My journey with self-discipline has been a rocky road. I like to do whatever’s fun. I find that people that have my type of personality do not say no to much. If you want to make a stop at Krispy Kreme, yes! You want to take the boat and go cliff jumping? Yes! I’m all in.
I tend to be a person who just goes a hundred miles an hour at whatever I can do, and I love that in a way. I feel like it makes me fun and I love being that person! Who wants to be the person who says, “I don’t eat sugar?” I never want to be that person, so self discipline for me has been a journey.
I also do have a part of my personality that’s very driven. I have a lot of goals! There’s a part of me that really wants to be self disciplined and there’s part of my personality that just wants to stop at Krispy Kreme when the HOT sign is on!
During the lockdown, my goal was to learn how to make sourdough like a boss, and I did. I made a lot of sourdough bread! It’s one of the most amazing processes I’ve ever learned. I became a student. I studied for hours. I made bad loaves of bread. I made more bread. It was so good. There’s that part of me that says, “I’m going to use this time so wisely.” Then there’s the other part of me eating sourdough bread, gaining seven pounds!
I turned 50 this year. I still have it in my heart that I’m going to get to my strongest, healthiest body. I still believe this is possible, and I’m able to still believe because I’ve learned that I’m not going to get there by being mean to myself.
I think the reason a lot of us give up is because we tried to discipline ourselves by beating ourselves up and we’re tired of treating ourselves like that every time we fall off the wagon. What if we looked at our falling off the wagon as an opportunity to learn something? What if we looked at it and said, “I’m a lot closer than I was before!”
You can’t bully yourself into being more disciplined.
You’ll do it for a little while and then you won’t do it. I find that baby steps and a gentler approach, and really training your mind to see things differently, works much better.
This is important because we have this God given desire in us to be our best for ourselves and our family. Often, instead of using the desire to actually do the thing or be that person or accomplish the goal, we use the desire for donuts, or for scrolling social media, or for maybe drinking too much, or shopping online.
We only have a certain amount of desire and we squander it for basically nothing.
As soon as I see myself letting myself go, I’m gentle with myself. I say, “Of course you ate sourdough bread every day because look what you’ve been through. Look at all the ways the world has changed and look at what’s going on. Of course you did!” I kind of give myself a little bit of an, “It’s all right, mama.” Then I make a plan.
We just keep trying. The point is not giving up!
Remind yourself of what you really want, instead of what you want right now. This is so important. I’m not perfect at it by any stretch, I just keep trying and failing sometimes, and trying again, and trying a different approach.
Use your experience to learn more about yourself instead of using your experience to beat yourself up.
Who do you want to be?
Figure out for yourself what it is you want to do or change and step into it. Start talking about who you are instead of what you’re doing.
I really wanted to get in shape. I had been running by myself and it was hard on my body and it was wearing out my joints and I wanted to do something different, so I joined a Crossfit gym. When I first joined, I felt like I couldn’t do the things that these other people could do. I remember when I made the mindset shift from, “I’m trying to exercise more.” to “I do CrossFit.” Do you see the difference? Do you see how you just step into it?
That subtle, but really important shift could help you with whatever you’re trying to do. I want you to think for yourself, in your life, what is it you’re trying to stop or start? Now step into being the person that does those things.
Set yourself up for success
One of the things that really helped me when I was first starting is that they would post the workout the night before. I got into the habit of checking the workout, because then in my mind, I know what we’re going to do and I kind of gear up for it.
Then I set myself up for success by planning what I wear, and what time I’ll get up so I can work for a couple of hours, then I’ll head to the gym. It just became a part of my routine. You might set up some reminders on your phone until you develop good habits.
Set yourself up to become the person you’re trying to become.
What would the person who just lost 10 pounds and is feeding themselves in a healthy way and getting good exercise do? What would they eat? How would they think about what they’re doing?
Here’s an even better question. How would they think about messing up? What do they make it mean? Would they make it mean, “I’ve blown it. So forget it all!” No, the person we want to become would think, “I can’t wait to reset and keep going. I’m really excited about it.”
How you talk to yourself about messing up, how you talk about the thing you’re trying to do in general, and how you set yourself up for success makes a huge difference. Think of how you could set something up, like a small reward, for the new thing that you want to start and the self discipline you want to impose on yourself.
I have all of the energy in the morning. I get up really early and I get so much accomplished, but after eight o’clock at night, I am so done. I can barely function. Just getting the last of the kitchen stuff done is sometimes more than I can even process.
What I have set up is, after I get the kitchen done, then I go take a hot bath. Just that little bit of reward helps me more often than not do what I want to do instead of saying who cares.
Self-discipline gets a bad rap. Self-discipline is taking good care of yourself so that you can take good care of others.
It shouldn’t have a negative connotation and it often does. How can I take really good care of myself, eat what my smart brain tells me I should eat, sleep, get good rest, have enriching relationships?
Changing our mindset about what it means, instead of feeling like it means restriction, is freeing! It doesn’t mean we can’t have what we want. It means we’re getting what we really want instead of what we want right now.
Embrace the discomfort
I think the Marines say embrace the suck. Here’s the thing. It’s going to be hard. You’re not going to want to eat this afternoon what you told yourself you wanted to eat. As much as CrossFit and exercising every day is a huge part of my life, sometimes it’s not easy to get myself there. As much as I love what I do, when it comes time for me to show up for my actual work, I’d rather scroll.
Anticipate that it’s going to be hard.
It’s going to be uncomfortable. You need to know you are not going to want to do it, and do it anyway. Where in your life do you need more of this and how can you build more self discipline into your life without being mean to yourself? How can you reframe it? How can you decide that just because you didn’t keep it up two years ago when you tried it doesn’t mean you’re not going to do it now.
What I always used to tell my patients who were trying to quit smoking is that people who quit smoking quit 11 or 12 times before they really quit. So when you’re on your 10th time trying to start an exercise program, you’re just one or two times away from actually doing it. Don’t give up now!
Self-discipline is really important because it gives us the life we really want, instead of the temporary self-indulgent false pleasure that we want right now. None of us are perfect at this. I for sure, always want to be the person in the backseat going stop at Krispy Kreme, and It’s fine to have Krispy Kreme. It’s just not fine to make it a lifestyle and say, “I blew it and now it doesn’t matter what I do.”
Of course it matters because you’ve got to take good care of yourself so that you can take care of the people who love you and who you love most!
I hope this helps you with some ways to incorporate a little more self discipline into your life. It’s a good thing. It’s a good way to take care of yourself. It’s a good way to take care of the people you love.