Discipline is freedom
How habits help us stay sane
Recall December 31st, 2019.
People just finished writing their resolutions for the upcoming year. Attending forums, traveling to Bali with friends, becoming a productivity role model, getting promoted, waking up early, going to the gym and many more points are waiting for their turn to get that bold checkmark.
In a euphoric excitement, we celebrate New Year, dance till the sunrise. After a crazy winter vacation, people are ready to go back to their offices to conquer their dreams.
And then boom! Covid-19 happens. The countries start lockdowns. Productivity falls drastically, and so does our mood. Weeks feel like a never-ending day. Some people start feeling pressured, lonely. Eating schedules get mixed up. Do we remember when was the last time we had a glass of water?
Our schedule falls apart, emotions start exploding and we don’t know what to do with ourselves anymore. Lack of our standard routine gives rise to anxiety. As a result, we wake up later, take a bath 3 times longer than we usually do, and randomly fight with our family members.
The whole situation reminds me of this quote by William James:
There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work are subjects of express volitional deliberation.
Seems like we are exactly those miserable human beings James is mentioning. Quarantine means we are no longer able to live one part of our lives on autopilot (at least at the beginning of it).
An American poet May Sarton in her work “Journal of a Solitude” writes,
I go up to Heaven and down to Hell in an hour, and keep alive only by imposing upon myself inexorable routines.
What all of us crave is a new strict schedule that we can rely on.
However, there is a small aspect that some people miss out on and as a consequence, lose their motivation in the middle of the week.
Setting up measurable goals is an essential part of guaranteeing success.
Prepare a list of goals that you are planning to achieve. Then, divide those goals into smaller steps so you will have a concrete idea of how to reach them.
Integrate at least one small step from each of your goals into the week-plan. In the future, this will allow you to have a better understanding of how far you’ve gone in each goal, and you will constantly work on multiple goals at the same time.
Below are some small tips on how to plan your day that work well for me and keep me motivated and happy.
- Firstly, it is beneficial to write a schedule beforehand so when you wake up in the morning you know for sure what you’re gonna be busy with.
- Wake up a bit earlier at the same time every day, to have a “me time”. Take some time to do stretching and meditation, name 3 things you are grateful for today. You can read a book or article that motivates you. These small steps won’t take too much time, instead will set your whole mood for the day.
- Add some physical activity during the day. If you’re not a gym freak like me, you might find this point a bit harder to implement, but walking after your job in your neighborhood, or doing some exercises to activate your muscles and heart more, will leave you with tons of endorphins and satisfaction.
- Start learning something new. It can be either a short course online on the topic that interests you or cooking your favorite dish. The latter will literally add a bit of spice to your day.
- Instead of grabbing your phone after going to bed at night, spend some time reading. This small change will calm your mind and will make you sleep faster.
After some time, you will notice you are becoming one of those people who manage to work effectively and can control their lives, even at times of pandemic.
As James states, “The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work.“
When the schedule is strict, there is no place for never-ending sighing for your love with whom you broke up last century.
The surest way to discipline passion is to discipline time: decide what you want or ought to do during the day, then always do it at exactly the same moment every day, and passion will give you no trouble.
W. H. Auden
Set goals that depend only on you, design your routine, and conquer the world!