When we add more discipline to our lives – new food habits, a new exercise routine, a new rhythm for our work day – we need to steer a balance between under- and over-discipline.
Under-discipline is easier to spot, and harder to justify. It’s letting everything go. Leaving things to pile up unattended. Not moving forward with a project.
Under-discipline means you’re not getting done the things you want to get done. It’s sloppy, messy, and goes nowhere. You feel lethargic, dulled, and your energy becomes sludgy.
Go too far in the other direction though, and you end up in over-discipline.
Over-discipline is not giving yourself room to breathe. It’s filling up every minute of your day with things to do. It’s putting work before play, and having so much work on your plate that there’s no space for any play whatsoever. Even if you play, you begin to approach playing as if it’s work too.
You flog yourself until you’re worn out. Burned out.
Over-discipline is easier to justify, and harder to overcome: I have to get this project done. This just cannot wait. I can take time out when I’ve finished x, y and z. But halfway through, you take on projects a, b and c. Your much-needed time out never arrives.
Over-discipline might be necessary, but only sometimes. When there really is an urgent and important project. When you need to work for an intense period, and have time out scheduled at the end. When you’re really up against it and need to push through.
But when over-discipline continues for too long, it becomes a habit. It’s no longer a a response to a specific and time-limited situation. When your habit is over-discipline, you have a problem.
Long-term over-discipline becomes a battle between your willpower and the rest of you. Your determination to work more and more, and all the time, burns you out. It”s a battle you can’t win (even though you kid yourself you can – until you break).
It’s like a fire with too many logs on. Not enough room for the air to get in. It suffocates, and dies out.
You have a couple of options: take some logs off, or bring in more air.
Taking logs off means that you park some of your projects on the side, focus on the most key one(s), only commit to doing what is practically and realistically possible.
Bringing in more air means that give yourself some room to breathe. Take breaks. Do something different where you’re not flogging yourself to achieve, complete, and succeed. Watch a comedy show, go for a walk, sit in a cafe and watch the world go by (keep the phone etc in your bag!!).
When you find your own balance between under- and over-discipline, you’ll be more effective. And you might just start to enjoy yourself again.
I support intelligent and sensitive people in finding balance in their lives through managing their intelligences and sensitivity. If this sounds like something you want, contact me for a consultation.