"Discipline" is overrated

A 3D illustration of a stick (well, a bit more like a tree trunk) and a carrot
The carrot and the stick are the same: they suck

What does discipline mean?

Webster's dictionary defines it as… just kidding.

When people say "you need self-discipline," they mean you need to get good at making yourself do something you don't want to do.

But if you ask me, that's a losing battle. A house divided against itself cannot stand, and a mind that's trying to act as both cart driver and mule will be a very tired, and very stressed, mind.

There's a better way. A less punitive way. A way that doesn't drain your management energy but which actually becomes more and more sustainable over time, rather than less. One that makes work enjoyable.

Here's a list of things that are better than discipline:

  • Working with your strengths, not against your weaknesses
  • Working on things you care about, for people you like
  • Making work fun — even if it's difficult — with the dual mindset of challenge and curiosity
  • Frequent, easy easy wins
  • Wins that have a short loop, aka quick to finish
  • Stacking small wins on top of small wins for big wins
  • Setting goals for effort, not results
  • Tracking your effort and your results
  • The pride & self-respect that comes from finishing what you start
  • Processes that create clarity and banish uncertainty and that "lost" feeling
  • Problem-solving habits for when you're feeling stuck
  • Support to get around your particular roadblocks, resistance, constraints, areas of friction
  • Working alongside peers who are also getting things done and enjoying it
  • Helping people and getting real, direct feedback from those people

In short… treating yourself with dignity and respect, figuring out what you like & are good at, catering to your strengths and intrinsic motivation, and giving yourself the training, work environment, feedback, and support you need to do your best.

Weird how that works!

Usually, you don't get all — or even most — of these things when you're working for someone else. So you're probably not used to having them.

But you can design your business, and your projects, to deliver them.