Self-discipline

A very long time ago, someone told me that I need to learn self-discipline. I need to be able to do things without there being a deadline, without some form of external pressure telling/forcing me to do things. School, and the homeworks and assignments it brought, came with its own set of deadlines and the pressure to get good grades. Those I managed to do (more or less), but there were other things that I just wasn’t able to make myself do. The lack of self-discipline started to matter with these things, the ones that didn’t have a deadline or any form of external pressure to push me to finish things.

In my undergrad, I heard/read the following quote, “The deadline is the ultimate inspiration.” At first, I didn’t appreciate the quote; actually, I didn’t like it at all. This quote came up in the context of writing articles for the college magazine and I didn’t believe that the deadline is what inspires people to write. But if I remember correctly, the concern I voiced then was that it shouldn’t be what inspires people to write. I was saying that it should be something internal that made people write, not a (conjured up, artificial) deadline.

Of course, during my time in college I realized that this quote had more truth hidden behind it than visible on first reading. I became one of the people who helped handle the magazine; wrote and edited articles, released editions. The ultimate thing that pushed us to do those things was the deadline. An artificial date we picked and decided as the time when the edition was to be released. Although completely artificial, a desire to not disappoint ourselves and the others involved brought with it the requisite “external pressure”. It may well have been the case that none of us would have been able to release even a single edition without this artificially induced external pressure.

Maybe that is also why almost none of us have regular blogs. About 10 batches of students have graduated and too few of us can maintain regular personal blogs when we used to manage a magazine with articles being contributed by dozens of people. We used to write articles ourselves, edit articles sent in by others, made sure there were enough articles and all sorts of other juggling required to get to a satisfactory non-disappointing edition release.

There is no pressure after graduation. You disappoint no one, except perhaps yourself. And unfortunately the self is easy to fool, you only need to tell yourself that you don’t have time. It’s something we all do, everyday. It’s a scenario where there is nothing to lose by not doing it and no instant gratification from doing it. Apparently that is enough to make it difficult to get yourself to do something. There is a law of inertia at work here, doing something that gives you instant gratification and not doing something where you don’t lose anything by not doing it, are actions that one doesn’t change unless acted on by some external pressure.

Self-discipline is something that I have wished to have for a very long time. Maybe it is only to know for myself that I can get things done on my own. Maybe it is because I was told that I didn’t have any self-discipline all those years ago, and didn’t like that. Maybe both of these are feeding off each other, one being spurred on by the other, or it could be a convoluted mess wherein I’m perhaps trying to prove to myself that I could prove to others if only I choose to. Whatever the cause, it would be nice to have some self-discipline.

To me, blogging seems like a great place to start tackling the issue of self-discipline. I have seen blogging become a stumbling point for many in the past. Those may not have been due to a lack of self-discipline, I do not know enough to comment. I can only look at the very long list of blogs I started following which are now pretty much dead. But I know that I have stopped, restarted and re-stopped blogging too many times and I know that at least some of those were definitely due to a lack of self-discipline. Further, from my perspective, aiming to tackle something that I associate with self-discipline is better than most other options.

So the goal that I’m setting myself is to keep a regular blog. However, seeing that I have been “writing” this particular piece for almost 4 months… I believe that, at least for now, I’ll just have to agree that “The deadline is the greatest inspiration”.

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