By: Lisa Philippart
In my last article, we discussed creating a more disciplined mindset by making progress through subtraction and breaking it up when you are stuck. Now, let’s look at two other ideas for cultivating that shift. My next suggestion is the less but better approach. This is about giving yourself permission to focus on what really matters and ruthlessly eliminating everything else. At first this can be challenging because of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out.) For example, you may be thinking: “I don’t want to say no to that new idea for starting a podcast…what if it becomes really popular?” In my opinion, imagining new things to work on gives you a brief hit of dopamine and the illusion of progress. But really it’s just another form of procrastination that makes it harder to be disciplined. In the long run, all these shiny new objects actually deplete your motivation and make it harder to stay disciplined and focused because you are chronically spread too thin. On the other hand, when you say no to all the trivial stuff, all of your energy and focus gets dedicated to the one or two things that really matter. This inevitably leads to more progress, keeping your motivation high and your discipline strong. True discipline comes from having the energy to say yes to the right things.
The final mindset of highly disciplined people is about prioritizing your values over your feelings. Now this doesn’t mean that your feelings are bad or that you should ignore them. Your emotions can be a tremendous source of inner wisdom and intuition. But they can lead you astray. For example, you sit down to work, feel the urge to procrastinate, and follow that feeling into mindlessly scrolling social media. I have found that your feelings are like a good friend giving you advice…sometimes it’s helpful and sometimes it’s not. When we have trouble staying focused and disciplined, a huge percentage of the time it’s because we followed our feelings when they didn’t align with our values — what we really wanted long term.
On the other hand, people who are extremely productive and disciplined always check their feelings with their values. Let’s say you’re feeling excited to start coding that new project you’ve been wanting to work on. Does it align with your values and what you really want to be focused on? Yes, great, full steam ahead. But let’s say you’re feeling really excited to call your best friend and chat about all the new stuff you are working on. Does that align with your values or conflict with them? Well, it sure feels more fun than actually working on the task in front of you. But, it’s actually conflicting with your value of working hard on the essentials first. It’s a misconception that highly disciplined people somehow ignore or suppress their emotions. Actually, highly disciplined people have a healthier relationship with their emotions. They are always aware of what they are feeling and listen to these feelings, but they’re not controlled by them. And when their feelings conflict with their values, they recognize this and choose values first.
Being a truly disciplined person is about building the habit of asking yourself what’s actually in your best interest rather than impulsively doing what feels right in the moment. In other words, being clear about your values. Highly disciplined people don’t simply have more willpower than the rest of us. Instead, they cultivate mindsets that help them do great work consistently.
By: Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor