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The application of the art of mindfulness along with the practice of delayed gratification—that’s what I think self-discipline means.

I might not always be good at it, but I try to develop more as I move through new lunar cycles.

As I firm up more life stability and a sense of confidence in a new place with new people, I feel like I’m making progress despite the pandemic. And I try to remind myself that no matter what I had chosen to do with my freedom, I would still be starting over. Everyone is feeling that way, and being collectively uncomfortable in this situation isn’t all bad.

That’s not to say, though, that I’m outwardly uncomfortable. I am safe and I have enough to eat. I have clean water and it’s not hard to keep myself clothed. I had the foresight to invest in enough technology to last me for a handful of years. But the one thing I have even more of now than I did the last time that I forced myself to live independently is peace.

The peace I feel comes from satisfying work.

When I was finishing my degree about fifteen years ago, I was preparing myself to be able to have sophisticated and rewarding work. It really makes all the difference. It’s the best possible way to pass time, and I feel like I’m making an investment.

One of the discipline-oriented practices I have been working on is this: when I don’t want to do something, I tell myself that it’s ok. And I give myself the space and permission not to do it, but then I also refuse to do anything else.

Do it, or do nothing else and wait; it’s magic.

It’s a good way to reflect and to find out if I really don’t want to do that one thing, or if I am actually just too wound-up and over-stimulated from all of the other things I have been doing. Often, if I just do nothing, the desire to be active, creative, and productive builds back up and I find myself wanting to do the thing that I was putting off. It’s a great practice to develop if you procrastinate or if you’re a perfectionist, or both.

Another rewarding thing about being self-disciplined, in particular, is that people immediately notice it.

My room is spare and tidy because I’m minimalistic about my possessions. It feels welcoming in here and I’m still eliminating things I don’t need. My demeanor is calm and steady, no matter whether I’m content or upset. I can get quality work done on time. My digital footprint is more intentional and I have a short-term plan for how I want to improve it. I found ways to streamline my grocery shopping so I can buy fewer heavy items—like using spices instead of processed liquids and sauces that require refrigeration. As soon as buying in bulk is permitted again, I can replace that pesky single-use plastic packaging with reusable cloth sacks.

All these things that people can’t help but notice about the way I live are such great talking points for the environment. I love that!

One level deeper, though, I really hope people are inspired to stop treating each other poorly. For me, developing self-discipline is ultimately about cultivating respect all around me. We don’t even need to go to the extreme of attaining sainthood! I think, at least for a while, it’s enough for us to pause and ponder,

“What does it look like to do no harm?”

To just sit in neutrality and get comfortable there. To wake up with the mindset that we won’t actively subtract, add, or multiply today.

That’s what I wish for humanity right now—”net-zero” I guess, to borrow an environmental term to illustrate a collective sense of psychological and emotional well-being. For a little while, that is.

I still feel a strong sense of urgency to build, and soon.

I’m open and ready for it, but I also embrace the present with acceptance. What else can we do as we prepare for the first 100 days of a new era?