On Discipline – or Lack Thereof

quitpiddlingI used to think of myself as a disciplined person. I rose early. I got to places on time, often well ahead of schedule. I completed assignments by deadline and aced my way through college and grad school. Were these not signs of great self-discipline?

Of course there were other reminders that perhaps I was not as in command of myself as I thought. My room, and now my house, were/are never as clean as they ought to be. My body attests to my impulsive compulsive nature in terms of its intake of calories and corresponding size of my derrière. My hair serves as visual acknowledgment that I’m more often in a ‘whatever’ mode than not.

What happened? Have I become lazy – or at least lazier? Maybe. But I also became a stay-at-home mom. For 12+ years the only deadlines I have had to meet are those of my family. And you can bet if lunches need packed or school supplies picked up or cookies need baked for the teachers’ lounge, I’m on it. I still work well to deadlines. Other people’s deadlines.

I don’t work well to my own any more. I guess I’ve figured out the magic secret that if I don’t meet my own deadlines…nothing happens. And for someone often consumed with anxiety and burdened with an excessive need to please people, frankly it feels good to know that if I let myself down the only person I’m hurting or disappointing is me.

But when did it become OK to accept less from myself for myself than for what I give to others? That’s not exactly ideal, right? And how do I prod myself back into working pridefully for me, without getting mired down in the anxiety and rebellion that that often induces?

I ask this as I sit in the cafeteria at a local community college, staring at the draft of my book that I promised myself I would edit this week while my kids are in camps here. I don’t want to edit it. I’m exhausted today, having lain awake for more than 3 hours in the dead of the night, and not even chocolate seems to be snapping me out of it. So this brain fog has me telling myself, ‘Eh, who cares? Play on Facebook or Twitter or Words With Friends or Candy Crush Saga- you can edit later!’

Which is, of course, what I’ve been telling myself for the last few months. Were I working to a deadline – one imposed by someone else, I mean – this sucker would be done. But when it’s my own, I still succumb to the siren song of procrastination. Every time.

I’ll never get anywhere in my writing career this way. Perhaps that’s my own subconscious point – I can’t fail if I never submit anything to anyone, right? (Never mind that never submitting pretty much constitutes a failure in itself.) But I also can’t succeed that way, and living a life in limbo, a life of procrastination, isn’t really living.

I like being my own boss, if one can call me that. But I work better for others. Apparently I’ve decided it’s OK to let myself down. No more. This fall, once the kids are back in school, I’m committing to a writing schedule. I’m going to post it publicly, and I’m going to find someone to hold me accountable (husband comes to mind, although for the sake of marital harmony perhaps I’ll ask a friend). Even when I’m tired. Even when I feel other things in my life ought to take priority. Even when I feel I’m kidding myself that I can ever make it in this business. I’m going to write and edit and research anyway.

And on that note, I’ve got to go. I have a manuscript to revise.

6 Replies to “On Discipline – or Lack Thereof”

  1. I can totally relate. If you think procrastination is bad when you have a family, you should see how much worse it can be when you live by yourself! No one to hold me accountable but Max and Lola, and as long as their kitty treats are delivered on demand, they have no problems with my timetable, or lack thereof. Work deadlines are always met, my own, almost never. I keep telling myself things will be better when I retire (not nearly soon enough). We’ll see. In the end, we are who we are, and I guess we might as well enjoy life however that is.

    • In some ways I don’t mind a more laid-back lifestyle, as I think we get far too much pressure from society to do, do, do. On the other hand, if ALL I’m doing is things for others or leisure things, that doesn’t make me feel valuable to myself, which is why I’m endeavoring to push myself with the writing, even when it’s far easier not to. And cats are great for snuggles – we all need to stop and snuggle a feline every day!

  2. I have drifted away from my goals, too. I got sick and was unable to for weeks on end, and once it has been a while, it’s easier to make it a longer while than it is to dust off the manuscript and dive in again. I will if you will!

    • Yup! It’s on! I am not committing to the daily schedule until the kids go back to school, but I WILL finish my first read-through/edit-scribble on this draft and put the edits in by September 1st. That’s my goal!

  3. Priorities and choices. If I’ve gained any wisdom over the years, it’s that the statement, “I don’t have time” is a fallacy. We always choose what we spend our time on and we choose what not to prioritize. As moms, kid stuff always comes first. I agree, there comes a point when we realize that maybe that’s not our sole reason for living. There comes a time when we need to prioritize ourselves or choose ourselves some of the time, if nothing else but for the fear we may lose who we really are. Those with an out-of-home career with which they feel passion are in less jeopardy of that (in my opinion) than stay-at-homes. Even so, life can feel like my work (consulting) & my work (home) and I get lost in the shuffle. When I was in my late 20’s, I had lots of friends in their 40’s who were coming out of the “mom fog” and finding themselves again. They were so fun! so happy! so wise! and so who I wanted to be! That’s so who I want to be now! Now it’s about choosing to be that person and shaping what that’s going to look like. It could really be an exciting time!!

    • Thanks, Amy – right on. I know that I COULD be spending considerably more time on other things, and I just… don’t. So I’m working on figuring out what those priorities should be, and how I want to rearrange how I do things. Right now my motivation is comfort – as it often is, and so it’s challenging for myself to push beyond that. Love your common sense, positive approach!

Whatcha Think?