Here we go again. ‘Tis the season to be merry, and in that spirit I anticipate entry into the annual merry-go-round that is the promise that “I’ll do it when we get Christmas out of the way,” I say merry-go-round because without any doubt whatsoever you know someone who says that and then, immediately after Christmas, replaces that festival with ‘New Year’, ‘Half-term’, ‘Easter’, ‘kid’s exams’, ‘the holidays’, ‘new school year’ and ‘we’re back to Christmas’. I do. I’ve forgotten what our oak dining table looks like, it’s been used as a laundry depot for so long. That’s other people dealt with. Now you/me.
These promises parallel the traditional New Year’s Resolutions, promises made to ourselves in respect of which we excuse inaction for similar reasons. This year I suspect it’ll be, “Well, New Year’s Day is a Friday, and I’ll be sleeping the night off. Then it’s the weekend so I won’t start then. I’m back at work on Monday the 4th, I’ll give it the beans then. Oh, look at all this work that built up because of my Christmas excuse, I’ll just get that out of the way….” And the failure loop spins ever onwards.
That’s the easy option, the comfortable one. The one that almost relies on stuff to happen so that we can excuse the lack of the one thing that changes everything*.
There is a continuum that runs from ‘things we like to do’ to ‘things we hate doing’. As the line runs from left to right, the levels of discipline required to do those things rises exponentially. People applaud the successful athlete and artiste, and it is true that the greats have imposed self-discipline on themselves, but I believe that their self-discipline is a reflection of the fact that they are doing what they love. It’s minimally required.
I believe in this motto:
Self-discipline is doing the things you don’t want to do because doing them serves you; Self-Denial is NOT doing the things you want to do, because doing them does NOT serve you.
To me, that couplet defines part of the route to success in any endeavour. Not all of it, because character and competence play an extremely important role as well.
In essence, the time we spend fighting against having to make the choice to do/not do what is under consideration would be better spent elsewhere.
Which means that immediately ‘Christmas is OVER’ you decide what levels of discipline you are willing to exercise in each of the roles you play in the great movie called Life, and then you start executing on that choice vigorously. Make the Hard Choice, or more pertinently Make the Harder Choice. When you don’t want to do something that you’ve decided serves you and that you privately committed to doing – Do It. Do It Now.
Author Mel Robbins wrote a whole book about the idea that when you think, “I have to….” Then you count down 5-4-3-2-1 and then just do it. I have used this to get out of bed on a cold morning, among other, more challenging choices. You can use it to go for a run, clean the car, actually do the things you said you’d do ‘after Christmas.
The time and mental effort you save will astound you.
Happy Christmas. Enjoy the break – you have a lot to do when it’s over.
(*Stephen Covey Jr says that is Trust, but my experience tells me otherwise.)