The Art of Self-Discipline
I ended Chapter 2 with tips on how to silence the mind, which is the essence of self-discipline. As after all, how are we going to be able to control our actions if we cannot control what we think? I came to face my demon called “self-discipline” during my rehab sessions after my operation.
The Personal Trainer (“PT”) that I was working with suggested right at the beginning of our sessions that I should keep a daily logbook of my exercises which will then be used to assess my progress and adapt or add new exercises for the next week. After the first week, I handed over my first logbook, and here is a rough recollection of my conversation with him:
PT: “So how was the workout program for the week?”
Me: “Ah! There was so much happening this week, I am afraid I could not really follow the program.”
PT: “Busy? What did you have to do that took so much of your time?”
Me: “Well, Monday I had to attend a friend’s birthday breakfast, so that was out! Tuesday, as I started my exercises, I got interrupted by a phone call, it was my daughter at school who needed to speak to me urgently! I got sidetracked, so that was it for Tuesday!”
PT:” That is only 2 days, what happen to the rest of the week?”
Me: “You know that I normally train with this friend of mine, and she was busy on Wednesday. Really not the same when she is not there, so we postponed to Thursday! But then the weather was so bad the next day she did not manage to leave her house to come through.”
PT: “And Friday???”
Me: “Friday was a good day, my friend and I finally met, and we did a bit of training. Poor thing, her mind was not quite with the program as her dog was sick at the vet and she kept on checking her phone to see if there was any news. We shortened the training session as she was so stressed!”
PT: “How about during the weekend to catch up?”
Me: “Weekend? Too busy running around during the weekend! I can never find time during weekends to do training.”
PT gave me THIS look and said: “It sounds to me that you are looking for all the excuses under the sun to avoid doing this? I cannot help you if you do not help yourself. You have to be committed to this or else it would be a waste of time for you and me!”
Accepting and Recognising My Favourite Excuses
I took offense to this comment, and the immediate thoughts that crossed my mind were:
- Time to look for another PT, this guy has absolutely no empathy!
- It is not my fault that I had such a busy week, that is so unfair!
The PT and I parted ways, as it was clearly not going to work for either of us. I carried on hobbling along for a few months. These were the darkest months I was referring to in Chapter 2, where my mind was not in sync with my body.
It was only several months later, once I started improving my mental state of mind, that I realized the reasons why I resisted the PT’s attempts to making me exercise.
- There was no mindful commitment from my part at the time. I considered it being a chore, and something that I HAD to do rather than WANTED to do. The feeling of being ‘under the whip’ and forced to do something was not sustainable and bound to fizzle out.
- I also recognized the classic excuses that I used, such as “I am too busy.” or “the weather was bad”. These were excuses to avoid taking responsibility and accountability of my actions. I was not proud of myself.
The Road which Leads to Self-Discipline (My Interpretation)
I am the kind of person who needs structure and a plan that I can follow for me put an action into motion. I need to be able to rationalize things and be able to ‘see’ the results. In my mind, the concept of Self-Discipline was too intangible for me to grasp and I needed to find a way of understanding it in a more rational way.
I often make use of mind maps in my work environment, as it is an excellent tool to see the whole picture, generate new ideas, and identify relationships among the different players. It also helps effectively to improve memory and retention. So, I created a personalized mind map for Self-Discipline to assist me in visualizing things in order to understand and tackle it better. I have adapted the mind map into a drawing (thanks to my daughter) with some explanation for the purpose of the blog.
“Self-Discipline” is the name of the journey which starts from the House of Goals (your own goals and objectives) to the Tower of Accomplishments (yours). Along the way, there exist several enemies whose main objective is to try and stop you from reaching the Tower, as well as allies, without whom it would be virtually impossible to reach the Tower of Accomplishments. The key is to identify your enemies and your allies. Look out for your common enemies, some listed below:
- Your Favourite Excuses (do not underestimate them, they are dangerous!). Spend time reflecting on this and be honest with yourself. The truth is ugly but necessary.
- Temptations (their main aim is to prevent you from reaching the Tower at all costs and to send you in a totally different direction). The best way to handle temptations is to stay away from them. For example, while you are doing a work-out at the gym, switch your phone off for the time you are there.
- Instant Gratification & Procrastination: These two combined are lethal enemies of Self-Discipline. We are living in a world of instant gratification, where everything is easy and can be fixed quickly. Why delay when we can get it now?
Simply because it is instant and short lived and prevents us from reaching our true long-term potential and success!
A quote by Dan Ariely:
“Giving up our long-term goals for immediate gratification, my friends is procrastination”
- Negativity Another enemy of Self-Discipline. The first step to overcome Negativity is to remove the word “I cannot” from our vocabulary and replace it with “How can I” or “I can”
Who are your Allies?
- Mindful Commitment
- Your Priorities
- Taking Ownership
- The Non-Negotiables
Mindfulness is defined as “paying attention in the present moment.” You need to be in the present moment when reflecting and setting your Priorities. Choose them carefully and write them down. Remember that you will need to forego other things in order to adhere to them. Make them count.
To Take Ownership means being accountable and responsible for executing a task or project. Your Priorities list is your own, and YOU are responsible for them. Once your Priorities are set, make the conscious decision of making them Non-Negotiables, just like a cheque that you are writing out that cannot be changed. Do not allow yourself choices.
Write down your Priorities and your Non-Negotiables and make a few copies that you will have in prominent places at home or at work so that you are constantly reminded of them.
Freedom to Health
Working with your Allies to defeat your Enemies will give you access to the Tower of Accomplishments, which will unleash a priceless treasure named “Your Freedom”.
This Freedom will allow you:
- To do things that are good for you, earn self-respect and develop self-love
- YOU have control over your senses and mind instead of your mind controlling you
- You can synchronize your short-term goals with your long-term goals allowing you to control the power of becoming a successful person in every way. The sky is the limit!
Dieting and Self-Discipline
A few weeks back, a friend asked me to help her devise a plan to be more Self-Disciplined, in order to carry through her dieting program that she started. She said she was quite motivated at the beginning, but that it has completely fizzled out in the last few weeks and needed a new plan.
“Over 50% of people who used diets to lose weight will gain the weight back or put on more weight than before”
If we apply what we discussed above, we will understand why diets do not work! We want to lose X kgs of fat in Y amount of time, and that is the main reason why we chose a diet program. But by now we should know that diets are “Your Instant Gratification and Procrastination” Enemies! We want results NOW and would sacrifice everything for a short period of time to achieve our goals. But this is not sustainable and soon the body starts craving again all the foods that we have denied ourselves in that short period of time and will cause us to regain the weight twice as quick!
“We have Procrastinated our long terms goals for a short-term quick fix”
So what’s the solution?
We first begin by changing the word “diet” to “lifestyle” which immediately will shift the mind set from short term to long term goal
This first mind shift is an important one, as once you have made it, you can start setting your long-term Priorities, and instead we will have:
- House of Goals – Permanent Health weight loss
- House of Accomplishments – Healthy lifestyle (ongoing process)
I will end this chapter with a quote from Robin Sharma’s Daily Inspiration book on Self-Discipline:
“Without self-discipline, you will not set clear goals, manage your time effectively, treat people well, persist through the tough times, care for your health or think positive thoughts”
Wishing you good health and see you soon for another chapter of health2bfree.com!
I just wanted to let you know that this post is so enlightening. It helps me in so many ways,
Thank you Jenny.