I want to follow up on what I said about discipline in yesterday’s post. I said that discipline is “motivation without reason.” I stand by that, as far as it goes, but there’s more to discipline than that, and I want to tell the whole story.
The sense in which I am using the word discipline is the fourth definition in the O.E.D.: “A system or method for the maintenance of order; a system of rules for conduct.” Self-discipline means a way to keep yourself in order. To have discipline you need some idea of order, and some way of maintaining order.
By motivation without reason, I mean a way of compelling someone to act without appealing to their judgment or desires. “Don’t argue with me, just do as I say” is an attempt to invoke discipline. When my executive mind tries to force my sleepy body to get out of bed and go to work, it’s trying to maintain order in my life. From the point of view of my body, some outsider is telling me to wake up when waking up does not seem reasonable. Hence motivation without reason.
As I was saying yesterday, I don’t have a lot of self-discipline. In other words, I don’t go around with a strong and specific idea of what I should do at any particular time, and even when I do have a strong idea, I don’t generally force myself to do those things. What I do instead is I manage myself by a sort of “consensus” of my various parts. Sort of like a parliamentary system in my head.
If sometimes I look like I am exhibiting a lot of discipline, that’s probably not because I am controlling my wild sinning self with the iron bridle of wisdom. More likely, I’m just not experiencing any conflict about what I want to do. That’s what I meant about not needing discipline if you know what you’re doing. When all your parts are in harmony, order unfolds spontaneously and naturally. You don’t need much of a system to maintain order.
But getting to harmony can be challenging. It means, in my projects and in my life, I have to do a lot of wandering and playing and procrastinating until I decide what I really want to do.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that anyone else live this way– I often envy people who can point themselves in one direction with conviction– but wandering does have its advantages, especially for a tester.