Why don’t I have any!?
When you think of having discipline or willpower, those two words show up in very large type in the thought bubbles over your head. They’re intimidating and can make you feel less than capable. My hope is this post will encourage you and help you stop beating yourself up!
In reality, what most people have in so-called discipline or willpower is simply the ability to make good decisions. It’s a decision to do what’s best for you; to do what’s best for your body, to HONOR your body. Sometimes the decision is based solely on what’s best for your family and the people you love. It is a CHOICE – one by one. And once you understand that, it becomes easier to make those healthier choices.
Some choices are easier than others. Some make us want to tear out our hair, right? But those should be major life-changing decisions (like whether or not to pull the life support from a family member) and not over simple, basic, everyday things like whether or not to have a second slice of pie!
Do you know why brushing your teeth is so easy? Because at some point in our childhood, after getting past the age where someone was standing over us making us do it, we ourselves made the CHOICE to brush our teeth at certain times of the days. And we’re rewarded with the feeling of a clean mouth afterward. It’s the same reason we bathe and shower. There’s no better feeling than that clean feeling, and it’s instant gratification
My mom always used to say things were “Mind over matter,” and I never really understood that until a few years ago. It’s an exercise that uses your logical brain (not your monkey brain) to talk yourself off the ledge, rather than letting your body, your flesh, rule over you.
I hate to tell you this, but if you’re going to succeed, you are also going to struggle. The struggle may not be as difficult later when you have new habits and you’ve been practicing them for a while, but the struggle will still rear it’s ugly head from time-to-time. Listening to your life involves looking at the pressure you put yourself under and asking yourself what’s really going on that’s pushing you to eat something you know you shouldn’t or wouldn’t usually, or what’s keeping you from having the energy to go to an exercise class. There’s no success without being mindful of the challenge that’s put before you. If it’s something you struggle with it can sneak back up if you’re not living aware. You will start slowly slipping back into those practices like a comfy old bathrobe because the habit just fits! And it’s familiar!
If you like dates wrapped in bacon, sprinkled with brown sugar and apple butter now, you’re going to like them 10, 20 or even 50 pounds from now. The difference will be your CHOICE. You choose to say no. You choose health over what you want in the moment, you choose to be in control. Doesn’t mean you’ll never have them again, it just means YOU will decide when, where and how often. And you may decide those are special occasion dates- i.e., your birthday or anniversary only – rather than every single time you go to the restaurant that serves them (pointing three fingers back at myself right now).
And it might not be food. Maybe it’s making that decision to take a walk when you’d rather be watching Netflix, but, instead, you decide to reward yourself with Netflix AFTER you’ve taken that walk or gone to the gym, . The key here with any major life change is the understanding that YOU decide, YOU CHOOSE – not what’s on the plate. Or as I like to say, “you’ve come too far to take orders from a cookie.”
We only get one chance at this. This life is not practice, and it’s not a dress rehearsal. THIS IS it. “Discipline” is achieved by going step-by-step, decision-by-decision, moment-by-moment, doing what you know you’re supposed to do, and saying “no” when your body and mind are screaming “YES!” And remember, the body/mind screams “YES” because it wants to keep you safe and keep things as the status quo. So it means practicing restraint when your tongue says right now! Saying “wait” when you smell the aroma of a grilled burger as you drive by Burger King. It is choosing something else when your body wants you to choose what’s right in front of you (sofa or walk – that’s a tough one!).
So yes, you’ll struggle. And yes, this may be simplifying the process a little too much. But I promise you, if you see “Discipline” and “Willpower” as big rocks chipped away at by those little pebbles called “decision,” you’ll have a much easier go at it!