Discipline, discipline, discipline! Many "self-help" books and gurus, as well as coaches, praise the benefits of "discipline" as the most powerful tool to achieve anything in life.
But the world is filled with people who struggle to achieve certain goals (weight loss, fitness regime, making a business work, spending time with family, staying away from social media, etc).
If you were to take a survey of people you know today, I would bet that over 50% can list goals they’ve struggle to achieve.
Are they ALL lacking discipline?
I don’t believe so at all. I learned this through the pursuit of my own goals, but also when coaching others in nutrition/wellness, endurance sports, and “life coaching”.
One thing which I hope I don’t have to convince you of is that “discipline requires energy”. No matter what you’re trying to do, the mental focus required to be disciplined consumes mental, emotional and physical energy.
And as human beings, the amount of energy we have every day is finite (limited), even if we adopt the “energy renewal” practices I recommend to include throughout your day.
And guess what: the moment when we need discipline the most, when temptations are hardest to resist, is ALWAYS the moment when we hit a “low energy level”!
So is it hopeless? Absolutely NOT: we just have to shift our focus on the “process” and not the “end result”. Here are my suggestions:
1. Write down your WHY
We all have a “general idea” of why we’re pursuing a certain goal, but do we “really” know?
Why are you trying to lose weight? No, I mean WHY!? What is the goal that burns inside of you?! The goal that you believe is a fuel that NEVER runs out?
Write that “why” down in big bold letters, and stick it to your fridge or bathroom mirror!
Without a strong enough “WHY”, we can’t achieve anything.
2. Remove temptations from your path
People tend to eat “junk” in the evening, when their energy is lowest and stress is highest – easy fix: nothing to tempt you in the house.
3. Time your goals with your energy levels
Your energy is highest when you wake up in the morning, so get your workout/mediation/reading/success habits done then! This has the added benefit of “replenishing your energy” for the rest of the day.
Starting the day with a “win” will give you a strong sense of accomplishment which will carry you through the rest of the day.
By the way, working out in the evening elevates your cortisol (stress hormone) levels, making you “crave” sweets at night and disrupting your sleep, so it’s always better to work out in the morning.
4. Remove obstacles, don’t’ try to “push through them”
When I work with people looking to lose weight, a big portion of my questions and recommendations has nothing to do with diet and exercise: I focus on what is “stopping you from eating clean and working out”.
And in 99% of the cases, the reasons are (i) work-related stress, (ii) family-related stress, (iii) life-related stress. And without fail: remove THESE obstacles makes it FAR easier to develop healthy eating & fitness habits.
And if you’re still not convinced that discipline is not the best way to achieve major goals, here’s the scientific explanation:
- Discipline is most required when facing difficult choices
- When faced with difficult choices, you’re stressed: cortisol gets elevated
- Cortisol causes Insulin to spike, causing fluctuations in blood glucose (sugar)
- Those fluctuations dramatically affects cognitive (brain) function and ability to make smart decisions
- Those fluctuations also cause major sugar & fat cravings, which in turn cause Insulin to spike again, putting you into a vicious circle
- The effort required to “resist” temptations at such point in time push your stress hormones (cortisol) even HIGHER! Basically giving the whole process I’m describing an even bigger boost (in the wrong direction).
If you think this can help someone you know, please share!
If you’re struggling with “discipline” and looking for some advice, drop me a note.