Finding your passion part 3: discipline
One of the biggest problems that modern millennials face is that we struggle to find and follow our passions.
I believe that passion can be found through a combination of chaos, silence, and discipline. Over the past two weeks I have discussed chaos and silence. Now I want to tackle the most elusive of the three: discipline.
To find your passion you have to exercise discipline to periodically schedule time for fostering chaos and silence.
And yet, most 20-somethings – myself included – struggle with discipline.
Why is discipline so elusive in modernity?
Discipline is ultimately a mind game that we have been wired to lose; if we aren’t mentally committed to focusing and taking action, we will never take action, even if it’s wildly beneficial.
Modernity creates a steady stream of constant disruptions forcing us to shift our attention from A to B to C to D and back to A which effectively dissolves discipline. [Case in point: I honestly just paused in the middle of writing this paragraph to send a quick facebook message.]
To borrow an analogy from meditation, our minds are more like untrained puppies wandering as they please than they are obedient dogs.
To make discipline work for us we have to be a bit more like a dog and a bit less like a puppy.
We also assume that discipline has to be unpleasant. The word itself is used interchangeably with punishment and evokes images of school teachers wielding rulers ready to hit disruptive students. The fact is, discipline doesn’t have to be unpleasant.
The secrets to effective discipline: make it fun and use baby steps.
Schedule small elements of chaos and silence throughout the next couple of weeks or months and give yourself a small reward after each experience. The reward can be anything that works for you – a piece of chocolate, 15 minutes watching animal videos on youtube, a nice scotch – whatever.
If I were setting up an eight week plan for a friend, I would suggest something like the progression below, though you should feel free to substitute elements of chaos and silence that work for you. For the chaos, find things that are fun, playful, or funny for you. For silence, find spaces that allow you to reflect.
Week 1: spend 10 minutes doing anything that you have never done before that makes you slightly nervous.
Week 2: spend 5 minutes completely silent just focusing on your breath. If your mind wanders, that’s cool – as soon as you realize it’s wandering, pull yourself back.
Week 3: go to a party or bar but stay completely sober. If you are not normally a drinker, then have a few drinks.
Week 4: schedule 30 minutes to go to a coffee shop and ask yourself, “what am I passionate about.” Eliminate all distractions and write your answers down stream of consciousness style.
Week 5: take a road trip somewhere 2 hours away and do something you’ve never done before. Feel free to leave with no destination in mind, but don’t return until you have done something completely new to you.
Week 6: Shoot an email to 12 people who know you in different capacities asking them what they think you are passionate about. Then listen to their responses and take a moment to reflect about how each of those responses resonates with you.
Week 7: spend one day acting exactly as you normally do but do it wearing a gorilla suit and act as though there is nothing unusual with your situation. [Personal note from Jason: if you actually end up doing this, please send me photos – I think this would be hysterical].
Week 8: spend 10 minutes completely silent asking yourself, “what am I passionate about?”
The discipline of adding an element of chaos or silence each week will create the space and experience for you to find your passions. If you get in the habit of blending these three elements you will discover untold amounts about yourself, other people, and our world.