Self-Discipline and Self-Control as a Happy Side Effect
An indirect method for when your words are disconnected from your actions.
Poor posture. Lack of focus. Negative emotions. These seem like three different problems and so requires three different solutions. One for the body, one for the mind, and one for the spirit.
But what if there is a human behaviour which ties them altogether, which is common to our posture, focus and emotions, but so close to us - at least to what we normally think of as “us” – that we don’t even realise we are engaging in this behaviour constantly, like the fish in the proverbial water?
What ties them together is your inner dialogue, your self-talk, your ability to use words “in your head” as tools for action “with your body”. So if things aren’t working out as you planned, then your words are disconnected from your actions. When you command yourself, you don’t obey. Most of the time you don’t even bother to explicitly command yourself anyway, and so end up either just obeying other people – directly or indirectly – or you start obeying the worst of your own subconscious and all the dirty little habits it will get on with as soon as you look the other way. The commanding you, that is.
In all three - bad posture, inability to focus and negative emotions – you could say it comes down to a lack of self-discipline and a lack of self-control. But what do these high level abstractions mean in practice? They mean your words are disconnected from your actions. You can’t get yourself to do what you tell yourself to do. And you can’t get yourself to stop doing what you tell yourself to stop doing. Somehow you find yourself yet again slumped on the chair, getting distracted by social media, or ruminating on bad feelings in your inner dialogue.
YOU TELL your body to sit up straight, it responds in some (monstrous) way for a while, and then forgets in a few minutes or seconds and reverts to the old position. YOU TELL your mind to focus on a single task for a hour but find yourself distracted by thoughts, apps, sounds outside. YOU TELL yourself to stop feeling so bad and stop being nasty to yourself, but then five minutes later you are ruminating on the exact words in your head that always make you feel bad.
Your words are disconnected from your actions. You can’t seem to bridge the gap between theory and practice. I am going to do x! I am going to stop y! “Nice theory you got here. Be a shame if anything happened to the practice.”
All men want more self-discipline in at least some area of life, no matter how small a thing, or how broken the man. We want more power over ourselves, and the world around us, so we can get what we want and avoid what we don’t want. So how do we increase our self discipline and self control?
The problem is the offered solutions for increasing self-discipline and self-control require you to USE the exact capacities you are trying to develop. You need self discipline to get yourself to do the things that will increase self discipline! “Not self-disciplined enough, eh? Well, just be more disciplined!” And you need a capacity for self-control in order to stop reacting in ways which are limiting your self-control!
So you can’t just work on your self discipline and self control directly. You already know this when it comes to ‘happiness’ or ‘confidence’. These are happy side effects of doing other things. In the same way we need to do things which will improve self-discipline and self-control as a happy side effect. Self-discipline and self-control are more like a PLANE to be reached, than a METHOD of getting there.
If you’re not happy with your posture, focus or emotional life, one big reason behind all of them is that your words are disconnected from your actions. It’s not the only reason. But how often in a week do you tell yourself to do something, but you can’t seem to get yourself to DO it?
You have never trained yourself to coordinate your words with actions. your parents did do this when you were very young “pick up that toy and put it back in the box” – but the education system doesn’t teach us how to consciously and rationally link up or our words with specific actions in the world. They prefer like to link our words up with… more words! They don’t have incentive to teach this either because you’d be getting dangerously close to commanding yourself and being less likely to obey others.
The thing is you can TRAIN yourself to connect your words with your actions. You can align your thoughts, words and deeds to use an older formulation of the same idea, when people were still educated in the power of the word. So we can start there. We can learn how to link up our words (commanding) with our actions (obeying.)
We can use imaginary, invisible, mental words to create real, visible, physical change seen in our actions and the world around us. We can see if connecting words with actions leads to better posture, more focus and less negative emotions - and all the associated negative self-talk.
How do we train this capacity for coordinating (self)speech with action? The first mistake people make here is choosing an action too complex. Actions are goal oriented, and can involve a complex plan with many moving parts which need coordinated through space and time. Actions are feats of higher intelligence.
But actions are also made up of multiple smaller movements. Your action is to drink water, the movements include standing up walking across the room, picking up the glass and raising it to your mouth, and swallowing the water. And all of these phases in the action are made up of many smaller sub-movements all happening at the same time: rotations of pelvis and ribcage, changing angles of joints, parts moving to and from each other, some controlled consciously and many subconsciously.
So a whole action is probably too complex to train coordinating speech with actions (self discipline, self control) - at least in the beginning. This is why almost everyone fails most of the time when they try to discipline themselves in complex fail bewcause they require many interrelated movements all directed towards the same goal, and there are too many places where things can go wrong.
But we CAN work with movements. And with movements of body parts you can see on video – so you can see objectively if you did what you said you do. The video doesn’t lie (even though your perceptions often do – as the vide will teach you over time!) What if we trained ourself to control individual movements, using words, on video, and develop our capacities for self discipline and self control that way? What if we gradually learn to coordinate more and more movements using self speech, combining into larger more complex actions – wouldn’t that allow us to develop the capacity to do what we tell ourselves to do in other more complex actions later, in other more fun domains of life?
We can just start with just sitting and standing, and from there add more and more movements, all the while disciplining your mind and body indirectly, while working to coordinate specific speech with specific movements. All down to earth and doable and verifiable on video. You have to walk before you can run. You have to stand before you can walk.
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