Discipline = Success… or does it?

Have you ever worried that the reason you’re not rolling around in piles of money yet is that you’re simply not disciplined enough? That you’re too lazy or too inconsistent? Or maybe you’ve thought if you could just “stick with it” then you’d finally have that breakthrough moment that unlocks all of your dreams… Well, I’m calling bullsh*t.

This episode is about why I think the idea of “discipline = success” is not only rubbish but also harmful.

Listen to this if:

  • You beat yourself up every time you procrastinate
  • You feel like there’s something wrong with you because you can’t stick with things
  • Hearing people talk about discipline triggers a deep well of inner shame.

Prefer to Read? Here’s the transcript:

I just saw a video on Instagram and came straight here to record this podcast because I think the message that the guy was sharing around the idea of discipline is not only unhelpful, but also dangerous and harmful too, and I know if the Becky of 12 months ago had seen it, it would have sent her into a spiral of negative self talk and shame. And the message that he does share is not an uncommon one either, which is why I think this podcast episode is sorely needed at the moment. So, I’m going to repeat to you what this guy said in the video:

No one ever got healthy and fit without following a structure. You don’t get ripped by accident. Nobody just wakes up with a six pack like, “how did this happen?!” You have to have a structure regarding exercise, training, how often, nutrition all of these things, you have a structure to follow. And then you just need the discipline to follow it. Finding the structure is not that difficult. having the discipline to follow it is where most people fall down.

Now this guy is one of those business guru types. So this is clearly an analogy that you’re sharing about business and essentially perpetuating the idea that the reason most of us fail is because we’re simply not disciplined enough. So I’m going to spend the rest of this episode telling you why I believe this is 100% Wrong. And if you’ve ever felt shame, or less than because of your relationship to discipline or hard work, or even procrastination, then please do listen to the rest of this podcast. There’s no sales pitch or anything like that. I’m simply sharing because if I can reach just one person with the message that I am sharing here, if I can spark a sense of relief, or knowing, or initiate a micro-shift in perspective in just one person than this episode is worth every breath.

Okay, let’s dive into it. At the surface level, if we want to achieve something, we do need to have a plan to do it and take appropriate action consistently enough to achieve said thing. This is pretty obvious and pretty true. But what we also need to do, and what most online business courses consultants gurus don’t do is take account of your genetic makeup, and how you are built to operate to your full potential. And this is what was completely missed and completely glossed over in this guy’s video on Instagram. Now I personally, I’m very interested in human design and gene keys. And I found a lot of insight in using these tools for self introspection. But even if you aren’t into those things, or anything remotely spiritual or self development-y it you can’t disagree that every individual on this planet is built differently. For example, no amount of discipline or hard work or training or wearing a certain brand of trainer will allow you to run as fast as Usain Bolt. It’s a fact, humans are built differently. And we all thrive in different circumstances, depending on our biological and genetic makeup.

Now, to give you a more personal example of this, I want to share a story with you. And I’m going to stick with the exercise theme that was touted as such an obvious example in the video because why not? I have tried many times to do high intensity interval training or HIIT, or some variation on this such as spin classes to strengthen my body and every time I have failed. I full on dreaded going to classes and felt a deep shame when I couldn’t keep up with others in the room who visually they looked less fit than I do as a naturally young looking and skinny person. And on almost every occasion I attempted some form of high intensity exercise I’ve pushed my way through it to save face. After one spin class I literally passed out in the toilets afterwards. Now there’s almost certainly some that would tell me with enough discipline, if I just stick with it for long enough, I can condition my body to adapt to the intensity of exercise. But let’s say I did manage to shame myself enough into sticking with it – which is unlikely – the question then becomes this: Would the results even be worth it at this point? Yes, I’d have achieved my goal that I’ve stuck with it, I’d have built myself a stronger body. But if I wanted to keep that body, it would require the continuation of something I loathe, the sacrifice in my eyes would massively outweigh the supposed success. So what do I do? Do I accept that if I want to strengthen my body, I must endure doing something I hate? Well, no, there is, of course, other ways. But the thing that’s hard to come to terms with and the thing that would stop me from trying other ways, is this pervasive and insidious idea that if I quit, then it’s my fault, because I’m not disciplined enough, or I didn’t work hard enough, or that I didn’t want it enough.

Well, excuse my French but I have to say it, fuck that. Now, I don’t usually swear. But I’m incredibly passionate about rejecting that idea, because I bought into the version of this story far too many times now to put up with it anymore, or to be okay with it when I see other people perpetuating it either. And it’s the story that the reason you’re “failing” at something, and I say failing in inverted commas, is because you’re not something enough, not disciplined enough, not consistent enough, not experienced or committed enough, not old or smart, or sexy, funny, insightful, knowledgeable enough. Whatever it is, it’s the idea that the reason something isn’t working for you, is because of you.

The truth I now accept and want you to accept for yourself too is that you are more than enough and that you are perfect, exactly as you are. Now my evidence for this – yoga. For roughly three months of this year, I did at least 20 minutes of yoga every single day, including weekends, including when I was away on holiday. Yeah, I was disciplined, because it was easy for me to be disciplined. I loved those 20 minutes on the mat. So even when I did feel resistance, it was easy to overcome. My body got stronger, more toned, more refined as a result, no vomiting or passing out required. The only reason I stopped was because we moved house. And I don’t have a proper space here yet to practice. But I know at some point, I will gladly reintroduce those 20 minutes of gentle strengthening back into my day.

Now, can you see the point I’m making here? Can you see how I was able to achieve the same result that I had found so difficult when following one method with so much ease, joy and lightness, when I tried something else? I myself did not change. I simply changed the system and found a way that was better suited to me. Can you see how we can translate this to our businesses or any other area in our life, where it feels like we’re trying to push custard uphill? That’s a phrase that my mom gave me, by the way. So I want you to actively stop buying into the narrative, that the reason something is hard is because of you or because of some quality that you lack.

Now to get specific to business here. Maybe you’re finding business hard, because you’re trying to keep up with high energy extroverts on Instagram, when really you’d be better served building an email list or starting a podcast or something like that. Now, that is a surface level example. And I know you’ll be able to extrapolate that out in your mind. But I actually just want to go a little bit deeper than that right now, maybe business is hard, because you’re trying to copy what someone else is doing and making it look effortless, because you want the same results that they’re getting? But you’ve avoided doing the uncomfortable and often slow work of discovering who you really are, and what your unique strengths are that you could use to get those same results. And from my own personal experience, maybe the reason you’re avoiding this work, either knowingly or unknowingly, is because of a fear that maybe you don’t have any strengths. Or maybe that your strengths or your method isn’t as grand or flashy or impressive enough in this age where we’re living this myth that anyone can do anything with enough hard work. And maybe you’ve even tried something or you’re in the midst of trying to make something work right now, but you’re finding absolutely no pleasure in it. But there’s a part of you that is so desperate to prove that you can do it because of the weight of expectation and pressure that sits on your shoulders.

Now I can speak to this personally as an A* student, a good girl who was often complimented on the fact that I could pretty much succeed at whatever I put my mind to. Now that became such a big part of my identity that I know subconsciously, I feared admitting that no, there’s some things I can’t do. And that there’s some things I find hard. Again, subconsciously, and this is something I’ve discovered through work with a mindset coach, that I was worried that if I failed, if I couldn’t do something that would mean people would think differently of me, that really, from that deep foundational root fear that my family that those close to me would love me less because I wasn’t the person that they thought I was. Because if I wasn’t that girl, if I wasn’t the achiever, then who was I? A nobody, somebody unworthy of recognition? Now, that obviously didn’t sound appealing. So for a long time, it felt safer to me to stick at doing something I hated, but brought me recognition, rather than detaching from that identity and finding out what helps might be out there. For me, it’s very much that classic, better the devil, you know, situation.

And I honestly believe there’s a lot of people out there who have fallen into this same trap with entrepreneurship and running a business. That as a collective, we’ve built up this identity of what it means to be a business owner, which has led to so many becoming blind to what truly makes them happy. So many of us are walking around with this massive chip on our shoulder, that we have something to prove, when really we don’t. And I also know for a fact that the prevailing narrative online around being a business owner is so one sided, so far from the truth of things that even admitting that you find business hard, or that you’re struggling or that you’ve questioned whether it’s right for you or not, can be an instant shame trigger. Again, it makes it feel like there’s something wrong with us, if we’re finding business hard. Now, I share all of this with so so much love and respect for you. And I’m hoping you can tell from the way I’ve shared in this episode, that this is honestly a journey I’m still on myself. I’ve mentioned this previously, but a big part of me craves recognition. And a lot of my own inner work is learning to recognise myself first, so that when I do share, I can do so cleanly without expectation or requirement of anyone else to validate me. But when I was less aware of this need within myself that desire to be seen and witnessed, it led to me overriding my natural preferences in a futile attempt to draw attention, it lead to unhappiness.

And to give you a very concrete example, I can tell you about my experience with live launching. If you don’t know a live launch is essentially when you have a dedicated time period where you promote one specific product or offer, often with a free challenge, bonuses for people who sign up quickly, and a deadline for when people can purchase by. And although the concept of launching is amazing and works incredibly well for some, and I’m sure that if I were able to afford a team to support me through it and take on a large bulk of the work, it would also be very effective for me as well. But at the time in my business when I tried launching, and the way in which I was shown to do it, it was the business equivalent of a HIIT class for me. It was a business equivalent of going to spin class. I was exhausted, hated the majority of it, felt ashamed and like there was something wrong with me because I found it so hard. And I found it really hard to even admit that to the people that were coaching me through the process at the time. But in essence, it really just went against the fundamental way that I am designed to work. You see, my own personal idea of success contains a lot of spaciousness, it includes periods of time offline away from social media. It involves letting things unfold at their natural pace, both for myself and my audience. Instead of forcing arbitrary deadlines on everything, aka the opposite of a live launch.

So to just bring this all home for you, there’s two things that I really want you to take away from this podcast episode. Firstly, you are more than enough and you are perfect exactly as you are right now. No ifs, no buts, no caveats. And whatever that mean voice in your head is saying right now to dispute that, is a story that society has tricked you into believing. Sure, we could all know more things, but I guarantee you already know more than you need to to live the life you want. You are already more than enough exactly as you are. Secondly, if you are procrastinating or struggling with staying disciplined, it’s not because there’s anything wrong with you. It’s that the thing that you are trying to move forward with is either not suited to you and the way you are naturally and genetically programmed to operate at your highest potential. Or if it is, there’s a story you’re telling yourself that is creating resistance to keep yourself and your ego safe. For example, I talked about how I did lots of yoga earlier in the year, and I genuinely was very disciplined with it. But on some of the days where I felt resistance to doing yoga, it was often because I either a) convinced myself I was too busy. This was tied into a belief that if I didn’t work hard enough, I wouldn’t make money. And so doing yoga that day was actually likely to cause failure in my business. This is obviously a false narrative, which left on observed and unquestioned would win. But if my business can be broken by taking 20 minutes to get on a yoga mat, I had bigger problems. So, observing this narrative, allow me to overcome that resistance. Sometimes I might even just tell myself, the reason I didn’t want to do yoga is because I couldn’t be bothered. This is usually because I was probably a bit tired, I hadn’t slept well or eaten well. But becoming aware of this story allowed me to consciously question it, and then ought to do a lighter session, knowing full well that I would feel so much better by getting on the mat.

So please, please remember that you are more than enough and you are perfect, exactly as you are right now, and that if you are procrastinating or struggling with staying disciplined, it’s not because there is anything wrong with you. It’s because the system either isn’t suited to the way you naturally like to operate. Or there is a story there that is creating resistance that needs to be observed and examined.

Now, if this episode has resonated with you, if it has given you a sense of relief, or created even a tiny shift in the way you think, please share it with someone you know, that would benefit, whether it’s your audience, whether it’s a close business friend, you don’t have to do it loudly and visibly. And I don’t need you to come and tell me that you’ve shared it either. But the reason that I’m asking you to share it is because I believe we need to consciously and collectively rewrite the narrative around what it takes to build a business, and how we can do so successfully according to our own strengths, definitions and versions of success, and that every version of success is just as worthy as another irrelevant of the numbers attached to any of it.

We are also responsible to consciously deconstruct the unhelpful narratives, the ones that are perpetuated either out of naivety or for personal gain, to oversimplify concepts and get people to buy into things for the benefit of a singular individual. And even if you don’t share it, it’s okay. I just hope that you’ve been able to find something in here that has normalised your experience, that has made you feel maybe a little less alone, a little less isolated in your experience of running a business.

All my love friends, go get creative, take messy action, and now more than ever, don’t forget to have fun with it.