Are you talented yet you're not completing the projects you start? Do you secretly (or not so secretly) believe this is because you lack discipline? If you think you have an issue with self-discipline, read on. Because the real problem may be something else.
A post I came across at the Accidental Creative blog offered an interesting definition: "Discipline simply means making an agreement with yourself, and keeping it." It points out three issues that contribute to the failure to do this. I've listed them below, with my thoughts about why we have them.
1: Making too many commitments.
Some reasons we do this include the excitement of the new; the desire to please other people who want us to do things; and the infectious quality of enthusiastic people who ask us to participate.
2: Making conflicting commitments
Obviously taking on too many commitments causes one kind of conflict--which projects to do when it becomes clear we can't do all the ones to which we've committed.
Another type of conflict happens when we take on projects that clash with our brand and confuse or upset our audience. Some authors who write in more than one genre use a pen name for one of them to avoid this.
3: Being unclear about commitments.
If we don't think through all of the elements that comprise a commitment we leave ourselves open to unwelcome surprises later. Parameters that are useful to consider here include:
- The outcome we are committing to;
- The resources required in order to achieve this outcome;
- Any limits we need to put on the amount of time or energy we will devote to achieving this outcome;
- What help or support we are assuming we will get, from whom, and when.
ACTION: Before you commit to any new project, consider the points above. If this is an issue for you, it can be useful to use a New Projects Checklist that incorporates the criteria above and any others that are important to you.
Anxious? Annoyed? Use the Instant Reset Method
The other day it looked like I was going to be late for an important meeting and I found my anxiety levels shooting up. I was thinking about what I should have done differently, replaying the things that had gone wrong, and imagining the negative consequences of being late.
I realized I was working myself into a state that would only make matters worse, so I used what I call the Instant Reset Method. Here are the four simple steps:
- Interrupt the flow of negative thoughts by taking a deep breath and saying to yourself, "Re-set!" If you're in a situation where you can say it out loud, so much the better. Take another deep breath. You should already feel your level of anxiety going down.
- Focus on the present. Is there anything you can do right now to minimize any negative effect? If you're running late, it may be a good idea to phone the other person and let them know. If that's not possible, plan to apologize and then move on.
- Decide whether there is anything constructive you have learned that you can apply in the future. If you're likely to forget it, jot it down or use the recording function on your phone.
- Focus on the near future. What's the most constructive thing to think about now? Certainly it's not whatever has already happened and can't be changed. In my case, it was what I wanted to have happen at the meeting.
ACTION: The next time you feel yourself being carried away by worry or nervousness, do a quick Reset. The Instant Re-set Method takes very little time and if you practice it consciously for a while it will become automatic.