• Patrick McAndrew

Self-Discipline in the Digital Age



Self-discipline can be tough sometimes!  Waking up early to go to the gym, taking the time to cook yourself a healthy meal instead of ordering take out, putting your head down and working hard instead of binging on Netflix.  This isn’t to say that the occasional indulgence isn’t needed from time to time.  I know when I have a busy week, I like to eat something delicious and veg out a bit.  But’s important to not make this a habit.


The social behaviors of our digital age have made it increasingly more difficult to practice self-discipline.  We humans are naturally lazy, always looking for the easiest route to get something done.  In many ways, this is a good thing.  Often times, our laziness allows us to be more efficient in the tasks we need to get done, but other times it completely stunts our personal development.


The Comfort Zone


While self-discipline can be difficult, staying in our comfort zones is becoming increasingly easy.  If ever we are in a situation where we feel even slightly uncomfortable, we take out our safety screens and scroll through the familiar: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, email, etc.  We don’t have to feel uncomfortable when we have a comfortable retreat available in our phones.


While many may argue that our always-on societal norms allow us to be more efficient and get more things done in the time allotted, I would argue against this.  Most of the time we are connected to our devices, we aren’t truly working towards anything productive.  In most cases, our phones are serving as distractions with regards to what really needs to get done.


The Small Decisions


I’m guilty of this too.  There are times when I simply don’t feel like doing what I know I should be doing.  In these moments, I think about how I would feel later in the day, or perhaps later that week, or later that month, or later that year.  These small decisions impact where we will be a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now.  I know that if I miss a workout, I’m going to feel bad about it later in the day.  I know if I spend two hours watching TV instead of one hour, that I will feel bad about not reading something educational instead.


I find that it helps to let your future-self inform your decision making instead of your present-self.  This doesn’t mean to not live in the present, mind you.  Your future-self would absolutely want you to live in the present.  But living in the present doesn’t mean neglecting the future.  Sure, I may not enjoy the run in the moment, but afterwards I will feel much better and will feel great throughout the rest of the day.  If we sacrifice a little in the present, we reap a huge reward in the future.


We must transfer this mentality into our digital lives.  If we commit to spending time, fully present and focused, with our good friend, without looking at our phone every ten minutes, the reward will be a deeper connection in the long run.  If we commit to putting our phones away an hour before bed, we can take that last hour to read something that will benefit us in the long term.  If we commit to taking time away from our phones throughout the day, we benefit psychologically from not always being on-call.  We must practice this self-discipline in our daily lives regarding our relationship with technology.  Our future-selves will thank us.

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© 2020 Patrick McAndrew