Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Easing Into a Disciplined Lifestyle

Discipline is just doing what you know you're supposed to do.  Sounds simple enough.  But if it were that simple, we'd all be in perfect shape, have great health, lots of wealth and life would be like riding down easy street.  The truth though is, I am my own worst enemy.  I rarely really want to do what I'm supposed to do, but I'm very happy when I commit to doing the right thing.  It starts with a fair share of foresight.  You know what the ultimate goal is and there's only one way to obtain it.  So, if I want what's at the other end of the spectrum, then I have to do what it takes to get there.  So, will power is the bottom line.  It starts with a decision to do what you're supposed to do at that moment. It's unreasonable to commit to being perfect forever.  But whatever decision is before you at that moment, commit to making the right one at that moment.  Conquer one bad habit one day at a time - not all of them at once.

An example that I'd like to use is that I've gotten a lot better at going to the gym at least four days a week after work. It started out with just one day a week, then I gradually increased that commitment.  Besides, it's also kinda hard to make excuses when  you work in the same building where the gym is located.  It would be pretty pathetic to walk past all the exercise equipment everyday.  Now, I actually look forward to working out and feel deprived if I don't. I never thought that feeling was possible.    

Smarter eating habits have become a part of my disciplined life.  I purposely don't buy soft drinks and processed foods at the market.  I have a weakness for pastries, and I don't say I never eat them, but I've learned it's not smart to buy a bag or case of anything and bring it home.  Every now and then I might by one item that I'll eat and afterwards, I'm done.  There's not the temptation of going back and forth in the kitchen snacking on something I know is killing me.  Instead, the remedy is to have healthy choices at home...fruit, nuts, organic air popped popcorn is one of my favorites.  That beats the greasy, salty microwave popcorn any day.   The key is to prepare ahead of time, knowing that if you've already planned your meals and health snacks, you're less tempted to stop at a fast food place or eat junk food. Eating foods prepared properly at home is much healthier than pulling up to the drive-thru window.

Another area that I've noticed that I have to watch when trying to incorporate discipline in my daily life are the people who influence me.  Disciplined people tend to surround themselves with other disciplined people.  Just like at the gym, there tends to be the same crowd of folks that work out the same time I normally do.  There's a community of accountability.  In fact, the days I just don't have time to go to the gym, a few of my gym buddies will playfully harass me for not working out with them.  On the other hand, spending a great deal of time with people who have poor eating and exercising habits can influence you too.  Ultimately, you are responsible for your own behavior, but if you are prone to bad habits that you're trying to overcome, it would behoove you to spend more time with like-minded people to encourage you.  It's really a no brainer.  Think of the alcoholic going to AA Meetings, fighting for a life free of addiction.  Then imagine that person spending time at the bar with his drinking buddies, trying to stay strong.  It just doesn't make sense.

The final word about discipline is that you can't expect to see results overnight.  Habits are created over a period of time.  That's why fad diets and health gimmicks never work.  It's a lifestyle change.  You must believe that with consistency, you will see the results and others will notice too.  Don't give up, even if you mess up. It takes time to achieve discipline. It's only a matter of having a made up mind and keep reaching towards your goals.  Pretty soon, what once seemed very difficult, will be second nature.