How I'm Revisiting Self-Discipline
If there is one part of my lifestyle that I've fallen short on since the start of the pandemic, it is the act of self-discipline. While I didn't think it made me particularly special, I did take pride in the fact that I could do things and complete tasks regardless of how I liked doing it or "felt" like doing it. Whether it was staying committed to attending an event I agreed to months prior and ignoring my Introvert Dread, or working out early in the morning, I was always willing to do what I felt needed to be done.
I'd rather not make the pandemic the sole reason my self-discipline has fallen short. However, I will say at the pandemic's peak my mental and emotional health was probably at its worst. And at some point, it just became more and more difficult to overcome my feelings. My feelings started dictating my actions, which ultimately led me to abandon a lot of the things that kept me healthy and happy such as reading every day, attending events, getting exercise, eating properly, etc.
When I started revamping Serendipity & Such, I was mainly driven by the desire to get my sense of discipline back. As I've been told many times before: the way we do one thing is the way we do everything. Since December, I've been adamant about getting back into the habits that I know made me better. I want to share some of the things I've been doing to keep my self-discipline in check. But first, let's go into what self-discipline is and what it is for.
What is Self-Discipline?
When a lot of us hear the word "discipline", we may think of negative images like being punished or scolded. But discipline isn't always associated with punishment; in most cases, discipline is really just management either of the self or of others.
If you Google the phrase "self-discipline" right now, it will tell you this:
the ability to control one's feelings and overcome one's weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.
In other words, when we practice self-discipline we are really practicing self-control. Self-discipline is nothing but reinforcing what we already value by making sure our words align with our actions. As I mentioned before, a lot of why I continued feeling unhappy, unhealthy, gaining excess weight, etc. is because I was letting my emotions dictate my actions. I don't want this to be interpreted as "we have to ignore our feelings" and become robots that play by the book every single time. It's not a realistic expectation for us and it will lead to being discouraged during the times we slip up.
Feelings and emotions are wonderful and they are what make us human. But we can't use our emotions as a means to navigate life. Imagine if everything had to be done ONLY when someone felt like doing it and with no consequences for not doing so. Actually, you don't have to imagine it because I'm sure there has been at least one occasion where you were infuriated that someone didn't do what they were supposed to.
Yes, emotions are a big part of our life and we do need them. But we also have to train ourselves in knowing when our feelings will get in the way of something versus when they will actually help us. I'm obviously not an expert at this, but I've been revisiting concepts and practices that have helped me in the past I know they'll help me in my current journey.
When we want to overcome our emotions, we have to stop and think about why we need to. I know from experience that when you're feeling bad, it's difficult to get past it. But just taking a minute to really think about why I'm doing what I'm doing can really help me get over my feelings and continue.
One example would be a job, specifically one that's not exactly a "dream job" and not part of your lifelong goals. There are plenty of days where I don't "feel" like going to the office or logging into work, but I do anyway. Why? Because not showing up is enough reason for my employer to fire me. Whether you love or hate your job, you're ultimately there to make money. Because if you don't make money, you can't keep up with your lifestyle and/or bills. And if you can't keep up with your bills and rent/mortgage, you're in for a struggle. This is an easy example because we all know that there is a consequence to our actions (or inactions).
On weekdays when I work out, I have to get up early enough to get at least 30 minutes in, shower, take care of the dog, and either go into the office or log into work for the day. Waking up at 5:30 am and hopping on a treadmill does not sound fun to me and it probably never will. But sometimes I literally have to lay there after turning off my alarm and think about the consequences of not getting up:
If I don't get up and work out, I will slow down my progress in losing weight. If I slow down my progress in losing weight, I will get discouraged. If I don't get up now, there's nothing that will stop me from convincing myself tomorrow to do the same thing.
That is the consequence of not getting up and doing my workout. But consequences aren't always the same as the 'why':
I get up early and work out because I believe in taking care of my health and wellness. I know that I will feel better after it is all done. I get up early and work out because I believe my body is a precious gift and I want to do my part in taking care of it.
Truthfully, I apply this same logic when I go to social events. I'm an introvert and I love my alone time, and sometimes the day that the event comes I'd much rather just be alone wrapped in a blanket and binging YouTube videos and Kdramas instead. Instead, I think about this:
If I don't get up and go to this event, I am making myself out to be unreliable. My friends and/or colleagues may have to think twice before inviting me out again as it seems I have trouble committing to things. If I don't get up and go to this event I won't be considered reliable and accountable. I go to events and social gatherings with friends to spend quality time with them. I do it because I value our friendship and I respect my friends' time and effort
Visualizing the End Goal
I've been taught that when it comes to more long-term goals, having the goal "in front of you" can be really helpful. There's a reason why vision boards have become more popular in recent years. It's one thing to aspire for something, but our long-term goals can quickly become an "out of sight, out of mind" thing unless we keep reminders around. When we're able to see the end result, we start thinking about the "why" we're doing something and the consequences of not doing it. It's all interconnected.
The first time around when I went through a weight loss journey, I remember one of the things that helped me was keeping pictures in my room of outfits I would feel more confident wearing after the weight loss. While no one is necessarily stopping me from wearing those outfits right now, I thought it would be more rewarding to purchase those outfits after I reached my goal (another motivator to keep going).
Right now, I keep pictures of myself from my first health/weight loss journey circulating as wallpapers on my phone. Every time I pick up my phone, I'm reminded of what I'm after and that's usually enough for me to get out of bed in the morning to work out. Hanging pictures or having vision boards in a place where you'll always see them is definitely something I recommend for anybody who is after a long-term goal of any kind.
Put a Deadline On It
Napoleon Hill says that a dream is just a goal with a deadline. Having a deadline for a goal is definitely one way to stay disciplined when motivation is fleeting.
I've heard many people say that they work well under pressure. They are able to get things done when the stakes are high and when they know there's only a certain amount of time available in order for it to be done. Someone like this may find it difficult to stay disciplined with their habits if the goal they have doesn't have very high stakes. Sure, we can get up and commute to work whether we feel like or not because most of us have to. But what about goals that are important to us, but don't necessarily have a real consequence whether we reach them this year or the next? We create those stakes ourselves!
This is when a deadline comes in handy. We tend to operate differently when there's a date on the calendar and some sort of plans are set. There are plenty of Countdown oriented apps we can place on our phones as well. That way you already know how many days, hours, and minutes you have until your deadline comes. I find this crucial for me because I believe it's easy for me to fall back on "I have plenty of time". However, I can open my phone and see the Countdown widget and be smacked right back into reality.
I've said this before in a previous post, but I want to reiterate that I'm not making a case for perfectionism. We are human and it is expected that we will inevitably have a slip up or fall backward. The biggest thing that I'm focusing on is my consistency, but also my ability to recover after falling backward. Self-discipline can easily become self-harm when we lose sight of the bigger picture and beat ourselves up every single time we miss our habits.
I'm hopeful that my self-discipline will make a comeback. I remember being much happier when I allowed my actions to be dictated by what will help me in the long run rather than what will make me feel comfortable in the present moment. Whether it's writing, blogging, my health journey, or anything else, I know that self-discipline in one area of my life will influence the rest. I hope that everyone can begin to view self-discipline as a form of self-love.