“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” -Jim Rohn
“Discipline” is a word that the overwhelming majority of people absolutely hate. We associate this word with being told what to do, excessive restrictions, and harsh punishments. For many of us “freedom” is the goal, and “discipline” is little more than invisible chains, holding us back. But what if I told you that it’s impossible to have true freedom of mind and body without self-discipline? When I tell people that structuring my life around the social construct called time, using a day planner religiously, and putting everything (including eating, sleeping, and bathing) on a tight schedule have created more freedom and joy in my life than I’ve ever had before, I am usually met with skepticism. The truth is, many of us hate planning because it appears to be the antithesis of spontaneity, and we hate time management because it looks too much like giving up our time.
Time management means making the things that need to get done a priority so that when it comes time to rest or play, that can be a priority, too. For years, I lived in such a scattered, procrastinating way that there was always an unfinished project or forgotten task that needed my attention. As a result, I could never actually rest, because I was always working, scrambling at the last minute to finish my work on time. Was the work just so time-consuming that it was eating up every moment of my life? Absolutely not. But in failing to plan and prioritize my work, it lingered, hovering over my head at all times like a dark cloud.
I can confidently say that, today, I get 2-4x the amount work that I used to get done in a week done every single day. I am not overworked, stressed, burnt out, or working around the clock, either. I plan. I schedule, and when the time comes, I do the work. And when the time for work is over, I live my life, free of anxiety about what has gone undone. As someone with ADHD, I got so used to procrastinating and the endorphin rush of releasing the anxiety that would get built up if I put something off and then got it done right under the wire. But this was training both my mind and body to depend on this toxic cycle of anxiety and relief for accomplishment. Now that my mind is trained for peace, structure, and the constant flow of steady success, I could never go back to anything else, and I see the ways that I was punishing myself and inadvertently forcing myself to work harder by avoiding certain tasks. Self-discipline isn’t what others are telling you to do. It’s what you tell yourself to do once you take inventory of your life, your goals, and your priorities.