I have no sense of self discipline.
Seriously, none. I’m finally realizing it now: it’s no mystery why I never finished my dissertation, why I’ve never been able to stick to a diet for more than three days, or why, even to this day, there are absolutely zero sports I practice regularly. Let’s not even talk about the exorbitantly expensive vitamins and supplements sleeping in my cabinets. I take them for two days, then I forget. And it’s totally understandable why I’ve never been able to have a haircut that demands even the slightest amount of time to style.
Yep. I sound like a mess. I mean, at this rate, you’d wonder why my life hasn’t collapsed in slow motion like a scene from Inception. It almost did, mind you. Even though I was a good student, I never finished school. I’ve killed more green plants than Attila the Hun (“where he has passed, the grass will never grow again”) And I’ll spare you the more personal details like forgetting to take my birth control pill which could have taken my post-adolescent life for an especially interesting turn.
So how do I manage to make it in life?
In some areas, I’m incredibly consistent. I mean, I’ve been posting on this blog almost every day for ten years, rain, wind, or snow! Even during Hurricane Sandy! Oh and speaking of plant genocide, I had a garden in a past life, in Marseilles. It was the apple of my eye. And I kept it going for years without any of the plants dying. I had tomatoes, can you imagine? TOMATOES!!!
As for staying in “shape” (it’s all relative, but whatever) sure, I don’t practice any sports, but for years, I’ve been walking at least an hour per day. Sometimes two! Even when New York feels like the arctic. I just put on 15 layers of sweaters and go for it Eskimo style. And…I did manage to write a book, so there’s that!!!
After thinking about it for a long time, I’ve realized the only common denominators in the things I manage to accomplish in any consistent manner are passion and pleasure. If it takes too much effort, there’s no hope.
But that doesn’t get me very far very quickly: I know self-discipline can work miracles and I’d really, really like to be able to throw myself into things I care about and stick to them. Become gorgeous and have a dream body, for example, with before and after photos to show for it. Learn to play the maracas, or some other interesting thing like that. Be aware of what’s going on in politics and be able to have a fascinating discussion the day I meet Barack Obama (???)(otherwise, he’ll have to come down to my level and talk about Instagram)(my official – and upsetting – news source for what’s going on in life).
I even read a book about it, that’s how much this subject eats away at me: “Willpower” – the only thing I really learned from it was that we can’t keep a project going long term just by willpower alone. Willpower and discipline are two very different things and you can easily run out of willpower.
For example: imagine you’re being served a delicious piece of cake, like a Ladurée strawberry cream cake. But that morning, you decided to be careful because you’d been drinking like a sailor all weekend, Sunday night included (this story has nothing to do with me, of course).
The guilt is eating away at me So, full of good intentions, you politely refuse the cake. It’s 10:00 in the morning. If you’re offered the cake again at noon, you’ll say no again, but it will be more difficult. At 3pm, you’ll still say no, but “can I just touch it with my tongue?” And at 4pm, you’ll stuff your face.
You’ve run out of willpower. It’s not your fault. It’s like a bank account. After stopping by Céline three times, it’s all over, no dollars left, Madame. And you can’t use credit.
So that’s why it’s difficult to keep ourselves in line, ladies. It’s not our fault. AT ALL!
So for me, back to square one. How to have self-discipline when you’re a professional lazy person, who basically only does things you enjoy and pretty much nothing else?
I’m not too sure, but here’s what a recent experience (a little confusing, but stay with me) taught me.
It was August, and I’d decided to become mouth sexy by whitening my teeth at home. Every day, I had to put those little whitening strips on my teeth, and take them off half an hour later. Easy. I was super motivated and most of all, I could see the results just a few days later, so that added to my determination. I was going to follow through. Ok, I did skip a couple of days, but overall, I stuck with it.
The thing is, I suddenly had this half hour where I couldn’t do much else. I did it before bed, and I didn’t want to go to bed with the whitening strips on and end up waking up with a nuclear smile like Tom Cruise the next day, and I didn’t want to do it while watching a film because I didn’t want to be the annoying girl who asks to pause the movie right when Tom Cruise is saving the world from a nuclear catastrophe.
So during that half hour, I started doing funny things. I’d do a really thorough beauty routine with a face mask instead of just quickly cleaning my face with Créaline wipes. I’d clean up my apartment. Do the laundry. A whole little ritual started forming around that half hour, and as a result, a few weeks later, my skin was brighter, my closet perfectly organized, and my apartment worthy of a Pinterest board.
In the morning, I woke up feeling fresher and ready to tackle my day with a totally different attitude. After a month, I had a new kind of joyful morale that stayed with me.
HALF AN HOUR PER DAY and I was ready to conquer the world.
I figured out this little game faster than the time it takes to say “Gwyneth!” and I told myself that even after the whitening was done, I’d guard this half hour jealously. Nothing would come between me and my half hour.
And of course, it all came crashing down as soon as I finished whitening my teeth.
You can’t remake yourself. I went straight back to falling asleep in front of a film, with my apartment half clean and my skin a bit rosy.
But for once, I was finally able to see how even a micro-dose of self-discipline could really have an effect on my life.
Ever since, I’ve been trying desperately to give it another go and find some kind of psychological trick to turn me back into that woman with the organized life, with all the laundry done, and ok, let’s really go crazy – the woman who practices a physical activity regularly, but for now, I can’t do it. I haven’t found the trick.
Especially now that I have my book tour as an excuse, which makes any type of organization pointless. I’m the queen of “after the tour, I’ll start Gyrotonic training!” (And during the tour, I’ll start chocolate bagels in Montreal!)
So seriously, how do you do it? Do you think it’s a matter of personality? Or do I just have an incurable case of laziness? And will my life really slowly erase itself like a scene from Inception?
I don’t know, thinking about it just irritates me, and honestly, it’s making me want another chocolate bagel.
Translated by Andrea Perdue