Each new year offers a fresh start, new beginnings, and a worldwide surge to becoming the person you always wished to be. No matter your resolution for this new year, there is one solidifying factor that resonates throughout all our goals: discipline.
I want to lose 25lbs. I want to eat better. I want to stop swearing. I want to exercise three to five times a week. I want, I want, I want… The underlying ace in the hole is not the goal itself, but the discipline you are willing to commit yourself to, to get up and get going. Discipline is truly the make-it-or-break-it element to success.
My Love-Hate Relationship with Discipline
I haven’t always been as locked in on discipline as I am today. This probably explains the majority of my failures in goals, relationships, finances, and job success. I can look back on nearly every aspect of my life and ask, “How disciplined were you here?” I then quickly get that oooooh moment where I see how something took off and I was roaringly successful — or I fell on my face.
Take my current job, for example. I love what I do and where I do it. I work in an athletic department where I spend my entire workday with 500 18- to 22-year-olds who are, for the most part, totally motivated. I get to be brash, lead large groups, listen to loud music, and get more done before 8:00am than most do in an entire day. I work at one of the most prestigious universities in the country, located in a place Oprah Winfrey nicknamed “The Happiest Town in America” (San Luis Obispo, California). I’m lucky to do what I do, and I’m proud of myself for being fully aware of my luck in the moment, every day.
None of this came without big decisions, large sacrifices, and a level of discipline that couldn’t be measured. My job is based on wins and losses. Period. The more the athletic department wins, the safer I am in my position. If we have rough years, my neck could be on the line. So taking my foot off the gas is never an option. It is my unrelenting discipline, like that of my athletes, that has kept my success level high and my job satisfaction even higher.
So my question to you is this: when you look back on your successes and failures, can you plug the idea of discipline into the equation and see where you went right or went wrong? I bet you can.
But there’s something amazing about discipline that is often misunderstood. The more you focus your energy on being disciplined, the more the notion of “not having enough time” is reversed. Let me give you some examples.
We all, on some deep human level, love to move. You wouldn’t be reading this post on this website if there wasn’t some degree of truth to that statement. It’s the vehicle to everything health related, it’s the underlying factor behind feeling good about how we look, and it is, in its own right, a drug.
Many of my past health issues were quickly reversed the moment I ramped up my exercise. When I look back on photos of myself where I looked my best, I can remember those were times when I was training the hardest. And, there’s nothing better than that daily dose of exhilaration when you wrap up the day’s training with an endorphin high and a feeling of accomplishment.
Exercising doesn’t need to take hours and hours. There are dozens upon dozens of activities you can do that will give you exactly what you need in a very short amount of time. Row 2000 meters, do 100 kettlebell swings, jog for 30 minutes, swim, go on a hike, or do some circuit training. All of these things are not day-killers and can be the magic behind changing nearly every aspect of your life for the better.
This one is my personal nemesis. I love food. I love nasty, fatty, sugary, greasy foods forbidden by every dietician. This holiday season, I got a full two weeks’ vacation and my family and I traveled all over California. In two weeks, I worked out five times (well below my normal average) and ate badly — every, single, day. As you can imagine, my mouth was happy, but when I got home and back on the scale, I had gained ten pounds. (None of which, I might add, was muscle.)
Eating right can be really hard. We all are locked into our routines and habits that can be nearly impossible to shake. But here’s the deal: if you are foodie like me, giving your taste buds a break and allowing them to “reset” can make all the difference in creating long-term change in your diet.
When I am eating poorly, things like vegetables just don’t taste good to me. But when I am disciplined with my fork and my pallet is clean, things like lean meats, fruits, and vegetables taste magnificent. Thus, eating healthier becomes easier and easier, and with each passing day begins to become more and more satisfying.
Tip: I find not letting myself get truly hungry is one of the best ways to remain disciplined when it comes to food. Drink plenty of clean water and keep the healthy foods coming.
Meditation, Tai Chi, Qigong, or Prayer
We know that health and happiness run deeper than food and exercise. That said, creating a daily practice of meditation or mindfulness can feel daunting when it comes to arranging your day. But, like other healthy activities, when we plan well, these beneficial habits only actually take a short time while the upsides are long lasting:
- I wake up and do my favorite meditation, The 6-Phase Meditation on the Omvana app. It’s free and is a life changer. It takes about 20 minutes.
- My tai chi practice takes about 8 minutes and is usually performed somewhere midday when I can find a short block of time.
- My qigong practice is one of my favorite times of the day. I can get through my entire practice in less than 15 minutes and it’s like being plugged into a wall socket. This one is completely invigorating and absolutely necessary for me.
- Lastly, I do a 4-minute meditation before going to bed that I created myself. Actually, it’s three mini-meditations mashed together to not only clear my system but to ensure deep, deep sleep.
Investing a total of 45 minutes a day like I do on centering and quieting might not be doable for most people. But I am positive we all can take ten minutes each day to get quiet and meditate, do our favorite qigong practice, or practice yoga or tai chi. You don’t have to invest a ton of time to get a ton of benefit.
If you are having trouble finding time in your day, then wake up early. Many of these activities register to your system the same as sleep. Many monks sleep about two hours a night, then spend most of the waking day meditating. They never get into a situation where they are depleted because the act of sleeping is a yin activity, in terms of Chinese philosophy, and these other activities are also very yin in nature.
By the way, prayer can be included in this category for those of you who are so inclined.
The Magic Ingredient of Discipline
The important thing to take from this is that everything I’ve discussed is attainable if you add some discipline into the mix. Actually, any aspect of your life can and will vastly improve if you find yourself sticking to your plan.
Many of us self-sabotage. We have a tendency to set goals, then give up on them nearly the second after we’ve conceived them. Our goals feel too big and overwhelming. There are ways, however, to streamline anything you want in life once you make the decision to stick with it.
If you are like me, and love to read and investigate the most successful people in this world, then you know that all of them share one common denominator — discipline.
I wish you all the best of luck in your resolutions and encourage you to have faith in yourself. Congratulations on waking up today in this great place and getting the chance to live another glorious day. Don’t waste it.