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Thursday, October 15, 2009


Today's the first day that I stopped and gave myself a good once-over in the mirror.

See, It's been about 3 or so weeks now that I've been training for this CN Tower climb -- hitting the gym, skipping the elevator, watching what I eat and generally kicking my own ass wherever possible.

Turns out it's been paying off in spades, doing things for me that my many (many) months of sporadic gym training could not.

While I'm not 'losing weight' -- in fact I'm about 3-4 lbs up overall -- I am actually slimmer. I'm stronger. And I definitely have more endurance.

Even though I haven't been at the gym every single day, I've been finding ways to make my every day routine that much harder in order to help me get results.

In short: I've been using discipline to get what I want.

Which is awesome... but at the same time, well, troubling.

See, discipline's always been something of a weird thing with me. I've flirted with it all my life, but always squirmed and fought to get away from what I saw as manacles and chains. I thought that the whole concept of discipline was a dumb idea; why waste your time planning ahead? Why not just be free to do whatever you want to do? Why not live in the moment?

Turns out that when I was younger and 'free to do whatever I wanted to do', what I wanted to do was sit around and do nothing. Sleep, relax, goof around, doodle, play video games, etc.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I'd always been able to knuckle down and really get the job done whenever I needed -- and knowing how to relax really IS an essential skill.

Yet, as I've gotten older I've come to realize all the time I spent, well, dicking around when I was younger really has had ramifications for my adult self. Now I look at some of my current comrades, some 2-3 years younger than me, who have careers and genuine accomplishments... or my wife -- who did a double major in Engineering and Business in 5 years -- and wonder what I've been up to, what I've really 'accomplished' with my time thus far.

I guess the long and short of it is that, well, I've been growing up a lot lately. Growing up and taking stock of my life.

And I've been starting to understand how much my teachers and grandparents were trying to help me when they said I need 'discipline'.

As an adult, it's a concept I've been working to get that collar on and something I continue to struggle with. Something I wish I'd gotten a proper handle on earlier, especially as I've come to realize my need to finish things that I start, to quit leaving half-started projects and ideas jumbled up in my brain and hard drive.

Honestly, I'm not quite sure what the trick is just yet -- with most of my thinking happening, well, laterally... (or tangentially) I have a history of being easily distracted -- but I think this goal to do the CN Tower climb has given me a glimpse of something greater.

I've just got to see how I can push this forward and make it work for me long term.

Definitely open to suggestions on this one.



MaryP said...

I've been thinking lately that having a sport could be a great thing for a writer, so I'm interested in your CN journey for exactly the kind of thing you're describing. I guess if it works out for you, I might have to give it a go ;-)

Rich Baldwin said...

Discipline is important. And if you're not someone who is naturally disciplined, it's something you can teach yourself.

A lot of what you're doing with this climb is already exactly what discipline in writing is also about:

First, pick a goal. Then determine what steps you have to make towards that goal. Some of those steps might be smaller goals you need to focus on before you can even really consider the larger goal. Make a detailed schedule for what you have to do in the short term, taking into account both your own capabilities and the deadlines you need to make.

Then, important: make spaces for relaxing. If you don't give yourself breaks then you'll eventually give up the plan altogether because it'll feel like too much work.

After that, follow the schedule until you accomplish the goal. Revise the schedule as necessary along the way. Then schedule something else, focusing always on the larger goals you want to manage, and then start again.

The point, however, is: You don't need to do more to accomplish more. Instead, you want to prioritize; focus your energies and attention so that you can get more accomplished from the same amount of effort.

And don't forget how to relax! Most of us really disciplined people are fairly neurotic - that's why we're disciplined. You want the discipline without the neurosis, believe you me.