think of the most boring inventions people have invented like toilet paper or the can opener or the shoe horn. Those creators couldn’t have been pumped the whole way through. So what made them stick it out?
I don’t think they thought I’ll wait until I feel like doing it again. They thought about the different their creation would make, the problem it would solve, the lives it could improve.
The value is in the service provided, not in feeling motivated.
It’s in solving a problem and finding the means to do it. What ever you do; you provide a service. Shifting your focus onto this is a much easier way of showing up and getting there.
These loo roll creators had to put in the work.
Discipline is a scary word though.
I want to point out that there is a difference between not feeling it and not feeling like it. There are things that you shouldn’t push through and you have to listen to yourself. You might need to nap, eat or take a day off.
It’s not about changing your whole routine; it’s more about shifting the focus.
Focusing more on discipline actually works better alongside taking care of yourself. You don’t have to be extremely disciplined either. I’ve gotten up and walked around my house singing So You Wanna Be A Boxer from Bugsy Malone during the course of writing the first part of this piece.
Nevertheless, discipline will be a good and reliable friend. Discipline will look after your cat. Discipline will help you through a long project.
But in practice what is this all about. You don’t have to be rigid and structured like the word discipline connotes. Keep an eye on your awesome can opener service and value you provide and show up, singing show tunes or otherwise.
I’ve been trying this out recently. I break down my workload for big projects and difficult tasks and set myself smaller things to do on a week by week basis. This means I may not feel motivated to do the bigger task thing but I can manage a couple of small things a few evenings after working at my day job. Suddenly, things are starting to get done.
I also leave room for movement. Things can be moved around. It means I can grab a drink with a friend or go to sleep at 8 one evening if I really need to. Making space for those things is just as important than working when you’ve said you will. I don’t put something to do in for every day of the week. This allows me freedom when I’m a bit more of a ‘go with the flow’ type of person.
Motivation is necessary, but it isn’t consistent. When you learn to rely on yourself, even haphazardly, it produces a much easier work flow, time to chill out and a better process.
I hope you and discipline become friends, she’s alright once you get to know her.
Hannah Lewis is an illustrator living in London. She likes making work that makes people think and makes people happy. She has a whole side of her wardrobe dedicated to skirts. When she's not drawing, she likes to watch theatre shows and make friends with her friends pets.