The holidays have officially concluded which means so has indulging in decadent food and drink, traveling to visit loved ones, festive get-togethers, and the stress that naturally surrounds this time of year. The New Year has arrived, along with many bright, shiny, and hopeful resolutions. Many are at the peak of committing themselves to “Getting back on track,” “Starting fresh,” or my personal favorite (heavy sarcasm) proclaiming “New year, new me!” I’m not saying these intentions are inherently bad, it’s the approach I’m not a fond of. The reality is, this influx of fresh and potent January motivation will inevitably dwindle and fade away. Even with the very best intentions, a large majority of New Year’s resolutions will lose momentum and come to a crashing halt. Why? Motivation is fleeting. I personally do not let my efforts hang on motivation, nor do I pay much attention to it.
My stance on motivation is not meant to discourage, but rather provide a realistic and alternative mindset that will assist you in crushing your goals. So how then, can you accomplish something without motivation? I am not saying you should not have fuel for your fire and a passion for change, but there needs to be a better foundation underlying your efforts. It’s a breeze to be motivated when life is good, stress is low, and everything seems to be falling into place. Yet, what happens when the hard times emerge and everything crumbles into pieces? Your motivation will likely be the first thing to go; as fast as it sparked into your life, it will fizzle just as quickly. I know from experience that my motivation will wax and wane depending on my mood, circumstances, the weather, and whatever new series is trending on Netflix. Life is simply unpredictable! You need a reliable force to combat the instability of daily life happenings. Does such a thing exist!? It does, and it’s a skill anyone can develop – it’s discipline.
I’m aware many people view discipline as something only the exceptionally self-controlled and structured individuals possess, but I am here to tell you it’s an ability you too can acquire. Think about it this way; how does anyone get better at anything? They do it, over and over and over again. The more you do something, the easier it gets. Practice makes perfect – yes, but I prefer the phrase practice strengthens habit. Discipline is a natural byproduct of purposeful repetition. Discipline can be thought of as a muscle, the more your work it, the stronger and more resilient it becomes. Discipline is not fleeting, it is trustworthy. Whether your goal is to exercise regularly, eat a nutritious diet, better manage your stress, or become a ninja – you want to be disciplined in your approach!
If you want to strengthen your discipline muscle starting today, apply these 6 steps to your life and you’ll become a ninja (er um a healthier individual) magnificently!
- Plan ahead! Failing to plan is planning to fail. If you do not have a clear outline of the actions you need to take to reach your goal, there is a strong chance for poor follow through. For example, if you walked into a grocery store with no shopping list, it would be pretty difficult to know all you need to create nutritious meals and snacks for your upcoming week.
- Start SMALL. When I say small, I mean painfully small – think baby steps. If you currently do not exercise on a regular basis but have a goal to consistently go to the gym 5 days per week, commit to one day per week and increase frequency over time. Slowly work up to your goal in increments; once you feel confident in your micro-change, build upon that. Moving forward in a baby step fashion will make working toward your goal much less daunting and much more sustainable!
- Find an Accountabili-Buddy! A fun word for a friend who desires to embark on a similar journey with you. Having someone in your corner that can encourage you during the tough times but also celebrate in your success is a real game changer! Empathy is a powerful emotion showing that you are not going through this change (and challenge) alone. I am always in favor of both having and being a support system.
- Make a daily CAN DO list. Many of us currently have a TO DO list but I prefer calling it a CAN DO list. This word swap allows some forgiveness so that if something does not get completed, there will be no added pressure or sense of guilt (which can potentially derail you). Do not let a piece of paper add stress to your life, please! Your CAN DO list allows you to see your action plan outlined on paper that you can reference throughout your journey.
- Allow yourself to fail. Even after taking the necessary steps to plan ahead, your journey will still never be perfect. Why? Because you are not a robot, you are human. The path to success is largely trial and error. If you never fail along the way, there’s a good chance you are playing it too safe and not taking necessary risks. Bonus – you will learn from your mistakes which facilitates personal growth.
- Keep an open mind. There is a great chance that along your journey you will need to alter your approach. Continuously ask questions and reevaluate if what you are doing is moving you closer or farther away from your goal. If your daily actions (AKA baby steps) are not helping you progress forward, reroute and head down a new road. Remaining curious about the direction you are taking will also help you better understand why you are doing what you are doing and likely reinforce its importance to you.
Cheers to 2018, a stronger discipline muscle, and a better you!
Author: Alisha Lorincz, R.D.N.