A Theory of Small Disciplines

In his book Loserthink, Scott Adams talks about couch lock; the condition where people (usually stoners) get so unmotivated they lack the will to do anything. They are literally locked to the couch.

The solution, posits Adams, is to focus your will to the end of moving one finger, thus breaking the lock. You now have proved to yourself you can do something.

You can find this idea of building up great change in small increments in James Clears idea of 1% improvement. Don’t seek to get twice as good, seek to get 1% better each day, and over the course of three months you have built up 100% improvement, i.e. you’re twice as good.

I have applied both of these principals to my life, and have extended them out into a theory of small disciplines.

I have written about self discipline as a muscle which can be improved with exercise, and like any muscle, exercising to much to soon overwhelms it.

Following James Clear’s principles, I build up my habits in small steps. Start with a tiny change, and repeat it daily, trying to improve a little each time, until it’s a full blown, good habit.

The problem is, these good habits are often in conflict with our desires, and that is where my theory of small disciplines comes in.

I want to get up at 6 am every day. I can set my alarm, and force myself out of bed daily, for a few days, but eventually exhaustion hits, and I simply…stop.

Instead, I take my normal get up time, 6:30, and move backwards in 5 minute increments. 6 am is hard, but moving from 6:30 to 6:25 is easy, it takes a small amount of self discipline.

Given time, any new habit can be built from these small disciplines.