2/10/22: The Discipline Illusion: why discipline = freedom

Sent 2/10/22


    This week's Think Better Newsletter is about how discipline can lead to greater freedom. 

    The Idea

    When I look back on the past year, I see a mix of disciplined success and undisciplined lack of progress. I also see a struggle to balance the activities that fulfill me personally--running, writing, podcasting--with those that are required by my job, my family, and my other responsibilities, like marketing my book or simply getting enough sleep.

    If you're a little like me, it can start to feel like everything takes too much time. And then the more out of balance I get, the less freedom I have to do the things that make me happy. 

    We touched on this in our conversation with Eric Wood. He brought up the topic of discipline and balance:

    "When you want to find freedom, stick to a disciplined schedule, a routine that serves you each and every day. That's when you'll feel freedom in life. And you'll feel freedom in a number of ways. You'll free up more time [for yourself] and you'll have more time with your loved ones."

    Chapter 9 of Make the Leap focuses on what I call "Discipline via Systems." It's about creating positive, productive routines that maintain your discipline with minimal effort. It's not always easy, but it works. Step one is to overcome what I call the Discipline Illusion:

    "The Discipline Illusion is the belief that maintaining a disciplined lifestyle is restrictive and exhausting. That it's restrictive because it requires too many sacrifices and limits our freedom. And that it's exhausting because it requires too many decisions and too much willpower."

    The surprising truth is, disciplined people don't feel this way. They know that what they've sacrificed is lower priority and therefore frees them to focus on what is important. And they reduce decision-making and willpower by building the decisions into their everyday routines.

    The key is to do it the right way: via systems.

    The System

    Systems are routines or habits that have a few qualities: they are done consistently, they are positive, they are easy to do, and they have a mechanism for improvement. The best performers systematize their lives far greater than their competition.

    It seems counterintuitive that basing more of your life around rules and routines can create freedom. But true freedom is not an absolute lack of restrictions. It's the time, energy, and ability to do more of what you want or need to do. If being disciplined creates the time and energy for you to do that, then it is creating freedom.

    Being disciplined about your time will give you more freedom to use the other hours as you wish.

    Being disciplined about your energy will give you more freedom to use your energy in other areas.

    Being disciplined about your expenses will give you more money to spend on things that bring value to you.

    Being disciplined about your environment will make it easier to do all the things you need to do with less friction.

    Creating a life of healthy, productive systems will free you to do more of what matters most to you. 

    The Question

    What's a small repetitive task that keeps taking more time than it should? Can you build a system that keeps you more disciplined about it? 


    Go Be More,

    Bryan Green
    Author of Make the Leap: Think Better, Train Better, Run Faster and the companion Think Better Workbook
    Co-host of the Go Be More Podcast
    Co-host of the Fueling the Pursuit Podcast

    “Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.”
    – Frank Herbert



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