After spending a lot of time reading about different people's takes on self-discipline (what it is, how it is developed and how it can be used to improve your life) a number of themes became clear.
Although the methods of teaching yourself discipline vary, there are several constants:
-Self-discipline is a fairly useless exercise unless it is directed toward a goal.
-Without your desire behind it, achieving a goal is astronomically more difficult. Rather than something you desultorily think you 'ought' to do, it should be something you have a powerful reason for pursuing.
-The core of self-discipline is choice. You choose to apply your efforts and time toward something that furthers a goal, rather than choosing to spend that same effort and time toward something that does not and will not improve your life long term.
-Anyone can develop the skill/habit/character trait of self-discipline no matter where you are now on your journey.
-Self-discipline never becomes easy. It can become easier, but it is always a deliberate choice, not an automatically intrinsic part of daily life.
-Finding and using a method of tracking progress toward a goal can be key for sustaining the daily effort.
-Take a day off. No one can or should work every day of the week.*
So, step one for me became identifying and prioritizing the goals.
Beyond and above anything else is improving my health.
I began that a week ago by rejoining Weight Watchers. Today was my first official weigh-in and I have lost 3.2 pounds. Daily tasks for achieving the goal of improving my health include tracking the food I eat and exercising in some way every day. *No days off for those despite that last 'constant' above.
Tied for second place is:
-writing fiction (because it is my dream) and
-writing reviews (because it is an obligation which I am behind in meeting and I strongly want to be 100% caught up).
Also under the heading of writing is this blog. I think keeping a private journal would also be a positive thing in my life. Many of the writers I encountered yesterday suggested doing a bit of non-work writing to warm up before plunging into the main manuscript. I needn't write both the blog and the journal every day, one or the other will suffice. I may also incorporate as a warm-up choice any of dozens of writing exercises I've encountered, just to keep things fresh and indulge my preference for variety, or even a short time spent using collage as a non-linear way to think about the manuscript before I attack the day's writing goal.
Next up is design work. I have a number of patterns in process, for two of which Knit Picks provided yarn support. Although at the time they sent the yarn there was no hard and fast deadline, I dearly want to complete that obligation and go forward just designing at my own whim. One of those patterns is almost finished, requiring only a final edit and some photos, the other is also very close to done. (all charts made, only a few decisions left before I can knit the sample while tech editing). Another pattern that is close to finished was part of a mystery knit along I led on Ravelry. I promised the participants a finished pattern after I did some work on it. The fingerless mitts part is finished and photographed, but I would also like to add the hat which means a bit of knitting and pattern editing to do. After those three patterns are done, designing falls down a few slots in my list of goals even though I have another shawl finished but for editing and photographing and a hat and scarf pattern that just needs a sample knit.
Bottom line, other than those patterns for which I feel some sense of obligation to others, designing is going to be for pleasure even though the profit is a nice benefit.
Also on the knitting/crafting front and vying for 2nd place with the design stuff is completing the Master Knitters Course with The Knitting Guild of America. Years ago my Mom-in-Law Liz gave the course to me as a birthday gift. I love learning, I love honing my skill in whatever realm and completing that course will provide me with a lot of satisfaction. I have already written to TKGA requesting an updated version of the rules and requirements and have ordered a special yarn to use for my swatches (which will be sent in for judging/scoring/testing.) After I finish level one, I may continue with levels two and three but that decision will be made later.
After the big three arenas of health, writing and designing/pursuing the Masters falls the heading of Home. Things like housework, organizing and unpacking, cooking, anything that improves our living environment, you get the idea.
Although there are some tie ins with the health arena (cleaning is exercise, and healthy cooking leads to healthy diet, organized and pleasant spaces are good for mental health and accomplishing other tasks) other than making some sort of effort toward improving our living environment every day the main thing I am doing toward that is using some of my new SSD income to pay for a maid service to come twice a month to keep the dust elephants corralled. (they are far to large and organized to be termed 'bunnies'). After we try that a few months, we may be able to budget for weekly visits. I tried to keep up with the basics myself by working on a different room every day but after three weeks it became clear that doing that meant I was unable to do anything else at all except sit and recover. Not the life I want or deserve. Most days I can manage to alternate keeping up with dishes or laundry and sweep small high-use areas. I also will be working a short time each day on unpacking and organizing, I hope, although that may wait until a day off from writing and designing when Oscar is here to help.
Tomorrow, identifying the distractions that make self-discipline a daily, sometimes hourly challenge and thoughts on creating a daily schedule that will further my goals.