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What Really Stops Smokers (or Freelance Teachers) From Succeeding?

In the book SWITCH, Chip and Dan Heath demonstrate how changes in life are difficult. They describe making changes as difficult as persuading a full grown elephant to stop its steady pace and change direction from its set path — one it has walked on throughout its life.

How does a young boy sitting on top of the elephant manage to control the elephant despite the colossal weight difference? If it’s not the number of years of training (the boy is young), is it enforced discipline?

Bichitr [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

How does the boy on top of the elephant make it change direction? Is it enforced discipline?

What then is discipline?

In our line of teaching work there are varying degrees of discipline. What it is not, however, is keeping your students in line. An elephant would never change its path with enforced discipline, and students are not going to respond either. So how does the small boy perched on top of an elephant make it change its direction?

He does it by persuasion. The kind of discipline we’re talking about is persuasion disguised as discipline.

Discipline is about your own wish to get better at what you do. It’s about your determination to see the task through to get to the results you want to achieve ensuring your entrepreneurial freelance teaching business is a viable and income-sustaining business.

Lack of discipline is so often the result of two events: procrastination and finding excuses for not doing the job to hand. For example, today I could easily have stayed in bed longer — but I have a project to edit for my book each day (excepting weekends). In addition, I have the daily household tasks and whatever else crops up in-between.

The weekend is my reward for my diligence.

Why are you here?

(And what does this have to do with discipline?)

Are you a freelance teacher by choice or was it accidental because the school you worked at made you redundant to cut high overhead costs? Others I know (English language teachers) became freelancers because they lived in a foreign country, gave language help, and discovered their love for teaching.

Likewise, we have all read about people — not just scientists — who had a good idea, worked hard on it, and became successful.

Yes, the reasons for becoming a freelancer are many and the ways of becoming a successful entrepreneur are also many. And again yes, successful freelancers are different in their outlook on life and their work. They are successful because they learnt to master discipline through the sense of persuasion. Less successful freelancers are masters at finding excuses.

Sean d’Souza of Psychotatics.com successfully manages one of the craziest and fullest schedules I’ve ever come across. He maintains you can either be an expert at what you do — or be an expert at finding excuses.

What stops you from succeeding?

Is there a predominant reason stopping you from reaching your goals or aims?

It doesn’t matter whether you are an entrepreneurial freelance teacher by choice or by accident, the choice to be successful is yours. An employee finds his motivation in his steady income and the benefits of paid holidays and paid sick leave, for example. He also expects regular increases to his annual salary. It’s different if you are a freelancer, and especially in teaching.

What motivates freelance teachers? Being your own boss? A dream job? The excitement of starting your own business? Often the only motivation as a new freelancer (whether voluntary or accidental) is the excitement. But it’s scary, too, especially for accidental freelancers who might suffer when a problem raises its ugly head. What if I fail? What if I can’t pay the bills on time? The fear of losing the roof over your head or you cannot put food on the table because you don’t have a steady income is ever present for accidental freelancers. These are reasons that make even seasoned entrepreneurs stop and reconsider if they have made the right choice. Yet this is where discipline plays a vital role in your living standards, your life, and your teaching business.

  • A daily ‘normal’ job forces discipline on you. Punctuality. Internal rules and regulations. Work quotas to be achieved. Exhibiting a motivated and loyal image of your company to the outside world.
  • As a freelancer, there is no outside influence to force a sense of discipline. Nobody other than yourself.

Bleh Tasks

Every job, whether you are an employee or freelancer has its boring side; the daily drudge. It’s so easy to let discipline slide. It’s hard to overcome the resistance to finish drudge-tasks. My drudge tasks: The yearly annual income tax report. Bleh! Writing up a student development report. Bleh!

What about these Bleh-tasks? How many freelance teachers sit down and plan what steps their business must follow to create a sustainable business to provide you and your family with an income and a roof over your heads!?

When you’ve a Bleh-Task to do or when you’re bored at a task, don’t you notice how hunger or thirst strikes? Time for a tea break! :)  And off you go!

These are all tactics of your mind to avoid the job at hand. Give in and the battle is lost.

When life intervenes, it feels more natural to put family and friends first and your teaching business last. Who cares about winning battles over discipline then?

Recognising the destructive side to discipline

Your guilty conscience sits on your shoulders whispering in your ear that life isn’t all about making money and success… insidious, isn’t it? And when the family, friends and colleagues, for personal reasons of their own (it makes no difference whether for selfish or jealous reasons) join in the chorus, the urge to give in weighs heavily. It’s soooo easy just to give in and go under — but unfortunately, your means of livelihood goes under with you. :(

Yup… all discipline battles are tough. None are easy to win.

Whether you are a freelancer by choice or by accident, your teaching business is your livelihood and the money that you earn does what money does.

Money calms you down. It appeases your desire to give your loved ones a good home, education, holidays and presents when you feel like it. Money dissolves fears in a metaphorical puff of smoke.

Discipline is the only necessary tool to establish a steady income.

Discipline will ensure your entrepreneurial freelance teaching business becomes sustainable. Your teaching business won’t replace your family or circle of friends, but it will guide you to manage your time, your schedule, and keep to deadlines.

Discipline by force? Take a hammer and bang your head into submission? No, like the small boy on top of the elephant, persuasion is about how to make small changes that will enable you to jump over your own shadow, to eventually win the battle, and find the motivation to get the task or job at hand done.

You need a carrot (metaphorically speaking).

Follow the carrot and you get discipline

Follow the carrot!

Discipline isn’t the reason smokers fail to stop smoking

But which one?

A friend was a heavy smoker. She wanted to stop and like so many others, failed with every attempt. She became aggressive if the subject was even mentioned. Her excuses were always the same: I’ve tried. It’s no use. I put on weight when I stop. I become aggressive when I try… Yet one day, she stopped and also stopped drinking alcoholic drinks too. What happened?

She was pregnant. She stopped immediately. Not the next day and not the following week, but from the very moment she knew she was pregnant.

That was her carrot; her motivation. The one reason she stopped. That she’s still hasn’t started again is because her daughter is now her new motivation.

What’s your carrot?

  • Discipline is about your own wish to get better at what you do.
  • Take one small step at a time to establish new working habits; from changing from employee status to the status of being an entrepreneurial freelance teacher.
  • Discipline is about your determination to see what you need to do to get to the results you want to achieve by organising priorities.
  • Discipline in your teaching business provides you with a livelihood and the means for you to provide for your family.
  • It means finding your own carrots to resist everything temptation and procrastination can throw at you — even when it feels more natural to put family and friends first and your business last.

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