regarding passion and discipline

In the last few months, I have been in the midst of a journey of sorts I suppose some would call it. I’d refer to it as a Lemony Snicket sort of thing if I’m honest and holding on to the details. On the one hand you could say it’s a series of unfortunate events, but I would suggest that’s too nice a way of phrasing it. It would be more like a “wheels falling off the car and the car catching fire while wedged between a semi and a retaining wall so you can’t escape” if I had to explain it.

To some up the last few months in a word: shit.

Sorry if that offends, but there are few, if any, words that will articulate it as well as that word. It’s been a harrowing journey, as I have found a lot of things in myself to be incomplete or inadequate. It’s been hard. And while this has gone on, I’ve heard so many people/authors/speakers say how real adversity is what grows you as a person. I hope that’s not a load of crap. If it’s true, then I’m going to be a hell of a person soon.

One thing I’ve discovered in this pile of lousy moments is a truth about myself that I’ve discovered that will be worth the hard work.

It’s the gift and opportunity of self discipline.

It’s been an issue I’ve apparently dealt with for years, but am just now discovering it to be such a big deal. Here’s why.

As a kid, I grew up understanding that discipline was a four letter word. All the time. Discipline was what happened when I got in trouble for bad behavior. But discipline was also the thing that I was told to do so I could be a good, responsible person in society.

For me, my first-remembered foray into self-discipline was learning about money. I learned the envelope system, and I learned that it was a terrible system. I would break my allowance into about 6–7 different categories, so that by the time I was done, I had about $.50 of free spend money. So I learned to cheat the envelopes. I’d sort accordingly and then move the money around later. I did learn to save up for big items I wanted (that envelope was motivating), but by the time I got to the point I could buy that item I was usually over it. I specifically remember this about a typewriter I never bought, because who needed that when there were computers?

I learned to be impulsive. I didn’t learn the “why” to those things. Just that “I had to do it that way.” Or at least I didn’t retain the why. All I knew was that all forms of discipline were bad, and they were meant to make me miserable.

I retained this idea for a long time. I remember journaling my freshmen year of college that I would rather be a passionate person than a disciplined person. I would rather throw myself recklessly at something or someone I loved than pursue anything with focus. If I met resistance for a long time on something, I’d get tired of fighting with it and move on. In adulthood, this bled into a lot of things. My work. My relationships. My philosophy on life.

And it screwed a lot of things up.
In more ways than I can count.

So as an early-to-mid 30-something, I’m learning things that most of you my age probably know:

- what I eat matters. when I eat smart, I feel better. and that food is both better, tastier, and more fun to make.
- where I spend my money matters, buying things that don’t add to my life aren’t worth my money. (it’s not that the envelope system is bad, but the assumption is that everyone has the same categories in their system. Your categories should be yours. Based on the things YOU think matter. I also think it looks way different than the standard categories we setup.)
- who/where/how I spend time with matters. Relationships that only drain me need to dissolve. Some places don’t deserve my time or presence.

It’s affected how I dream, because before I just dreamed up a big picture and walked towards it. Those rarely stuck. There is a focus, a persistence in the work that needs to happen. Be passionate about things for sure, but add a level of intent to what you do.

Blind passion with no intent or focus to keep going
when it gets hard will leave you up a creek every time.

You’ll be perpetually frustrated and have no idea why. Now I don’t have all of this figured out yet. But this makes so much more sense to me now. And now I’m putting together pictures and plans that come with actionable items, goals, and steps where I review things. That used to sound so lame to me when I was younger. For me, this is mostly easy to do with work or work-type projects. It’s hard to quantify in relationships, but there is a level of it still that happens, or that needs to happen, even in relationships.

Ultimately, I realize that things that are hard for me I’ve sorted as disciplines, and things I love as passions, and I’ve chased passions so I don’t have to make disciplines happen. Living that way has done a lot of negative things to my life, personally and professionally. So now, I’m learning self-disciplines are good things, that need to happen, and that I can chase self-discipines because they’re good, needed badly even.
The interesting thing is, I think the more I chase good disciplines, the more passionate I become about them. The more invested I am in them. And balance like that is the thing that I’ll need to be heather, happier, and last longer in my work and my relationship roles.

This is best sorted out in conversation. What does this look like for you? Hit me up here, and let’s chat about it. Or email me here.

Like what you read? Give Thomas Riffey a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.