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Commitment and Discipline (not crime and punishment)

So often we start something only to give it up in a short time. Whether a diet, exercise program or a creative endeavor like writing. It takes a certain kind of person to commit to something and have the discipline to see it through day after day.

We get in a certain kind of rut or habitual pattern that we do day in and day out that over time it feels impossible to step out of it. Or if we do, the rut is so deep, just as we feel like we have dug ourselves out, we slip back down into the old familiar patterns. We have all experienced this, myself included. It is frustrating to say the least.

To make matters worse we are hard on ourselves for having failed in the first place. We are the judge and jury for the crime, and with that internal dialogue we verbally punish ourselves. It is an uncomfortable feeling to be in. Rather than feel the feeling and go on, we just give up, make excuses and go back to our usual comfortable place, the rut. And that’s an okay place to go back to if you so choose. What makes matters worse is going back to that place, but not wanting to. Then continue about life with this undercurrent of frustration and angst. It’s like a self-imposed prison.

As you can tell I am speaking from past experience. Also, from friends I know who have done this over and over. I have met “writer” friends who have written and stopped. Whenever I meet them and fill them in on what’s going on, I can see envy in their eyes followed with, “Oh I really want to get back to it.” They rarely do. So I have learned over time to say as little as possible to them. I would rather not be a part of creating that feeling of envy. I just want them to do it.

I recently realized that not everyone is cut out for stepping out of the rut. It is not easy and takes a vast amount of commitment, willingness and discipline to change. I find this topic fitting given it is just past the new year and around the time that people are at that frustration stage of their resolutions. A few more weeks and the handful that are committed will rise to the top and continue on, the rest will go back to their usual routines as their own judge and jury have come to the verdict of “failure.” I think this idea of “failure” is not the right approach. Going easy on oneself makes it easier to get back to trying it again.

The key, we cannot do it alone. It takes a community and friends and an environment that fosters change. But if all around you are people in a rut, then it is far more difficult to get out of it and make that change. The energy around your life, that is the life you created, needs to be changed and that includes people, routines and anything else that we use to stay in the same place.

Let me give you an example connected to writing. My morning routine used to be I would sleep in eat a bowl of cereal, drink a cup of coffee and read the newspaper and SNS sites online for however long I wanted to. I told myself that I had no time to do any writing except during my school vacations. So that is what I did.

During my long vacations I wrote a book, which took nearly two years. I thought okay this is something I want to incorporate into my life, this writing thing. I got an editor and edited my book. I wanted to commit to making the revisions to the book and blogging. Now what do I need to do to make this a part of my life. I know I can write everyday, just let go of spending time online, or limit it to just fifteen minutes in the morning before writing. Because I want to write everyday I now get up earlier to do it. And if I cannot then I write when I have free time, whether in the afternoon or evening. And does it have to be long marathon writing sessions? No it does not, although I do have those twice a week. The point is to write everyday to create the momentum and energy around the commitment to writing. Did this come easy? Hell no! It took time before I reconfigured my energy and focus to this commitment and discipline.

The result, it is now second nature. There is no debate about whether to write or not, I just write be it thirty minutes or three hours. I bet you’re thinking, “Yeah but you have a lot of time on your hands.” I do now while on vacation, but I will say I have a full life of many other things going on whether on vacation or not.

I simply write because it is a part of me now.

When things get tough and you feel like you cannot do it, I like to tell on myself. This means to talk to a like-minded friend or someone in the community that understands making a commitment. That way it is out in the open and you are no longer building up a wall, or maybe a ditch is a better image. A ditch making way for that rut I am so comfortable in. It is easy to go back to that if we are not careful.

While I focused on writing, the same goes for exercise, food and any other lifestyle change you may want to make.

So go easy on yourself and know that change takes commitment, discipline and time.

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