Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.
– Sam Ewing
For those of you taking on the 30-Day Challenge, how are you doing so far? If you’ve started by April 20th, you should have finished at least 5 days by now. If you’ve managed it this far, congratulations!
Day 1 is usually a breeze. Motivation is highest when you overcome inertia and begin something new. Day 2 is usually a little tougher but still manageable. Then somewhere around days 3-7, it’s common to hit your first hard day. You’ve just begun and haven’t invested that much into this yet, so it’s easy to turn back. Maybe an unexpected obstacle hits. You’re tempted to mentally redefine your commitment and perform a lesser version of what you intended. This is the point where your initial motivation fades, and now you must switch to your secondary fuel to continue onward — the fuel of self-discipline. Motivation will get you off the ground, but it won’t provide enough power to reach escape velocity.
Here’s a poem you might enjoy (author unknown):
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh
When care is pressing you down a bit
Rest, you must – but don’t you quit
Life is queer with its twists and turns
As everyone of us sometimes learns
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out
Don’t give up, though the pace seems slow
You might succeed with another blow
Success is failure turned inside out, the silver tint of the clouds of doubt
And you never can tell how close you are, It may be near when it seems so far
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit
It’s when things seem worst, That you MUST NOT QUIT!
There are no shortcuts or secrets to building self-discipline. It’s hard work to keep moving towards a goal when you desperately want to throw in the towel and take it easy. But every time you quit, you reinforce your tendency to give up in future situations and progressively weaken your willpower. Whenever you stay the course through a hard day, you strengthen your will, allowing you to handle future challenges with greater ease.
Hard work is always hard, but self-discipline builds tolerance for its bitter taste, increasing your capacity to enjoy the sweet aftertaste of success.
Imagine what you could accomplish if you only had enough self-discipline. You wouldn’t need a complicated fad diet or fancy exercise equipment — you could succeed with the simple notion of eating natural foods in reasonable quantities and exercising vigorously. And a well-disciplined mind would keep your goals and projects organized and on track, regardless of what kind of personal information system you used.
As of the end of the 24th, I’ve finished 5 days so far. Every day I got up at 5AM, put in a minimum of 4 hours of writing, and went running 25-30 minutes. The hardest day for me was day 3 because I had a scheduling problem and had to stay up later than usual in order to squeeze in my run on a windy night, so I went to bed later and got less sleep than I would have liked. This made it harder to get up at 5AM and get in 4 hours of creative writing on day 4, but I still did it. I realized that the desire to wait for inspiration before working on creative projects is largely a form of procrastination — a lot of inspiration comes from sitting down and getting to work, whether you feel like it or not. And putting in the time every single day frees me from the tyranny of trying to base my work around unpredictable spurts of creativity.