17 MARCH 2019
written by Mike
DISCIPLINE EQUALS FREEDOM
When I first heard the phrase ‘discipline equals freedom’ said by Jocko Willink – ex-SEALS commander, author, businessman and podcast creator it immediately spoke to me.
Can these different terms be somehow related?
Can discipline be the ultimate ticket to a good life?
Most people value freedom, how much, they only realise when it’s taken from them.
During the war or under oppressive dictatorships, it’s easy to define freedom, and it’s easy to fight for it – the enemy is clear.
But what about fighting for it in 2019 in the UK, one of the strongest economies in the world?
There is no call to arms, the government is elected with a democratic vote, and most people are free to choose the life they want. In my opinion, there are still freedoms we all fight for, but on the personal, individualistic level and discipline can help to win that fight.
First freedom that most people in capitalistic societies fight for is financial. To be able to know that you have your basic needs covered – shelter, food and clothing.
What is beyond that? Once the necessities are taken care of?
To me financial freedom means being able to do what I want, to buy what I need and to go where I want. To you it may say something different; however, we can agree – it means a worry-free life with enough cash to satisfy the needs.
Discipline helps to achieve that freedom when we budget, when we save and when we track our spending.
Financial discipline means understanding how the money is made and the best way to grow it. It means knowing what delayed gratification is and why buying a new gadget with a high-interest credit card may not be a good idea.
Another freedom most of us want is freedom of choice in life. To be able to do what we want and when we want it. To be able to take a day off without asking anyone, to have a free evening, to pursue that long-forgotten hobby. There is no one forbidding you to sell your possessions and vagabond through life, be a nomad, to live outside the system.
However, most would like to have that freedom and also enjoy the comfort of well-functioning societies – that is more than likely impossible to achieve. But, disciplined life and adjusted routines can help to achieve the freedom you want.
The first step would be to write down goals and tasks for each day, for a month, for the whole year and stick to them.
The second step would be to get up early. Getting up and doing the essential tasks such as exercising before work, means more free time later.
Third would be set times for breakfast, lunch and dinner and to know what you will eat. It eliminates the need to think and leaves more time for productive tasks.
The rest of your schedule will be empty slots where you can do what you enjoy doing.
The last freedom that we fight for is to do meaningful work. How many of you had a job when you caught yourself thinking
What am I doing here? I am capable of much more. I should quit and follow my passion, just like I heard people say.
Well, unfortunately, the world doesn’t work like that. We need money to survive and to earn it we need to have skills that people value.
If you want to be in the position of choosing your work, you need to have the leverage of expertise and authority – disciplined learning will help to achieve that.
An example would be a novice guitar player who can only play few chords, however with everyday practice and right discipline in a place he or she can become master guitar player and have freedom of playing whatever they wish.
The first time I understood the value of discipline and importance of consistency was when I was a teenager, and started attending a music school for guitar.
Like most people, I had many different hobbies, and procrastination being the major one. Before I signed up for school, I had a one-to-one interview with my future to be a teacher. Still, after all these years later, I can remember the exact moment and what he told me.
He said that he could see the passion in me for music and that he would take me under his wing; however, he also cautioned me. He told me that once I get older, go to university, find work and start living an adult life, I won’t have too much time to practice – so the time to do that is now.
If I focus on practising the skill now, it will stay with me forever.
I took it to heart, and for the next couple of years, I stuck to a strict plan that I wrote to myself – exercises, improvisation, songwriting, theory. I practised on average 6 hours a day and got good, fast.
Looking back at that time, I can say that he was 100% right. After I left school, I left the country, studied, worked and lived the adult life. And just as my mentor predicted, the guitar sat in the corner, gathering dust. Even now, being busy with different projects, I rarely pick it up just for fun, and I have two guitars within reach of my hand.
However, when I do pick it up, the memories come back. Of course, I can’t play as good as when I was a teenager, but I wouldn’t be afraid to play in front of you and given a month or two I’m sure I could go back to a better form.
It opened my eyes on what is possible when you apply discipline and consistency to daily life. I’m not going to lie; during my studies, I forgot that lesson and enjoyed living the student life for a while.
However, once I decided to leave work and start a business, I knew that there is only one way to achieve the freedom I wanted – discipline.
So what kind of structure I’m looking at, and how could you apply it to your life?
Everyone is different, what works for me won’t necessarily be good for you, but I promise that some kind of framework and planning will almost always work in your favour.
I try to keep my days open and flexible, but there is a strict structure of some elements.
Waking up in the morning is the biggest one, I get up between 6.45 – 7.15 am depending on a day. Next, it’s coffee and protein shake as well as cold water on my face – it will wake me up if you still feel a bit tired.
I sit down in front of my computer, catch up on emails, news and other things like social media, I also look at my schedule for the day and start working down the list. I keep a record of tasks for the day that I cross off once the job is completed
About 9-9.30 it’s breakfast time – oatmeal with fruit. I watch something on YouTube or documentary on Netflix during that time.
After that is work time till around midday when I usually go to the gym for about an hour (martial arts training three times a week), after the gym, it’s lunchtime.
From lunchtime to evening (probably around 8/9pm) I work my list of to-dos for the day, with a break for a protein shake and few mini-breaks to stretch and stand up from the computer.
In the evening is dinner time, watching something and reading before bed. Unless I have classes or someplace to be. I try to be in bed around 11 pm.
It may seem like it’s very strict and structured life. However, the discipline also allows me to be very flexible with the day. If my list of things to do for the day is short, I will spend free time reading or doing other fun activities. And most of the time when someone asks me for a favour, or if I have time to meet up or go out, I can say yes.
Because I know that I’m not running late with anything, I know that what needs to be done, will get done. I understand that discipline and consistency allows me to have the freedom to say yes.
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