In my life, discipline has never been complicated. The more disciplined you are the better your results. When you want to get better grades, you need to study on a regular basis. When you want to develop a habit like meditating, you need to do it every day. To make real change in something, you need to constantly be working on it. It’s pretty intuitive.
And this diligence has been one of my biggest sources of pride as I think back on some of my biggest accomplishments for the year. I was able to start a real company that helps people, write 13 medium articles, read almost 20 books, and much more. This discipline is something I derive confidence from. When I set my mind to do something, I absolutely hate letting myself down or cheating myself so I almost always will stick with things whether that be meditating and journaling, taking cold showers, or doing comfort zone challenges. I get excited by the challenge and opportunity for growth and that seeps into everything else I do. But I recently learned that the relationship between discipline and happiness is not this simple.
This year, I was able to develop a really amazing morning routine for myself through a lot of reading and trial and error. I spoke about this in a separate article, but the routine essentially involves jumping out of bed, doing 8 minutes of abs, meditating for 10 minutes, journaling for 10–15 minutes, working on an article or creative project for 10 minutes, and getting ready in the bathroom to start my day. And I would complete this literally every day. This routine absolutely transformed my days; I got so much energy, had a greater grip on my mind and moods, and I was constantly learning and applying new skills. I also had a strong sense of pride throughout the rest of the day; I knew that every day I was applying a formula that was improving my life and I loved that.
However, these last couple of months I gradually started to notice something: I wasn’t jumping out of bed with the same excitement. My morning routine at times felt like a chore. This in large part was related to what was happening in the rest of my day. This summer I had been working full-time on my startup so when things weren’t going well, I felt a lot of stress and self-doubt. Because I had committed so much to the success of this company, I felt an emotional attachment and I worried that if things failed, I may have wasted my time. I had foregone so many other opportunities in order to pursue this. Whether or not this was 100% rational, it is how I felt and this was adding a ton of pressure for me.
So, when I was spending an hour and a half each morning on my routine even before I got to work on my startup, I felt some internal conflict. On one hand, I knew that my routine was intended to give me the energy to succeed in the rest of the day and helped me grow as a person, but on the other, it felt like a countdown until I was finished until I could deal with what was weighing on me. The incredibly tough thing to admit to myself was that this routine to which I attributed so much happiness and success wasn’t making me happier anymore. Continuing to apply this old formula did not mean that I was going to keep getting those old results.
For months I continued performing each piece of my routine every morning. I didn’t want to let myself down by losing discipline. It had turned into something I was telling myself I had to do rather than something I wanted to do every day to get better. It took me until these last couple weeks to realize that the routine the way it was didn’t serve me to the potential that it could be. Raw discipline was not producing the outcomes I wanted. I was missing a necessary dose of reflection so I had to take a step back and think before I continued to apply this pressure.
The confirming moment for all of this was the first day I skipped journaling in literally a year was how much relief I got. I was reminded of my intentions and my control of the whole situation. The world went on just fine. I had set out to journal because I wanted to feel better and happier. This was a choice that I could change whenever I wanted. And that was really liberating for me.
What I learned is less about burnout or finding balance and more about the need to infuse reflection into your daily habits. You need to be checking in every so often to make sure that what you are doing is working for you and is in line with what drives you. Being disciplined and creating good habits are imperative to achieving what you want in life, but situations change and habits may require adjustments to keep you moving in the direction you want.
For me, my habits weren’t meeting my needs because they were taking up too much time, had lost their novelty, and were just associated with too much pressure. So, I’ve decided to make some changes. I wanted my whole routine to take no longer than 50 minutes so I am cutting down the length of activities like journaling and meditating. I also wanted to prevent myself from losing excitement moving forward so I set up options for each part of my routine that I can change to keep things fresh. And then finally, I am going to remove this notion from my head that I have to get this routine done every day or my life is over. If there is an extreme circumstance that would make performing part or all of this difficult, I will not stress and will go easy on myself. In doing so, I hope to get back to a place where I am excited about every part of my routine and feel happier during and after.
If you were interested in the specifics of my routine, this is what it currently looks like:
- Wake Up — Alarm with Music, Drink a Cup of Water, Quick Bathroom (3 minutes)
- Energy — Option of Yoga, Stretching, Abs, Foam Roll (5 minutes)
- Creative Growth — Option of Working on Article, Mindmap, Designing Your Life Reflection, Other Creative Projects (5–8 minutes)
- Mindfulness — Option of Meditation and Journal or Tony Robbins’ Priming (15 minutes)
- Prep — Bathroom and Breakfast (10–15 minutes)
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