The Secrets of Developing Self-Discipline

When I experienced a deep, dark depression a couple years ago, it happened to me. It’s the same thing that happens to most people who experience depression. “It” is weight fluctuation. Depression can cause people to either gain a lot of weight or lose too much weight. For me, it was gaining weight. For the first time in my life, my BMI reached the point of being in the category of “obese.”
There is some good news, however! I began getting more serious about weight loss, and as of last week, I have lost 23 pounds! I’m still not where I want to be, but I’m definitely on my way!
So, what happened? Why was I able to finally start successfully doing what I knew I should be working on? Since I’m passionate about personal development as well as inspiring health, I thought I would share what worked for me. I hope these can inspire you to finally get going on whatever area of your life you have been needing more self-discipline. Whatever that is for you, I give you my personal secrets to self-discipline:
1. Removing your excuses WILL NOT WORK!
I’m actually not referring to how your excuses aren’t valid. While your excuses probably aren’t valid, I’m referring to how removing those excuses won’t work. We tend to use our excuses as a crutch, when the problem is really something different. If you say, “Having kids makes it impossible to exercise,” you probably would not be exercising if you didn’t have those kids either. During our busy season at work, we often order out, making it difficult to eat healthy. Last year, I told myself I would eat better when our busy season ended, but did I? Nope! I still pigged out on Cheez-Its!
2. You need to get sick and tired of being sick and tired.
If you follow Dave Ramsey, you have surely heard him talk like this about financial self-discipline. It’s called hitting rock bottom. Rock bottom is at different levels for different people, but you can make where you are RIGHT NOW your rock bottom so that you’ll finally get started RIGHT NOW. Quit trying to counsel your mind to think, “I’ll be okay.” Let your mind be sickened at not having that self-discipline you want. I experienced this point when I saw most of my biometric numbers outside the normal range. I got sick and tired of my health that day, and I finally decided to do more!
3. Manipulate your habits.
I learned about this kind of psychology from a great book: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It is important to study what cues your habits. I tend to look at Facebook too much on my phone instead of spending quality time with my wife and daughters. Because I want to change that, I’m trying to discover what cues me to look at my phone. By discovering that, I will manipulate that cue to initiate a conversation with my family rather than pulling out my phone. For my weight loss, 11:30 a.m. was my cue. When 11:30 showed up on my computer screen, I went to lunch. I instead had to change the 11:30 cue to be my time that I go to the gym, then eat lunch afterwards. It worked, and now it feels weird to not go to the gym at 11:30.
4. Accountability.
Without having my neighbor, Bob, willing to run with me long distances every Sunday morning, I would sleep in until church. I do not like waking up at 5:30, but knowing I am supposed to meet someone who cares about me and my running does help! Be careful though when you use accountability. Don’t ask someone to keep you accountable when you don’t treat it seriously. Those people will begin to not take you seriously.
5. Invest actual money.
Call me crazy, but I invested not only in one gym membership, but two. Yes, I have a gym membership at work as well as a membership at the YMCA. (People who know me know that I’m cheap too. You spend money on things that are important to you though.) I found that the gym at work is convenient for my lunch workouts, but the YMCA does have a pool! It is very much worth the money to be able to swim laps. I enjoy swimming, and the variety in workouts makes it more interesting and more well-rounded. Investing in good shoes, workout clothes, etc. helps motivate you also; it gets you more excited about getting healthy.
6. Grit.
Bite the bullet. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. When you do good things, even though you just don’t feel like it, that’s when you get strong! If I ever end a workout with a smile, a dry shirt, or normal breathing patterns, I did not give it enough grit, and I will not lose weight. As tough as that can sound, the good part is about 30 minutes later. My brain chemistry does amazing things! I end up getting a brain high that feels awesome! It makes all that pain so worth it! And then when I watch numbers go down on that scale, my high is fueled even more!
You can use these tricks with anything. Do you want to get healthier? Do you want to invest more in your spouse? What about your kids? Your friends? Do you need to do more for your community? Your career? Your faith? Are there bad habits you want to break? Good habits you want to start?
I’m interested in your thoughts. Leave me a comment with anything you want to share about these principles in your own life.
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