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Discipline

Today I want to talk about discipline and training.

Every time I go to a new theater lesson the first thing I do is to think up every word my masters told me: raise stakes, do something while on stage, smile, think ahead of the moment, put all the energy in every movement or line you say, speak loud, face the audience, go to the rescue of others so they will rescue you later, go out of the stage, go in as quickly as you can, break the rules, don’t worry.

The last one is the hardest. I myself tend to worry a lot. I’m insecure, someone could say. The reality is that I’m a lazy perfectionist. I’m sure you know a lot of people like me, but maybe you didn’t yet recognize them.

A lazy perfectionist is usually heard saying “if you do something, do it the best possible way… or don’t do it!”

Good way of thinking someone could say, but the last sentence is tricky. Is this person, the lazy perfectionist, saying that there’s another way?

The first time I came up with this words I thought myself “Yes, I can do this job. It’ll take 2 days. Or, I could do it in one day, but it’ll not look as good as it could. Then, maybe, I shouldn’t even start to do a half-assed job.”

You don’t know (no really, I doubt you can realize how many time) how many time I said those words. It’s my personal demon. It can sound like procrastination sometimes (“I should not do it now cause I haven’t enough time to do it at my best, I’ll think about it next week”) but it’s not. It’s more subtle. You’re not saying to yourself “I’m not doing this” instead your brain came up with the perfect excuse “I’m not doing it half-assed”. This most of the time translates to “I’m not doing it half-assed today, cause I don’t have enough time, I’ll think of a better way to do it tomorrow.”

Now that you looked into my brain, maybe you realize you know someone like me. Maybe you are like me. Not always, maybe you just used that excuse one or two times. But you used it. Now think about me: I use that excuse because every time I don’t use it, I start a job, I set my time frame for 2 days, and I end up spending four days on that project. Cause it’s not perfect! And then, the next project falls into the excuse again “Ok, I’ve three days to do this magazine. Oh come on, I know it will take five days to me, I’ll redo the cover 3 times. Better set an alarm for next Monday, so I’ll have the full week to work on it.”

As you may have imagined, that “next Monday” never comes.

And so, back to the topic, I learned to use discipline to help me. I force myself to do the basic things. Not the complicate ones: I don’t force myself into that magazine project. No, I force myself in reading the emails everyday at 9 o’clock. I force myself in my daily walk at the park. I force myself into washing dishes after lunch. These basic stuff helps me create my routine. With a routine, all this boring stuff (but helpful: walk 3 miles a day and you’ll sleep well and your brain will work at twice the speed) and takes no time. Your brain has that time already scheduled, the energy needed for that chore is already stored up in the “spent” box. It’ll be as easy as breathing (another activity that takes a lot of your times and energy, yet you don’t consider at all) doing it.

The result is that you won’t feel exhausted after having done it. And therefore it won’t feel like a nuisance. They’ll come natural to you.

Now, take this line of thinking and apply it to all the training.

For me, as soon as I step onto the stage I do something. I’ve got to the point that my brains doesn’t need to focus on what I’m doing anymore, I’ll simply keep doing it (washing dishes, packing a suitcase, swiping the floor, fxing the car, playing with a ball, etc etc) while my brain is free to think to other stuff. And even better, some of this stuff I’m now free to think about are also “training stuff I disciplined myself into doing” and so I start to smile, but I don’t need to be focused on it, so I keep doing something while I smile, while I face the audience, while I put all my energy into every line, etc etc.

And in my everyday life, I have time to think about my magazine layout while I walk, and to think about which colors should I choose for that graphic elements while I wash the dishes.

Of course, this works for me only for basic stuff. If I had to put my job into a routine I’ll probably go crazy (and in some way it already happened to me with my last office job). I’ll start to do my job without thinking, and my brain will be free to roam into other thoughts.

I don’t think this is helpful. Routine is not good by itself, but it can be used for a greater good.

Posted on July 7, 2014 in improv

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About the Author

Design, book layout and typesetting are my passions. I love to take a work and make it as readable and appealing as possible. Right now I’m working on several projects as a freelance graphic designer and book layout artist.

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