Creating Meaning in the Madness: a Guide to Discipline for the non-9-5ers
"Be your own boss and create!"
"It's better to be free and poorer than working for somebody else and being absolutely miserable."
"I was not born to just pay bills and die."
Familiar with these platitudes floating around the perennials of Instagram and Tumblr? You are not alone. Whilst each one certainly holds up to water and has its own merit (particularly the last one), I swear, for every so-called 'inspirational' quotation I see on the internet, I can envision at least twenty caveats to be stuck onto at the end with a snappy asterisk. That is to say, it's not bad to say these things - to encourage creativity, openness, and entrepreneurial spirit - but what is and is to completely disregard the fact that it takes hard work to get to that point. Arguably harder work than just attending to an office job, or typical routine by modern day standards.
Not abiding by the typical 9-5 routine can be a curse, rather than the beautiful, carefree blessing that 19-year old influencer may attest it to be.
We are animals. We require routine. Simple, predictable, disciplined routines help maintain one's sanity and one's health. So it doesn't help if you happen to be in a profession which eschews that sort of regimen in favour of non-linear work - be it shift work, within academia, or as a figure in a creative industry.
Being both a model and personal trainer, I absolutely empathise with this feeling of listlessnes or confusion when it comes to sporadic work. The key is to carve out your own little island of stability, standing strong against the choppy tides of change and chaos. Whilst it's healthy to take a dip into the waters of change in order to open your mind up and explore creative avenues - particularly in some of the mentioned lines of work - we humans absolutely need simple stability, responsibility, and routine to maintain mental health and develop ourselves as better parts of society.
Producing at least one constant in your life - that is to say, one aspect of responsibility that is non-wavering, non-negotiable, and non-erratic - will ensure you don't drown in the wave of chaos. Instead, you'll find that within those days of feeling lost or clueless on slow days or days off, you will find that method of routine and responsibility to anchor you to daily purpose and self-development.
We humans require discipline to attain our longterm happiness and meaning in life - without it, we just follow carnal desires which actually create more misery than their initial alluring imagery would lead us to believe. So, even if you are in a job that leaves you wondering when your next pay cheque may be coming in, rest assured that you can set your life up in a way that benefits you as a human being rather than just a random labourer.
1. Set up a schedule - or aspects of one - that works for you
You need to be creating a schedule that works with your personality and your profession; you need to be creating a sense of discipline and inspiration - balancing your creativity with your responsibility. This is how you stay sane - creating small constants in a routine that can be thrown off balance even on a daily rate.
This issue is especially prevalent in modelling, and I see it very commonly among new girls who think that 'days off' (which happen to be quite a lot) or just days with casual castings justify you going shopping, or brunching, or lounging about bingeing on Netflix. Not only does this sort of derail how hard we work in the industry, but it really doesn't do any favours for your brain power or sense of self. Instead, if you know that the next day you haven't anything on, book yourself in for a yoga class; maybe look at courses you can do to accompany your modelling career to boost your efforts in building a business. Set aside at least 5 things per week that do not change each time you face your five-day working schedule. It can be as simple as writing a to-do list, or as complex as undergoing a task for your brand. Whatever it is, insert small intervals of stability to offset the chaos if you do not have a typical 9-5 laid out for you. (The same can be said for shift work, whereupon your days of work change regularly. Always lay out some form of constant routine that keeps your grounded and healthy even on unpredictable working weeks.)
2. Find meaning in the monotony
Yes, it's annoying having to get up early. Yes, it's boring filling out emails or making an effort to network with potential work partners or clients. Yes, it's not the best thing in the world making routines for yourself such as setting writing quotas, or setting aside two hours a day to create content for your brand. But there is meaning in the seeming monotony of the task at hand - at every gesture of self-improvement, you are slowly but surely making the world a better place indirectly by increasing your self-respect, self-development, and overall self-awareness as your work hard and formulate a healthy, stable routine. There's time for the exciting spark of unpredictability and creativity - there always is, as it's likely this is the line of work you signed yourself up for. There'll always be that giddy feeling in your stomach as you wait on an option for a job or for your agency to send you your plane tickets. Or, if you're a student, for that thrilling lecture on metaphysics to finally creep up on you. (Not even sarcasm.) But within that framework of frivolity and fun should be the concrete you build your foundation upon - routine, responsibility, and stability, to keep you ticking over as a functioning and driven human being. Life's tasks may come across as arduous or unnecessary, but they are absolutely crucial in making you a better person overall.
3. Obligate full 5 working days of the week - even if you're not formally 'working'
There is one constant to take on board if you are in this situation - that your base schedule has no constant. That can be empowering in of itself. It means that, week by week, you can look at your routine and see what gaps need to be filled. If you are a personal trainer, and have no clients on a certain day, can you spend a few hours that day either studying or trying out new exercises you may have learnt? Can you set up meetings with different gyms? If you are a student and don't have lectures a certain day, can you set up your day to encourage reading new thinkers, or even going in to discuss a topic with a lecturer? Apply this constant into your schedule whenever you don't have formalised plans - and you have a 'work day' set in motion for yourself.
Treat yourself like somebody you value, and want to help. You wouldn't let a best friend or loved one just sloth about and waste their lives away - and the same should be said about yourself. Know that you have value to offer to society and the people around you - without your light, the world will be a great deal dimmer, and we all need to pull together and offer our own special skills to help make it a better place. Having goals and discipline to what you really want to achieve will ensure that you won't squander your work days - you'll be living each moment with purpose and precision, carving out meaning even on days when you feel despondent by the lack of creativity. Use this as a driving motivation to implement small gestures of discipline and work in order to make yourself better, which in turn will help you be kinder and better to others.
4. Consistently check in on yourself and your ideal vision of who you would like to be
Sometimes, having holistic and broader goals can lead to more the practical being put into place, resulting in longterm results and happiness. There's a reason for the hippy uprising of 'manifestation' and 'visualisation' - because, once the image is set into place, you are more likely to undergo the tasks matching that vision of your ideal 'you'. For instance, if you see yourself as a kind, productive member of society, as broad as that imagery is, you at least know how to narrow down your actions in order to fulfil it. Kind people don't deceive. Productive people get up in the morning, have a set routine, and fulfil it to honour themselves and the people around them. Kind people volunteer for noble causes and the less fortunate, or they at least advocate for acts of charity when the going gets tough. Even by instilling a not-so detailed vision of who you want to be, you can then take on the actions required to reach that visionary goal. And it's important if you don't have a set routine to be checking in regularly - particularly if there's nobody around you to nudge you into doing it. You must regularly ask yourself: what kind of person do I want to be? How can I achieve it? Is there anything I can be doing right now to get myself closer to this ideal image of myself? Prompts are beautiful things, and sooner or later you'll be finding yourself becoming a much better human than you were the day previously.