Let’s look at how discipline works. When I think about discipline, I personally get mental images of a monk or martial artist who has their body, mind and spirit calm and focused – their entire essence and being dedicated and channeled into everything they do. This of course, is a largely conceptual definition that doesn’t really help anyone unless you want to hang out at a monastery full-time. Let’s look at how we can make it more applicable.
Discipline, or the idea of discipline has been one of my recent fascinations and pastimes (I know, the hazards of being a productivity blogger). The more reading and research and experimenting that I’ve done on the subject, the more I’ve realized just how much our upbringing and background has on our ability/inability to use discipline in our lives.
Some readers may or may not know this, but I’ve always been really productive, and pretty disciplined – in most areas. From about elementary school onwards, I’ve never let a deadline lapse, I’ve always done the right thing (mostly) and the idea of routines, systems, checklists and using mind and body hacks to get things done better and faster is just part of who I am.
It has nothing to do with being Asian or growing up in a Confucian household. While I’m sure a genetic test at 23andme.com would tell me that I’m a descendant of Genghis Khan, as my girlfriend puts it, “dating you is like getting to date a white guy who happens to be Asian”.
Ever since I moved out to Asia 4 years ago, I’ve always felt that there as something missing in terms of my productivity. At first, I blamed it on the things about the local culture that really annoy me – the lack of intellectual depth, basic common sense missing in a lot of places and a general indolence that seems to be present everywhere.
But that’s unfair because, you know, it’s their culture and they have every right to live however they want. So I put the focus back on myself. After some time thinking, I had an epiphany moment while in New Zealand last year:
I did an inventory of discipline and control across the different parts of my life.
- Do I have daily systems and routines in place? Yes.
- Do I have a task management system that works? Yes.
- Are my relationships good? Mostly.
- Do I get enough downtime? Yes.
- Do I procrastinate? Not in a long time.
- Do I read enough and expand my knowledge and intellect? Yes.
- Do I enforce my boundaries? Mostly.
- Do I exercise emotional control? Wait a minute…
And so I discovered 2 things that were eating away at my productivity and discipline:
- Boundaries in particular relationships that I had formed during my childhood (read: family).
- How often my emotions did yo-yo backflips at the small petty annoyances and inefficiencies of day-to-day life in Asia.
In turn, this led to…
The Idea of Discipline
Discipline is the idea that you live by a code of conduct or principles that govern your life. In my case, part of this code is being the best version of myself that I can be.
And my self-analysis had revealed the areas where I was not living up to this code.
It also led me to the idea that “discipline” is a domain of life – much like our health, our relationships, or our wealth. It’s the area that you actively pursue to manage instant gratification and to keep your focus long-term, allowing your goals to come into being.
What I Tried and Discovered
Of course, being an Efficient Asian™ I set about systematically correcting things.
The first was starting to enforce boundaries in particular relationships. That ended up being spectacularly explosive, and the lessons from that are a tale for another time.
The second was addressing this issue of emotions. Correcting things here had a huge impact on my quality of life
For one thing, little day-to-day annoyances stopped bothering completely. But it didn’t end there. I discovered that by exercising discipline over my emotions, it become easier to exercise discipline over other parts of my life. Working out and eating properly took less effort.
And then really good stuff started happening – in my personal life, in my relationships, with Asian Efficiency.
I suppose if you’ve watched The Secret you could call it the Law of Attraction or something. Only now there was no mystery as to how the mechanism worked, it was simply a matter of harnessing and exercising discipline in one area of my life… and letting it carry over into other areas.
So here’s the theory I came up with:
The more discipline you harness in any area of life, the stronger your abilities with self-discipline become, and the more discipline in all areas of life.
What you are doing is telling your mind and body (and perhaps soul) that you are capable of controlling your life and capable of achieving great things, and in turn, they reward you with the results that you want. You gain clarity, purpose and the ability to take massive action – and everything just seems to work.
In short, the more discipline you cultivate in different areas of life, the better you will do in all areas of life.
Here’s How You Kick Ass
Keeping in mind that this concept is entirely from my own journey and experience (the only other people I’ve shared this with is Thanh and a couple of select others), I’m pretty sure this can and will work for everyone. Consider it “cutting edge” Asian Efficiency – that is what you’re here reading for anyhow.
Here’s how I would implement this.
- Pick 2 areas to start harnessing discipline in. I suggest that health be one of those areas if you’re not already working on something there.
- Work out what discipline means to you in that area, then go do it. For example, in Health, it could be to work out 3 times every week. In Emotions, it could be to do the 10 day mental challenge – and then keep doing it.
- That’s it.
There is no “where to go next” or anything.
I know – it’s not exactly sexy, or slick, or smooth. But it is the secret to getting you to that next level of productivity, and to getting and doing everything you want out of life.
If you have any questions or would like to share your own experience with this, send me an email or leave a comment!