Discipline. What’s the secret?

While doing anything with respect to trading has taken a back seat for me (erm… ya think?) I’m still mucking about in the background which led me to be in a webinar where someone asked a very interesting question…

Loosely paraphrased it was about ‘trading with (obtaining?) discipline’.

At the time I reflexively posted something in the chat and then immediately looked at what I’d written and thought ‘Woah, I’m coming across as a real dick there’.  So, partly to avoid perpetuating that image (that I’m a dick) here is my expanded explanation about what ‘discipline’ is and isn’t.

Note: Of course I may still come across as a dick after this post is published – them’s the breaks.

I used to believe (wrongly) that Discipline (capital D) was something you had or you did not have. Certainly I had zero amounts of this quality and so it was far easier to sit on my arse with that excuse intact and framed on the mantle piece. Go me! #irony

In some respects I’m mortified to finally (at age 43) realise that discipline isn’t the preserve of some higher species or group to which I will never belong. It worries me that somehow ‘the kids’ don’t know about this perspective and still think qualities like this are somehow innate or handed out at birth. As far as I can tell what’s most commonly handed out at birth is a smack on the butt…

Anyway… How to go about being disciplined is not some mad voodoo ritual where you squeeze your eyes together and click your red slippers together (there’s no place like home… oh wait… wrong movie)… It’s entirely the opposite of using your very meagre energy or brain power.

You cultivate discipline (or any habit) by doing the same thing over and over again. Essentially you make a promise to yourself about a thing and then make sure you do not break that promise. Then you do it again, then again and again until it’s not even a thing anymore. It becomes something you do… like breathing or brushing your teeth.

The act of exercising self discipline builds the muscle to build more discipline and further strengthens your self control (another name for discipline I guess). To completely steal from earlier philosophers (Aristotle?) obtaining a quality is like learning a skill – you have to practice it in order to obtain it.

Logically it follows that it’s counter-productive to have iron discipline (good habits) in one area of life or conduct but be entirely crap at keeping it together elsewhere e.g. diet or exercise and so on, If you are trying to put your mind into a place where it’s uncomfortable (trading) and most of your time is spent being indisciplined then by default you’re going to fall out of bed and do something dumb.

Exercising discipline when you are doing something new that you have not yet ‘habituated’ yourself to do by practising it over and over again is ridiculously challenging. Cultivating discipline in a new area takes TIME because creating the repeated experiences of ‘doing the right thing’ takes energy and right action over time. Especially in the beginning where you’re unlikely to be winning (or just getting killed) it’s challenging to practice for little or no positive feedback.

Something else to highlight is that it’s far easier to change your view of yourself about having discipline if it applies to ALL areas of your life. After all you’re trying to change/morph into someone who has the characteristic of ‘having discipline’ so this is pretty much an all or nothing state. The more areas where you do posses this quality the more likely you will be able to bring it to other (new and challenging) realms.

This means doing the hard stuff. Practising the boring stuff around learning a new skill, going to the gym, not eating snacks/junk and going to bed at a reasonable time. Discipline could be tagged as the master key for an interesting and fulfilling life. If you can cultivate it then you may achieve great things. If you struggle then failing is not an option – it just requires more practice and a focus on keeping the promises you make to yourself.

Here’s a practical example. Today I went to the gym to do squats. At the end of the day I did not want to go but I had promised myself yesterday that I would go. So I went and it was hard.

Then I came home and studied more ‘Ruby on Rails’ when I also would have preferred to watch iPlayer or Eddie Izzard on Youtube. I did what I said I would do.

However I now have some more ‘self discipline experiences’ and that part of my brain where I can keep a promised to myself will eventually eclipse the ‘sit on your butt and kid yourself that everything is great’ part. That amount of delusional thinking takes up too much energy.

Keep practising until you have INSURMOUNTABLE EVIDENCE that you have discipline and you’ll find it easier to resist temptation in the heat of the moment because you know you’re not the sort of person who breaks their promises (trading rules) to themselves.

I hope that helps





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