10.16.2014

Discipline

In chemical reactions, there is something called the energy hump that has to be overcome before the reaction can proceed. For example, hydrogen (or natural gas) in the presence of oxygen won't spontaneously combust. A spark is needed to push the reaction over the energy hump.

I find this to be a good analogy for discipline in some areas of my life, such as music. I need to practice in order to get better at music. This requires discipline to sit down and do it.

I find that once I start practicing, I can focus on it for a goodly amount of time. But there is a sort of energy hump I have to overcome to get from where I am to sitting down to practice.

For example, when I come home from work, I usually make dinner and then eat it in front of the TV, watching a program I like on Netflix. After I am done eating, there is a compulsion to continue to zone out to the TV and do nothing useful. TV is truly an accursed thing in terms of brain power and motivation, but that is a topic for another day (thank God I don't have cable television...only Internet).

However, if I can compel myself to turn off the TV, the spell is broken. That energy hump between me and music practice is actually larger than the second one, which is simply going down to my music room, turning on the computer, and practicing songs. Once I am into the song practice, the reaction proceeds until I decide to quench it, usually at bedtime. There is sometimes actually a bit of an energy hump to make myself STOP practicing, which can be something of a runaway reaction if I am really into whatever I am practicing. In this analogy, that would represent a highly exothermic reaction (I have THE FIRE...hard to put out).

So when I think of discipline this way, it helps me visualize what I need to do to spark me into doing something I want or need to do.

When it comes to yardwork, the spark is putting on my yardwork clothes and going out into the yard. Once I start a yardwork task, I usually experience a runaway reaction. For example, maybe I planned to only mow the front yard but get motivated to do the backyard as well, and maybe clean the gutters as long as I am already out there...

So if you are lacking discipline in your life, my recommendation is to determine what the energy hump is that is blocking you and then forcing yourself to push through it. Because it is usually not a huge task to overcome the energy hump. It can be as easy as turning off the TV. The task you are disciplining yourself to do is often much more exhausting and large, but once the reaction is underway, it progresses spontaneously.

So don't let a puny energy hump stop you from great accomplishment.

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