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Being disciplined versus being strict

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Being disciplined versus being strict

Scott Miker

When you start modifying your life using the systems and habits techniques I discuss, you will start to enter a strange space. 

It will feel like you keep doing the same things and keep doing what you might not want to do but know you should do.  At this point you will start to understand the value of consistency.

But this is a crucial aspect of systems and habits work.  You have to avoid becoming too rigid.  Flexibility is key.  Things are always changing around us and it is naïve to assume everything will remain the same externally so you can keep focusing on your own improvement.

Inevitably something will change.  You will get injured, your job will change, you will get married, have a child etc.  Through these changes sticking with your habits and continuing to improve are crucial because these are the moments that tend to knock most people off track and back to old habits. 

Some people take a strict approach.  They refuse to accept any variation.  But this causes dissonance with the outside world because the world is changing whether you like it or not.  Sticking to your guns is a bad way to proceed.

Instead of being strict, try to be disciplined.  Being disciplined means that you aren’t going off the reservation but it isn’t as black and white as being strict. 

If I am strict with my kiddos I would say they have to do something the way that I tell them every time.  In X situation, I expect Y behavior. 

But too often this leads to children pushing away from their parents.  Children are smart enough to see that there are other ways to proceed.  They have their own insights and ideas and want to try them.  Eventually it leads to them trying them and pushing away from the lessons of the parent.

But being disciplined is simply making sure to stick with your approach and not get too caught up in change for the sake of change.  It means that many tactics could work, but the key is that you have to actually stick with whatever tactic you choose. 

From a parenting perspective this means giving your children options.  You still guide their choices initially and maybe only give them two options to start.  With those two options you choose two good options or two extreme options to see how they are thinking.  You are monitoring their thinking more than their actual choices and guiding them to make sure whatever they pick, they stick with it enough to see it succeed or fail. This helps them learn from their decision. 

Over time this leads to a mind that is much more adaptable.  We can take changes in the world and adjust to continue improving.  We can adjust our systems to account for the changes and aren’t locked in to one specific method.  In other words, we can choose the better options and stick with them without being completely locked into specifics. 

While discipline isn’t looked at for its ability to provide flexibility, being disciplined now will lead to flexibility in the future.  But being strict will only lead to being rigid.  So work hard to build the right systems in your life but understand that the specific system isn’t ultimately what matters.  What matters most is your ability to see a situation and develop a systematic solution, because that ability will endure through life’s changes.