Do your intentions fall short? Do your new year’s resolutions fizzle out year after year?
Do your plans for weight loss and fitness crash and burn in a pile of potato chip crumbs?
Why is it so difficult to follow through and accomplish what you set out to do? Usually, there is one important missing ingredient: personal discipline.
For most of us, the idea of discipline is an external force — it’s something that comes from the outside. For instance, we discipline our children. Most of us are familiar with discipline as a verb (something we do to someone else), but we’re not so familiar with the concept as a noun (something we cultivate from within and apply to ourselves).
“Nothing of importance is ever achieved without discipline. I feel myself sometimes not wholly in sympathy with some modern educational theorists, because I think that they underestimate the part that discipline plays. But the discipline you have in your life should be one determined by your own desires and your own needs, not put upon you by society or authority.” – Bertrand Russel (1872-1970)
Personal discipline is not a common attribute these days, especially in the west. For many, any remnants of personal discipline have been smothered by arrogance, a false sense of invincibility, and the attitude of entitlement. This short-sighted, bloated approach is the expectation that all things should come to you from the outside. Personal discipline is a balanced approach that recognizes that all things come from deep inside. Discipline works from the inside out.
What is Discipline?
Although rare, it’s not a complicated idea. Here’s a simplified look at the concept of personal discipline:
Discipline is a decision made for yourself, based upon the best information available at the time. The information is compelling enough so you recognize that a change in your behavior will enhance the quality of your life. The facts and the prospect of a better life are sufficient to inspire you to make a promise to yourself. Then, personal discipline is simply your moment-to-moment choices that allow you to keep your promise to yourself.
“Your mental attitude is something you can control outright and you must use self-discipline until you create a Positive Mental Attitude — your mental attitude attracts to you everything that makes you what you are.” – Napolean Hill
Weight Loss and Fitness
Here’s an example almost everyone can relate to: Most all of us have fantasized about being slimmer, more fit and healthier. For many, that’s as far as it goes. (But it’s a good start because fantasy is where all fantastic stuff comes from.) Most of us really don’t have the facts or the know-how to follow up on such a vague mental image as “being slimmer, more fit and healthier.” The reason these things rarely materialize for most of us that we are missing one or more key ingredient of personal discipline. Let’s take it step by step.
1. Get the facts. Motivate yourself by saturating yourself with pertinent information. This step provides you with compelling reasons WHY. As an example, thirty years ago when I quit smoking, I went to the library and spent a few hours with medical journals looking at pictures of terminal patients with lung cancer. I left there with very graphic, very compelling reasons WHY to quit smoking. I was motivated. I didn’t wait for those reasons to come to me. I knew how powerful they would be, so I went out and found them. This is the proactive approach to jump-starting motivation and personal discipline. (Back to the example of weight loss and fitness, see previous article, “Finally the Truth About Diet and Nutrition — The China Study Review.” This book will help provide you with compelling reasons WHY.)
“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” – Jim Rohn
2. Once you know why, it’s easier to make a good decision. In this example, the decision is to lose weight and be more fit. The reason why is because it will enhance the quality of your life. Spell it out to yourself in specifics, like this:
Being trim and fit will give me more energy. It will make me healthier, and my immune system will be stronger, so I am not susceptible to diseases. The quality of my life will be enhanced, as well as the quantity. Fact: healthy, fit people live longer than unhealthy fat ones. If these reasons are not compelling enough to inspire you, dig a little deeper. Try these:
I choose to be thinner so I look and feel sexier. If you are male, an improved diet can help with virility (or lack thereof) and put the problem of erectile dysfunction to bed without drugs. Get the facts — not the pharmaceutical industry’s propaganda, but study the hard science until you get a clear understanding of how nutrition affects bodily functions. (Again, refer to the previous article, “Finally the Truth About Diet — The China Study Review.” Read the review, and then read the book.)
Whatever motivates you, learn as much as you can to provide yourself with compelling reasons to follow through on your resolve.
If this still isn’t enough, maybe you have some personal image issues that are getting in the way of getting fit, just for yourself. If you can’t seem to do it for yourself, do it for those who love you. These are the same people who will be taking care of you if you don’t do it. Can you do it for them? Does that motivate you?
For example, the protein casein found in dairy foods has been scientifically linked to prostate cancer, as well as other cancers and other nasty diseases. Especially if you have a history or genetic links to any of these conditions, can you motivate yourself to quit putting that stuff in your mouth, for the sake of friends and family? Can you do it for your spouse?
If you get the facts and understand that something is literally killing you prematurely and that ignoring it can make your spouse an early widow or widower, can you squeeze a little personal motivation from that?
If you can’t motivate yourself for you, try this: Do it for those who love you. Your lack of discipline could result in you early demise . . . how long do you want to make them miss you?
3. With these first two steps in place, now you can make a promise to yourself. The objective is to saturate yourself with enough facts and resulting motivation so that you can keep your promise to yourself.
It Gets Easier
Before we actually get around to taking action, our imaginations run wild with terrifying scenarios about how difficult it will be to give up things in our diet. Instead, play the substitution game. Don’t allow yourself to feel deprived. This is all about enhancing your life — not about deprivation. Look for healthy and exciting alternatives. Broaden your horizons to include new things in your diet that you may have never tried otherwise.
Rejoice in the diversity. Feel gratitude for the information that allows you to enhance the quality of your life. And enjoy your new-found dedication to personal discipline and the enhanced self-image and vitality that comes with it. It’s worth the effort.
If you feel yourself beginning to slip by dwelling on a fleeting desire for something you know is not in alignment with the promise you made to yourself, stop. Give it a moment. See that it’s just a mental habit or possibly a physical addiction. It’s not supporting your new image of yourself.
Trust Your Feelings
If you give in to it, how will that make you feel? Is that how you want to feel? Your feelings will give you fool-proof feedback about whether or not any urge is in alignment with your deepest desires. (See previous article, “How Do You Feel — About Inner Guidance.”)
Does your target mental image look fit, slim and energetic? Any craving that flits across your mind that is not in alignment with your target mental image will pass, if you will just give it a little time. Train yourself to wait. When you get a craving, don’t act upon it immediately. Give yourself the benefit of the buffer of time. Every time you demonstrate the upper hand on cravings, it becomes easier the next time.
If you took the time to do step 2 thoroughly, your desire for fitness will be stronger than any fleeting urge to put something undesirable in your mouth. Just because it may be tasty or because you are used to it will no longer be good enough.
Ladies, is a moment on your lips worth a lifetime on your hips? Gentlemen, is a moment in your mutt worth a lifetime on your gut?
You’ve got to want your target more than you want any momentary indulgence. You do that by dwelling on step 2 — why.
If all the usual reasons are not compelling enough to inspire you to take action in sync with your desired objective, play your trump card: If you’re having trouble doing it for yourself, can you do it for those who love you? They will be the ones taking care of you if you break your promise to yourself. They will be your survivors. Can you follow the tips in this article and brush up on your self-discipline skills for their sake?
They’re counting on you. Now, count on yourself!
“In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves…self-discipline with all of them came first.” – Harry S. Truman (1884-1972)
The example in this article is primarily weight loss and fitness, but these three steps of discipline can be applied to all areas of your life. You can cultivate personal discipline to:
· Stop talking too much and listen more.
· Quit lashing out at your kids or spouse.
· Be kind and courteous — even to jerks.
· Be cheerful.
· Turn off the news and allow yourself to gravitate to a better attitude.
· Quit being judgmental.
· Take 3 deep breaths before you respond to a potentially volatile situation.
“Without discipline, there’s no life at all.” – Katharine Houghton Hepburn (b. 1909)
Self Discipline in 3 Steps Review:
1. Saturate yourself with the facts — lots of facts.
2. Make the decision of what you want — spell it out clearly in great detail.
3. Make a promise to yourself, and keep it.
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Trash Our Treasures
People seem to have a history of awarding seemingly insignificant details with places of prominence in our lives, while ignoring or even destroying the most important aspects.
Time of Our Lives
Take the Plunge
Bubba on the Barbie
Clean Plate Yodel
Fill o’ the Fair
Songs by Tupelo
Finally the Truth About Diet – The China Study Review
Is Food Your Medicine or Poison?
How Do You Feel – About Inner Guidance?
Enhance Your Self-Image on Purpose
Persistence and Perseverance for Winners – Losers Just Quit
Integrity Through Self-Reliance
How to Keep Your Word
Being Present through Sensuality
The Trouble with TV
Articles by Tupelo
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