There’s a word that has always been the difference between the successful and the hopeful: “how.” I know WHAT to do to achieve my goals, but I don’t necessarily know HOW to do it. Finding that “how” requires discipline… So HOW do you create that? There’s a lot involved in exploring this question.
I’d like to start with the world of social media as an example…and in my opinion, there is nothing good happening in our social online spaces! Sure, some people I went to high school with got married. Someone had a baby, and they named it something cute. Someone else is going through a bitter divorce. And, “OMG did you know that you could make campfire cookies that you actually light on fire?!” I’ll never make them but they look cool.
But absolutely none of this affects even a tiny portion of my life. If someone hasn’t invited me to a wedding, announced the arrival of a baby directly (or through a friend network), then it really has nothing to do with me.
I scroll and scroll, looking for interesting things to fill my time. And even though some things are interesting, none of it makes me a better person. None of it fulfills me. In fact, the endless scrolling is a form of escapism—a way to detach from real life—not to be more connected. Apparently, science is backing up this claim.
What would I be doing with my time if the constant draw of button-clicking satisfaction weren’t at my fingertips? How much could I accomplish if I just put the phone down? What I’ve found is that it’s not the minute-for-minute exchange of time that’s important, it’s the discipline to resist the urge, and the time it takes to shift your mental focus from one task back to the other, that’s the most impactful.
When scrolling, I consume massive amounts of information in a very short period of time. My brain becomes burned out and distracted. Then, when I try to refocus my attention on something important, it seems less interesting because I’m not as stimulated. It’s difficult then to stay with it, my motivation is lowered, and my overall satisfaction with the real world is diminished.
To test out these claims, I decided to take a week-long social media break. I was tempted to click, over and over again, but disciplined myself to resist. It wasn’t easy. But it was worth it. The results? People around me noticed a better mood. I felt more energy. Mundane tasks were more engaging, and I was much more present with the people around me. Have you ever looked up from your phone and noticed how gorgeous the clouds are? Take that moment and extend it longer without going back to the screen, and it becomes an experience rather than a snapshot.
Discipline for me meant logging out of my accounts so that the notifications weren’t there. Discipline meant sitting alone with my thoughts in a state of boredom and waiting for the anxiety to fade—which it does, eventually. Not being triggered by boredom took discipline.
But there’s a scary question I was faced with when my time and energy wasn’t being taken up by other people’s lives: how do I accomplish all the things on my list? How do I fill my time and make it productive?
“How” is probably one of the scariest words in the English language. “How” is what keeps people from pursuing their dreams and taking leaps of faith. It’s the word that separates the dreamers from the accomplished. It’s the word that gets in everyone’s way.
When you ask someone successful “how” they did it, more often than not you’ll get a standard answer: hard work and believing in yourself. The logistics are often overlooked. They are intentionally left out. Because the “how” rarely matters. It is unique to everyone.
What “how” is troubling you right now? How to write the book you always said you would write? How you’ll raise the money to start the business? How to overcome a negative situation?
From my social media diet, I gained a new respect for the word DISCIPLINE. And because of this, I’ve realized that it’s the only thing that matters. If I don’t focus on something long enough, my desire fades, my progress is lost, and I start over again. Staying disciplined is exhausting. But so is starting over. So now, staying disciplined in every activity I care about is my priority. And I’m accomplishing more than I ever have.
I’m back on social media. I have been for a week. And I’m already sick of it. Until I get over the temptation completely, I’ll have to keep disciplining myself to not look.
Excuse me while I go log out again…
This post reflects the views and experiences of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on self-control from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.