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Discipline ≠ Willpower

Discipline ≠ Willpower
By August Bradley • Issue #12 • View online
In this Issue:
  • Thoughts + Reflections
  • Personal Performance
  • Human Knowledge
  • Our World Transforming
  • Business Transforming

Greetings everyone! Lots to dive into below.
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Now let’s dive in…
Thoughts + Reflections
Discipline ≠ Willpower
In the previous essay, I wrote about discipline as the gateway to freedom. That spoke to a lot of people, and some expressed a need to “be stronger” with discipline. 
Let’s dig deeper here and get to a more actionable place. It’s one thing to recognize the essential role of discipline, and quite another to consistently live in a disciplined way.
At first glance, it seems as though discipline is one’s strength to resist temptation, to employ sheer determination. Supreme willpower.
That’s not how one achieves discipline in life. This will be good news to anyone who has ever tried sheer willpower to achieve a far-reaching goal. You already know that doesn’t get you far. Willpower does not work.
Willpower can work for a day, or a few days. Even a week. But it does not last. It barely gets you started. It’s short-lived. 
Two things need to change to become disciplined in the major areas of your life. 
1. Change Your Environment
2. Change Yourself
There you go, that’s all there is to it! Just two, that’s it. 🙂
Environment is the relatively easy part, or at least easier to understand. Remove the temptation, remove the distractions, remove the friction. Be it cookies or tv or social media apps or whatever. Remove anything in your environment that pulls you off track, get rid if it.
That goes for people too, it particularly applies to people. If they’re negative influences (belittling, criticizing, undermining), remove them from your life if at all possible. If they’re family and unremovable, then first talk with them about the problem. Ask for their support. But if they won’t or can’t work with you, then you need to compartmentalize them into sectors of your life outside of your aspirational pursuits. People in genuine need of your care are different, here you need to prioritize with compassion — then based on those priorities, you can compartmentalize proportionally. 
The less straightforward part is internal. The problem here is you can’t see reality clearly. Or more precisely, the reality of self identity is deceptive. You’re locked into one perspective, one framework, and think that’s the truth. From any given person’s perspective, truth is what they believe. And beliefs are massively limiting factors. 
Your mind is perpetually telling you stories. It’s telling you who you are, how others perceive you (i.e., how you think others perceive you), and defining how you perceive yourself. It’s bullshit, but it feels real. It’s a single all-encompassing narrative presented by that incessant internal voice, all day and all night. It never even occurs to most people to question that voice, we just swim along in the thought stream of our minds. So we accept the picture this voice paints. Why challenge what seems so indisputable?
Even if we’ve learned to question that story through meditation or other practices, it seems so real and dominates our view the other 99% of the time when we’re not in active reflection or analysis mode. It is our de facto perspective on everything, the window through which we perceive. It’s the only channel on the crappy streaming service in our heads.
That vision we paint of (and for) ourselves can change. We can re-shape it. The most powerful and lasting way to design our behaviors is to re-build this view of ourselves. To re-define who we believe ourselves to be. It’s not easy, but know at the outset this is what we’re striving to achieve. 
You need to see yourself as the kind of person who does certain things. That’s just who I am: I’m a non-smoker. I’m an athletic person. I’m a healthy eater. I’m a strategic thinker. I’m a hard-working professional. I’m a caring friend. I’m a loving spouse/parent/son/daughter.
Discipline requires creating the right kind of desire — not just any hope will do here. The desire needs to burn inside of you. Some things we want in life are dreams, and others are obsessions we will die on the hill over. If it matters to you, you must make it the latter. Again, this is something you shape.
When times get tough, we let go of our dreams. However, we all have absolute minimum standards. If we start dropping below these lines, alarms go off — our identity is under assault, we’re at risk of falling to a lower perceived state. When we hit a certain weight, a flag goes up. When income drops below a specific line, it grabs our attention. When important relationships become strained, we’re rattled. In each area of life that matters, we have boundaries that cause red alerts. We need to turn our dreams into those kinds of minimum standards. 
Don’t reach for the sky, raise the floor. Systems help us raise the floor, but it’s more than systems — it’s self perception and self identity. (We explored this from another angle in a previous issue’s essay.)
And give yourself breathing room. Consistent discipline does not mean always being perfect, it’s recovering when you stray. In meditation, when one’s mind inadvertently trails off in thought, we’re trained to gently bring it back to the present without judgment. We apply the same approach to areas of disciplined activity. When we’ve lost our way, we gently bring our behaviors back in line. Don’t beat yourself up, forgive yourself… as long as you’re willing to set the course right again. Focus your energy on coming back to the discipline.
The act of noticing you have strayed and coming back is an achievement, that’s a win. Every time you do it you have succeeded in being disciplined and in control of your life. The straying is not the central element, the recovery is. Practice routinely re-aligning rather than wallowing in guilt and self criticism. The ability to re-align as often as necessary is discipline. THAT is the game, that is success.
Every day, every hour is an opportunity to start fresh on the track of your choosing. You perpetually have a new opportunity to do it right, the game is never lost.
Join me on Twitter @augustbradley
Next Level Discipline
When you shape your identity, the things you previously dreaded become the normal routine. Over time, you continue to change, feedback loops kick in, you get stronger and rewarded for your efforts.
Ultimately, you enjoy — even love — doing the thing that was once a difficult burden that seemed to require super-human willpower. At this point you will excel at the very thing that was a core weakness. This is the ultimate growth hack.
These stories highlight the transformation to elite performer:
Daniel Chambliss, an American sociologist, on how top performers feel about hard work: 
“At the higher levels of competitive swimming, something like an inversion of attitude takes place. The very features of the sport that the ‘C’ swimmer finds unpleasant, the top level swimmer enjoys. What others see as boring—swimming back and forth over a black line for two hours, say—they find peaceful, even meditative, often challenging, or therapeutic. They enjoy hard practices, look forward to difficult competitions, try to set difficult goals. Coming into the 5:30 A.M. practices at Mission Viejo, many of the swimmers were lively, laughing, talking, enjoying themselves, perhaps appreciating the fact that most people would positively hate doing it. It is incorrect to believe that top athletes suffer great sacrifices to achieve their goals. Often, they don’t see what they do as sacrificial at all. They like it.” 
From The Mundanity of Excellence
I see and hear this all the time form elite performers:
I once met a professional cyclist and I asked him: "What’s the key to competitive racing?”
He replied: “The best cyclists love the pain.” 
They get off on the hardship, the pain is a feature.
Michael Jordan is often asked what his secret was to becoming the greatest basketball player of all time — what training routines or approaches he used. He answers:
“The secret is to fall in love with the game.”
And from the unstoppable David Goggins:
“I put a bunch of friction in my life. And I grew. That’s how I did it.”
“You want to get really tough? It’s a lifestyle. Do things that suck and embrace the suck.”
Recent Published Work
Slower two weeks than usual on the Notion System Design YouTube channel, but will pick up again this week. Released the much requested overview of the Content Creation System:
Notion Content Creation Pipeline with Dashboard + Database
Notion Content Creation Pipeline with Dashboard + Database
Guest Host on “Keep Productive” Channel
Just out yesterday, I guest hosted a video on the popular Keep Productive YouTube channel with Francesco D'Alessio. Fun experience, I’ve been watching this channel forever. I talked about how I use both Notion and Roam together, showing how I bridge the two…
Notion + Roam: How August Uses Them Together
Notion + Roam: How August Uses Them Together
Mind & Machine Podcast
The Mind & Machine Podcast/YouTube show is on a temporary pause while we ramp-up some new initiatives that will fuel and enhance M&M the show when it returns. You can catch up on past episodes here:
Access & Subscribe to MIND & MACHINE directly:
Personal Performance
Human Knowledge
Flow Psychology: Activities to Induce Flow
Our World Transforming
How Fitness Will Change Forever
Business Transforming
The Modern Roadmap to Building Small Businesses
Discovered on Twitter
Matthew Kobach
If you're reading, watching, or listening to the right things, learning is as just as much fun as being entertained
ᴅᴀᴠɪᴅ ᴘᴇʀᴇʟʟ ✌
You hit escape velocity when you like personal growth more than passive entertainment
James Clear
It's better to do less than you hoped than nothing at all.

No zero days.
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August Bradley

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