Or, Think They Do
Planning, discipline, routine, structure – I’m just going to get a lot of words I assume you hate out of the way now and say that we will be discussing them. We’re going to discuss why you think you hate them, why you might actually hate them, and some of the ironies that come with them.
Fine, we’ll get an irony out of the way first.
The More Undisciplined You Are, the Less Free You Will Be
Let’s get this cold, hard truth in the harsh light of day as soon as possible – without self-discipline, you are relying 100% on pure dumb luck to get the most out of life. It may work for some, but is a terrible plan on which to base your security.
I have a rescue pit bull, rescue labrador, and their baby. The pit bull grew up confined to a room. He was never taken out for a walk or for play. Every chance he is outside without a leash or another tether, he bolts. Doesn’t care where he’s going, he’s just got to run.
My rescue labrador was saved from a mill as a puppy. Her eyes were barely open. She was raised with regular outdoor play time and plenty of walks, as was the puppy she had with the pit. She and the puppy grew to know the property boundaries and do not have a yearning to go beyond them.
The pit bull has no self-discipline when it comes to staying in the yard. Because of this, he must always be on a leash or tether, or in the fenced areas. The dogs who intrinsically know to stay within the yard do not have to wear a leash or stay in the fenced area. By knowing and respecting the boundaries, they know they have complete freedom within those boundaries.
The Appeal of Irresponsibility
I’m in a hurry, so I’m going to just call out this lack of desire to plan and prepare for what it is – an offshoot of irresponsibility. Now that we’ve acknowledged this, let’s look at its appeal.
There is an illusion of restraint in a plan. It means that you Have to A at a certain time, B at the next time, then C, so on and so forth. It seems like it can be freeing to do C, then B, then A if you so choose.
It’s a trap!
The Limitations of Willpower
Willpower is like any other muscle – its strength is finite. The more you have to make decisions and weigh consequences throughout the day, the harder it becomes to do the right thing. This is referred to as willpower depletion.
It’s a main reason people opt to exercise first thing in the morning – their willpower is fresh enough to push them to do the hard things, so they do it as soon as possible.
REALITY CHECK: If you are choosing a life free of structure because it seems easier, you probably lack the willpower strength necessary to stay on top of your needs without being stressed out.
A Peace of Structure
Let’s look at this irony – by adhering to a set schedule, you flex your willpower muscle less because habit takes over. If you force yourself to stick with a morning exercise routine, after an extended period of time, that becomes a habit. When something is a habit, you don’t have to force yourself to do it. This keeps your willpower from depleting.
There is also very little stress of the unknown, especially with those minute projects that keep getting put off until the “right” time. With structure, you know that something is getting done because you know when it is getting done. Structure cuts through the myth of the “right” time as there is almost never a “right” time – there is a time, and that time is now.
Your mind is also less stressed because you have to make fewer decisions throughout the day. Structure automates a lot of decisions. It’s why many high performers wear the same general outfits every day – fewer decisions are made, leaving more willpower in the reservoir. One less thing to worry about.
How To Start
Let’s start with the idea that if you’re going from a structure-free life to one with structure, you are going to face some resistance from your brain. It is designed to hate change, even if that change is good.
Because there will be a lot of change, expect a lot of resistance. This is because willpower hasn’t been used to a great degree in so long, it’s not unlike going from sitting all day for years to running a 5K. This will need to happen incrementally for the greatest chances of success.
Now that we have those realities under our awareness cap, we can begin.
What is your usual routine? Map out how you really live. It may be an ugly picture, but we need to see it. We have to see where we are in order to know where we need to go. Log when you sleep, what time is spent on food prep and chores, commute time – track every minute.
There is usually one solid – the work schedule. Most people build their days around their work schedule, regardless of their shift. This is a great way to pick a sleep shift. You can decide how much time you need between waking up and starting work, and this leaves us with time after work before sleep.
We’re not worried about filling these blocks just yet. Baby steps. We’re developing habits, but are doing this by disrupting old patterns. The old pattern being one of the worst – living by impulse. We are focusing on the basic structure of establishing a sleep pattern.
Why? Well, sleep is one of the most important aspects of our wellbeing. Our minds will be fighting the change we’re focusing on, so it is important for us to be rested and at our best while forming these new habits.
Once there is a habitual cycle of sleep, waking routine, work, closing routine, sleep, repeat, then you can focus on creating habits within those hours between sleep and work.
Be patient with yourself. You didn’t fall out of routine overnight, you won’t get back into it overnight. But, once you start experiencing the freedoms that come with learning to live by routines and schedule, you won’t want to go back to being such a slave to impulses, moods, and so many other things beyond your control.
Related Journaling Prompts: How do I feel about planning? What supports this feeling? How is that working for me? Am I being honest about that?