The word discipline gets a bad rap. Most people think it means obeying rules, doing things you don’t want to, and being punished if you do something wrong.
In reality, discipline is another word for sustained practice. It means having the willpower to take effective action over a period of time.
For things that are good for you, for example exercising regularly, having discipline means:
- getting started
- doing it on a regular basis
- practising how to get better
- pushing through when things get difficult
Cultivating discipline makes you the kind of person who keeps on going, despite the challenges, whether they are internal or external.
In this way, minimalism is a discipline. It doesn’t come naturally to most people. Nobody said it would be easy to relearn a lifetime’s worth of conditioning about money and material possessions, and to learn to care less what other people think of you. You will face these kinds of internal and external challenges, but discipline—sustained practice—will get you to where you want to be.
To practice means committing to do small actions, with intent. Maybe you give away an old cardigan, maybe you hold off getting a new phone for another year, maybe you decide you don’t need that kitchen gadget after all…
Small decisions add up to big consequences. Especially when there are hundreds, or thousands of them to make every day. It takes discipline to not get distracted.
Like regular exercise, minimalism takes practice to get past temptations and incorporate it into every day life. Sometimes you’ve had a hard day and you just want some cake and a bit of retail therapy. That’s fine, you deserve to treat yourself occasionally, just not at the long-term expense of your overall happiness. Make things easier by surrounding yourself with like minded people, or blogs and books that remind you of why you’re doing it—of why you do anything really—for a better life.
A better life won’t just fall on your lap. If it was easy, everyone would be happy, but happiness takes a lot of work.
And a lot of work takes a lot of discipline.