I am the first to admit I am not the most disciplined person to ever walk to Earth. There are so, so many areas that I need to improve upon in my life, I don’t even know where to begin. But there are a couple of things in my life that look a lot like discipline, and that I am proud to place in the realm of discipline. Such things include:
- Waking up pre-sunrise to immediately run far and fast.
- Running hill repeats or a speed interval workout, with no one telling me how far to go or how many reps I should do, but yet sticking to a predetermined amount, no matter how difficult it becomes.
- Eating primarily a plant-based diet and forgoing pleasure-inducing food items such as junk and fast food.
I believe it to be part of the human nature to set lofty goals; lofty almost unattainable goals. As a species, we are seeking the thrills of improvement. It’s unsatisfying to stay stagnate, even if our stagnation is rooted in something positive, like a well-balanced exercise regime or diet.
My personal goals for improvement resonate under the blanket of “have more discipline” and specifically include the following:
- Eat less peanut butter. (I am ashamed to admit this, but often, all I want to do is attack a jar of organic, fresh-pressed peanut butter with a spoon and go to town. Sometimes this is exactly what I do. I like to tell myself that it is my primary protein and caloric source, but it’s me “not having discipline”.)
- Get on Facebook less.
- Stop objectifying customers and/or judging them on what kinds of coffee-esque drinks they order for me to make.
- Eat less bread. (Mostly because this makes me feel sluggish and lethargic, not not not because I am “anti-carbohydrates”. Carbohydrates should be the bulk of our diets, unless one is absolutely not about movement or activity. Although I firmly believe that vegetables and fruits are a greater source of carbohydrates than breads, starches, and potatoes. But another day.)
Do you see a theme to these goals? They are centered on “what not to do”.
Folks, this is setting goals up for complete failure.
It’s like when people decide they “won’t eat after 8pm”. What happens? The only thing they think about after 8pm is food.
When we focus on the negative aspects, the “can’t do”s and the “shouldn’ts” or the “do less of”, our brain doesn’t fully comprehend subconsciously the “can’t” part of it and instead focuses on what comes after. Don’t eat peanut butter by the spoonful? Brain translation: [eat peanut butter by the spoonful!!!!]
And then inevitably I get frustrated by failure and give up.
So here is a new perspective on achieving goals and obtaining discipline.
Introducing: tricking yourself.
Instead of saying, “I am going to eat less peanut butter and obtain more discipline”, instead say, “for a snack today, I am going to eat these fresh cut apple slices”. There isn’t anything inherently stated about peanut butter, but nevertheless, you have achieved your goal of eating less peanut butter.
Instead of saying, “Today I am going to get on Facebook less”, transform that to “During those brief moments of awkwardness between classes and I pull out my phone, I am going to click on Josie’s blog and read an article”. Your brain isn’t enthralled by suggestions of Facebook, and you achieve your goal.
Oftentimes, in order to achieve discipline in a certain area, you must replace the negative behavior and then focus on what you have replaced it with.
Steps Toward Achieving Goals:
So here are some briefly outline steps toward achieving goals and getting better at discipline:
- Identify the negative behavior that you would like to change [example: judge customers less on their drink orders]
- Identify the times that you most struggle with this [when I hear the door bell ping open, or when the customer comes up to the counter and sighs wearily]
- Come up with ideas of positive behaviors to replace the negative behavior with [as soon as I hear the door open, I am going to think of one thing I am grateful for. As soon as the customer walks up to the counter, I am going to take the time to notice something that I like about the customer.]
- Remind yourself of your positive behavior substitute. [ask a co-worker to do it with me so that it will stick].
The more times you can switch something negative to a positive, the more likely you are to succeed at it and also succeed better, faster, and easier. When I do hill repeats, I don’t think “Ugh, I’ve got 10 more of these to go”, I think, “I’ve already done 2, and I feel like I just started!” or “I’ve already done 2, I only have 5 more sets to go! That’s nothing!”
When I wake up early in the morning, I don’t allow myself to think “gotta get this over with”. I think, sometimes very loudly, “YEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHH I LOVE RUNNNNING!!!” (Is it bad to start the morning with a lie? No, I think not.)
I think that’s how discipline is obtained. Choosing to see positives and replace negatives with pleasing substitutes that are easier to entertain.
Peace and Blessings,