On Self-Discipline

by Morken Sa’an, Dragon Group

In the two months that have passed since I have decided to put my own personal training on higher standards, I have take up several forms of self-development. I learned to speed-read and to learn more efficiently, I have started doing physical training and have refreshed my abilities in ju-jitsu, and in the last weeks I have returned to energy manipulation exercises (esp. healing) that I had known for some time but had been too lazy to practice.

Also, I have raised my standards in normal, non-Jedi things, like my studies, my concentration when playing chess, or simply keeping my room clean. This complex, combined effort in all areas of life that I thought I could improve was of course too much for me. I was on the point of discouragement a few times, so now I think I am competent enough to give some advice to those who have problems with keeping self-discipline. I need not add that it will still be psychology that I describe here – I mentioned my own experiences only to tell you that I myself have made certain that the advice works.

The Mechanisms of Discipline

First, you must understand that what you are doing is NOT getting yourself to do this great effort of will for the rest of your life. What you are doing is to break (‘unlearn’) the previous habits and learn new habits of higher standards to replace the old.

For example, you had the habit of eating too much (since half the Temple is American, this is a good example). Once you have decided to start exercising and eat less, this will be a great effort – the habit will be an impulse trying to get you back to the previous routine. But after you keep up the healthier lifestyle for some time, it will in itself become a habit, and it will no longer require such heroic efforts of will as it did in the beginning. You just need enough strength and motivation to get you through the difficult period.

The Logic of Laziness

Laziness is not a sin or fault or anything. It is a normal instinct, evolved by all animals and plants. The reason? In times when food was scarce, and had to be hunted down and killed instead of getting it from the supermarket, one had to save energy in order to survive.

Today, an average person in civilized countries can do a lot of exercises and spend as much energy as they wish – and they will simply eat more to compensate for that. So only now has the instinct of laziness become obsolete – and only to a certain degree. In thousands of generations of evolution this instinct might disappear, but for now each of us has to fight his own personal battle against it.

Motivation

This is a counter-impulse for laziness.

The energy and enthusiasm that you use as ‘fuel’ to your plans come from the subjective, subconscious mind. And if your motivation fails you, this means that consciously you want to do what you’ve planned, but ‘really’ (subjectively) you don’t want to.

How to motivate yourself? Well, the first thing is to think. You have to know what you want and why you want it. You have to be able to express is clearly, objectively, logically, so that you will not be able to think of an excuse in any moment of weakness.

Once you’ve achieved that, it will work as autosuggestion – the subjective mind is influenced greatly by things of which you are consciously convinced. Your subjective mind will return this conviction with even greater force. This will start positive feedback.

The Strength to Dream

(This belongs to the subject of motivation, but it is so important in itself, that I decided to make it a separate point.)

We western people have learned to be skeptical about everything so much, that you might call it an “age of defeat” (C. Wilson). That’s our defense against discouragement – we don’t believe that our dreams could come true, so we cannot be unpleasantly surprised. But if you want something, do not fall into self-divisions like that. “The heart, the mind and the hand can perform miracles when they are in perfect harmony” (Adria). For an example of that miracle you need to look no further than Jedi Rendar’s lesson on Force Strength.

So, do not be afraid to dream. Keep it realistic – these dreams are to be at the same time plans – but do not hesitate to give your plans the power of dreams. Never accept a dull, dreamless life. Set a goal before you, imagine it happening, be certain that it will happen – or that you will make it happen!

Meditation can be helpful here, as a form of autosuggestion.

“Do – or do not” (Yoda).

Failures

Inevitably, there will be temporary failures. For example, you were supposed to study today, but in the evening you find out that you didn’t find time or were too lazy. Or you had promised yourself not to get angry in discussions any more, but you forgot yourself… Or you had decided to stop smoking or drinking, but today you couldn’t resist the temptation…

This is especially dangerous if you take literally the saying “do – or do not. There is no try” – you are then tempted to be discouraged as to the whole self-discipline, simply because you were not able to ‘do’. But the saying describes a certain attitude, not that you cannot fail from time to time.

Anyway, if you one day fall back to the old habit, don’t make the end of the world out of it or start self-accusations. Reconsider your motivation, your reasons for keeping self-discipline, your goals. Don’t accept defeat and weakness. Gather your determination again, as if nothing happened, and returned to your plans with even more resoluteness.

The “Plus-one” Rule

It is a concept in the training of Tony Buzan’s ‘Speed Reading’, it means increasing your pace of reading regularly, but not very much. This does not put much stress on you, and at the same time allows your brain to get used to improvement and success.

This can be applied to any other form of training. For example, if you decide to do push-ups every day, and start pushing yourself too much, your risk an early injury and discouragement. Start by a smaller number daily than your maximum, and increase it often, but slightly, e.g. by five percent every 3-4 days. (this might mean an increase of one push-up in the beginning, but do not worry). You will find that your performance increases faster than such minimalist approach suggests!

After you have got used to regular training, grown more confident, and have learned to avoid injuries, you can begin pushing yourself to the very limits. But in the beginning you would do well to start with the “Plus-one-rule”.

I shall finish this lecture with a quotation (forgive me that it is from memory, I just give you the gist).
“We humans do not lack strength or will-power. Once we are shown a goal that absorbs us, we are unstoppable.
What is wrong with us is the tendency to forget the goal, to stop believing in its reality.”

C. Wilson