"with Self-Discipline anything is possible"
This famous quote by Theodore Roosevelt is way more than a piece of throw-away rhetoric, it is actually the answer to all your dreams. Big statement indeed, but nevertheless very true. Developing self-discipline is one simply acquired skill that pretty much guarantees you a 100% success rate! Really? Let’s take a look.
Anyone who becomes healthy, wealthy or wise will tell you that in reaching their goals there had to be a plan AND execution. There lies the problem. Most of us make plans, good plans, only to fall short in their execution. With our health, this would be a perfect example. Most of us from time-to-time pledge to improve our diets and to exercise more, only to be derailed before any real progress has been made. And this happens over and over again. Sound familiar?
The easy road is the familiar road
If you intuitively know that something is bad for you and you keep doing it, then what is this? Why do we keep doing it? Why has it become so ‘normal’ to live such a self-destructive life? Our actions are going to eventually harm us, we know it for sure, but we just keep on doing it anyway. So, why is making a few simple healthy changes so difficult?
Is it that we don’t care enough, or that we are lazy, or that we have been misinformed? Maybe it’s just down to habits. It can’t be plain stupidity, can it? That’s not us; there must be something else at play here. Of course, there’s procrastination; we’re all guilty of that at times but is that the main problem here?
Well, in truth, it’s probably a little of all these.
Certainly, safety in numbers is a factor; everyone else seems to be doing it (or rather not doing it) so it can’t be that bad, right?
Then of course there’s always the tough reality that a little ignorance (we just don’t have enough information given to us in a user-friendly way) and a little stupidity (yep, we all suffer from this from time to time) lead us down the wrong path.
And then of course there’s the big one – SELF DISCIPLINE
Who or what is going to make you accountable? Many of the things we intuitively know we should be doing to stay healthy are just plain hard work. Of course it’s easier to hit the snooze button and stay in bed rather than hit the gym on the way to work, or to grab a pizza slice for lunch and snack on potato chips during the day rather than worry about calories or nutritional content. And of course crashing out on the sofa in front of the TV is THE most relaxing way to spend your evening after a tough day in the office.
The problem is this; it all adds up. Do it for long enough and major health issues will be coming your way. True, you may be fine now but you can’t keep throwing toxic waste into the pool without eventually killing the fish. You can’t deny yourself exercise and quality sleep without some eventual cognitive decline. You can’t waste half your life on the trivia of social media without missing out elsewhere.
What we have to admit to ourselves is that there are forces at play here. ‘They’ go to great lengths to entice you to eat ‘their’ fast food, zombie out on the sofa watching ‘their’ ads, and to consume ‘their’ stuff. But at some stage we have to step up a little and realise that we make it too easy for ‘them’ and it’s our lack of self-discipline that is the problem.
Start with 'Mindset'
Once we realise the game is stacked against us we are half-way there. We can simply decide to start making little changes in the way we think and gradually take back control. We all want to turn things around; now it just needs a plan.
Motivation gets you going but self-discipline keeps you on track
If you’d like this year to be the year of positive change, then start identifying and focussing on goals, breaking them down and making a plan. Once you’ve made it tangible you’ve made it real, and then you can start taking daily steps to make it happen.
Where does it all start? In the mind!
Here’s my take - Self-discipline is a mindset, and as your actions become part of your day-to-day life, you create useful habits that actually become a positive lifestyle. It starts and ends with you. You decide that you are in control of your life story, not outside influencers.
Self-discipline allows you to create a ‘Life by Design’ – in a way it provides you with some certainty that allows you to take back control.
Here’s how you can build self-discipline in small increments every day.
1) If you want to achieve something, get off to a great start every day. Yes, your morning routine counts. Make it positive, affirming and points you in the right direction. I have a 5 point plan for the day; it’s written down and it’s one of the first things I see when I turn on my phone and my computer each day. It’s what I contemplate as I drive to work.
Set my intention for the day.
How will I nourish my body, mind and soul?
What exercise will I do today?
What is the one thing that I shall complete today that will make today awesome?
How will I react to ‘situations?
Here’s my Stickie...
Setting my intention and thinking how I will react sets my physical and mental state. Planning my food and exercise makes sure these are not left to chance or whim, and identifying and writing down the one thing I want to conquer during the course of the day ensures I feel focussed and it keeps me moving forward.
2) Work out what are your non-negotiables. Make sure you have the basics covered. Have a simple plan to ensure you are eating well, hydrating and getting enough exercise during the day. Remember walking for 30 mins can be enough, but you need to be doing some basic stretching and strengthening a few times a week and preferably most days. I have a few simple routines I run through at times during the day because I know how brutal on your spine and posture modern life can be.There are ‘Pillars of Health’ and you may well have heard me talk about these in the past. These are the things you simply must get right and obviously nutrition and exercise are the big two. But sleep, posture, minimising stress, spinal health & alignment, and developing and nurturing a positive mental attitude are all things you shouldn’t leave to chance. For all these you should have a simple thought-out strategy as they all impact your health and your life.
3) Stay in Line. This is a valuable lesson I learned when I was writing my book. Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed and your goal seems so very far away, then is the time for self-discipline. Remind yourself why you are on this mission or task and how you will benefit from staying “on purpose”. Remember how it will feel when you finish the task and how you felt before you started. Just don’t find yourself at the back of the line again.
4) Before you relax or do something enjoyable, make sure you tackle something hard first – you’ll enjoy it even more.
This is something I learned many years ago when I was studying at Nottingham University. There were simply too many distractions; clubs, trips, sports, friends, girls, parties (sounds like student life;) and I could easily have bombed out. But luckily I learned that ‘delayed gratification’ can increase your success in virtually all areas of your life. Basically, I learned to say “No” more often. I wouldn’t go out with my friends until I hit my target and my piece of work was finished. Sure, I missed out on a few things here and there but I stayed on top, I didn’t have that feeling of anxiety, and I could enjoy myself even more when I did relax. It worked then and it still works today. I’m pretty sure it will work for you too.
Of course there are many other strategies for staying focussed and ‘on track’ but a real biggie is ‘gratitude’. Life will be better if you focus on the positive and all the good things in life. This will train your brain to seek the positive in any situation and help you be grateful for what you have rather than what you don’t have. You will be more grounded and less distracted by what other people are doing.
Whatever your strategy for improving your self-discipline you won’t find anything more effective in helping you reach your goals in life. We all struggle from time-to-time but starting small, taking tiny steps but most importantly……. keep moving forward!