The Trait of Self-Discipline
Sometimes motivation just isn’t enough. We all have moments, days, weeks, where we just don’t have the necessary internal drive to push us to maintain the standards we set for ourselves. When we experience these feelings, self-discipline becomes increasingly significant.
There’s no avoiding the fact that who we are as human-beings is hugely dependent on our prior experience - childhood particularly. Our personality & behaviours are shaped from an early age, meaning that for some self-discipline is an ingrained trait, whilst for others it’s nothing but a concept.
Whatever box you may fit in, it can be easy to adopt a fixed mindset - believing you’re incapable of change. You’d be wrong to think that. Allow me to elaborate.
If you struggle to find the drive to stay consistent with healthy habits, my assumption is the following: You likely have little self-discipline and hold flexible agreements with yourself throughout all aspects of your life.
What do I mean by flexible agreements? You allow yourself to back out of prior commitments with ease.
Might not seem like a big deal, right. Wrong. Our habits are simply actions that we’ve practiced over and over again - to the point where they are ingrained in us or ‘habitual’. Therefore, if you have routinely practiced the behaviour of holding flexible self-agreements, you’ve likely established it as a habit.
These self-agreements don’t even necessarily have to be health-related - habits transcend across multiple aspects of our life. If you hold flexible agreements with yourself when it comes to your work-life, do you really think that won’t have implications on the agreements you hold when it comes to your health & well-being?
Fortunately, the same way we can build negative habits, they can be broken apart & replaced with positive ones.
Building Positive Habits
So, how do we attempt to build the positive habit of self-discipline. Well, it begins by holding rigid agreements with yourself across all elements of your life. This means that when you agree to do something, mentally or verbally, you commit to it & actually do it.
So what does holding a rigid agreement look like? Let’s use running as an example. You want to get in-shape during this lockdown and decide you’re going to start your days by going on runs 3-4x a week.
The first morning comes around and you’re just not feeling up to it. At this moment, the easy option is to simply stay in bed (believe me I know). But, since you’ve made a rigid commitment to yourself it has to be followed through. You go on the run. It’s pretty miserable the whole time, but 30 minutes later you’re home & showered.
Contrast to the agony you were enduring mid-run, you now feel surprisingly good. The chemical effects have led to this positive feeling, and simply knowing that you’ve done something beneficial to your health is a huge psychological boost.
These positive feelings provide a positive feedback loop - motivation for you to do it again. Obviously, the positive feedback experienced from one run isn’t going to be long-lasting & sufficient enough to motivate you for the rest of your life. But, it will serve as a reminder the next time you’re not feeling up to it.
Now, at first your body will likely be in a state of discomfort; attempting something new & challenging is never easy at first. Your body simply isn’t used to this new stressor. But, gradually over time you become increasingly adapted to it - both physiologically and mentally. Your body becomes stronger, fitter, more capable of achieving the task. Your mind becomes more-well trained, aware of the capabilities that both it & your body can achieve.
You repeat the behaviour, over and over again. Some days it’s easy - you get up & go. Other days you just don’t feel up to it - but you push through anyway. Over time, through consistency, this behaviour that at one point caused discomfort through thought alone, has now become an ingrained behaviour; a habit.
A Challenge For You
If you recognise yourself as someone who lacks self-discipline, then you might be feeling overwhelmed. Changing your behaviour across multiple dimensions of your life is no small feat. It takes patience & practice. You might feel as though you simply don’t have it in you. If that’s the case, I’ve got a small challenge for you, something that given the lockdown circumstances, anyone can attempt.
My challenge is simple and straightforward. I want you to adopt a positive, healthy change to your lifestyle every day for the next 30 days. It could be as simple as going for daily walks. I’m personally attempting to build a practice of meditation. I’ve dabbled with it in the past, but have never been able to find consistency.
By challenging yourself to ingrain a new behaviour you’ll learn that you have what it takes to make change in your life - as long as you’re willing to do so. Once the 30 days is complete, reflect upon how your perception of that behaviour has changed over the course of the challenge. What’s more, reflect upon what you’ve learnt about yourself during the process.
I hope that by attempting something as simple as this, your mind will be opened to your capacity to change.
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