Ask any coach what the number one factor is for success and I bet they will say discipline. Maybe they won’t use that word, but in the end, whether it’s a football coach, business coach, or spiritual guide, a good coach knows that discipline is what makes the difference between success and failure.
But how do you become disciplined in a world where distractions--e.g. phones, computers, and other screens--are rampant? Use a paper journal.
Why a journal? A journal helps you to organize and prioritize all of your thoughts, ideas, and goals into one cohesive whole, and because it’s a tangible tool that is not on your phone, it’s easier to hold yourself accountable. More on that in a minute. The ultimate goal of the journal is to create a new habit. In fact, the English word ‘journal” comes from the Latin word diurnalis, meaning daily, and made its way into English via the French jornel. We all want to have habits of success; the difficulty lies in trying to change our old ways and establish new habits.
This is where discipline comes in. Unfortunately, today the word “discipline” typically has a negative connotation. Our contemporary society values freedom more than discipline--and sees the two concepts as mutually exclusive. We tend to choose self-indulgence over self-renunciation. We prefer instant gratification over making a plan and sticking it out. Even when we see the value of discipline, it can be difficult to choose. Why? Let’s look at the word “discipline” more closely.
“Discipline” comes directly from the Latin disciplina, meaning "instruction given, teaching, learning, knowledge." Over the centuries discipline took on another meaning. As the Platonic philosophy of duality grew in Western thought, the soul came to be seen as opposed to the body and discipline was seen merely as the means to train and control the body. By the time the word made it into French in the 11th century, the meaning developed its negative connotation, of physical punishment, suffering, and even martyrdom. In fact, every religion I have studied has some aspect of discipline in their spirituality, be it physical or purely spiritual (such as daily prayers at specific times).
Using a journal requires discipline (in the positive, original sense of the word), but it also creates discipline. Discipline and habits lead to success, as we can easily see in the business world, academia, athletics, and so on. The greatest threat to discipline in our modern world seems to be electronics. Every study and article I can find on the subject, as well as my own experience as an individual and as a coach, agree that having so much information at our fingertips makes concentrating for a significant period of time extremely difficult. The creators of smart phones know that the longer they can keep you on the phone the more money they will make. In fact, productivity rates in the U.S. slowed way down off after the release of the smart phone. Read more here.
My solution to the distraction problem, as I said in the beginning of this post, is paper journal, designed by my partner John Oberg, for busy people who want to live more intentionally. I admit, it’s difficult to be disciplined enough to not look at a screen before I journal every morning, but it makes a huge difference in my day when I do. I still use an electronic calendar and to-do lists, but having a paper journal that allows me 100% concentration during the most creative and foundational part of my day cultivates discipline, which affects everything else I do during the day. I can keep track of where I am (professionally and personally) and where I’m going, the habits I’m trying to form, ideas that pop into my head that I might develop later, and all without the potential distractions that come from technology.. The great differentiator in the future isn’t going to be more or less knowledge (everybody has access to the internet), but the ability to be disciplined in the face of all of the distractions that assail us each day.
If you’re intrigued by the concept and would like to try the Daily JO journal, buy one today. Or dive right in and get a discount on a subscription for one year.