Want to know how to develop the kind of daily discipline that will help you get more done?
Do you have a basic set of habits that works, but you want to do even better?
Ever ask yourself what all the fuss is about in the first place?
Those are important questions every artist–indeed, every man and woman–should be asking themselves.
There isn’t an easy answer. There simply is no shortcut to daily discipline. It will look different for every person reading this post. How do I know there’s no easy answer?
I’ve spent the past 40 years in search of it.
But there is an answer and that’s what I want to share today; a few ideas that have helped me and some ideas on how to find the methods that work for you.
Take The Stairs
The best book I’ve read recently is Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success by Rory Vaden. Take The Stairs is all about developing self-discipline. The focus of the book is creating a “take the stairs” mind-set to self-discipline that’s a life-changer. No fast-and-easy self-help book, this. Quite the contrary. The principles Vaden espouses are tough to get started, but are the key to success.
The book hit so many of my self-discipline trouble-spots that I started writing quotes while still in the introduction. Here’s one.
Life isn’t easy. Life isn’t fair. Being successful doesn’t happen by falling into the most desirable situation possible and somehow magically being discovered for some speical uniqueness we have that no one else has.” (pages 21-22)
Now I’ve known for quite some time that life isn’t fair. If it was, we’d all be born with the keys to a Porsche and a beach house.
But I hadn’t given much thought to the truth of the rest of that quote. Truth be told, I’d rather thought–subconsciously, I assure you–that I did have some unique ability that was just waiting to be discovered. Paint the right painting. Find the right subject or client. Get into the right galley and–wa-la!–my career as an artist would magically be solidified.
So I read that quote and knew right then that there were likely to be some hard truths in this book and I was right.
I whole-heartedly recommend you read this book, but I’m not going to detail it in this post. The content is just too deep and too detailed to cover in four posts. Besides, it’s already been done. Rory Vaden did a superb job.
Where the Problem Begins
I think most artists–myself included–believe that if we just paint the perfect picture or make the perfect sculpture, success will be ours.
But how to do you get from wanting to create a masterpiece to having created a masterpiece?
Let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to think about creating a masterpiece than to create a masterpiece.
You may not need much self-discipline to get started, but you’re soon confronted with the fact that you need self-discipline to finish. A lot of it!
Should Versus How
For most of us, the problem begins with the way we think.
How many times have you said or thought, “I should paint that”? That’s just like saying “I should lose weight”, or “I should exercise more”, or “I should spend more time with the kids”.
According to Vaden, that thought process is the beginning of the end of self-discipline.
Saying “I should” implies an out. “I should paint that subject, but….”. There’s a built-in excuse not to do the painting. You may not realize it, but your subconscious sure does. The moment you hit a stumbling block with your new project, your subconscious stands up, starts shouting and waving, and screaming, “Time to quit! Time to quit!”
Self-Discipline to the Rescue
At that point, you need self-discipline to shout down that little voice. You need to decide to keep going. To push forward no matter what.
I’m not talking about a whip-and-chair moment.
I’m talking about you sitting yourself down and asking yourself a simple question.
“Do I want to paint this badly enough to push through this difficulty?”
In other words, do you want to the right thing even if it’s difficult or do you want to do the easy thing?
Keep in mind that doing the easy thing isn’t going to advance your painting, your career, or your life. Ever.
“Simply stated, there are only two types of activities: things we feel like doing and things we don’t.” Take The Stairs, page 22
If you can make that one adjustment in your thinking, everything else falls into place.
I’m here to tell you that changing your mindset will change the way you work.
Alas, like everything that’s worth doing, it isn’t easy. Nor is it done once and finished. You will have to make difficult versus easy choices every day of your life. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have to make them many times each day.
It’s been a few weeks since I read the book and I’ve been working at implementing the principles in Take The Stairs ever since. I still struggle with maintaining the right mindset.
So don’t expect a quick fix. You won’t find it here.
But if you’re serious about getting more productive and learning how to make productive decisions, then Take The Stairs is the book for you.
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