Ugh. Here is another word I really hate, self-discipline.
I mean the word sounds so important and serious, and it has such a negative connotation too. But, if we take the time to think about it, isn’t this important word the foundation of other words like purposeful, intentional, making time for _______ (insert your own word – exercise, sleep, rest…)?
The other words sound better don’t they? But they also can simply be fluff if we don’t put some weight behind them.
Recently I had a bit of an aha moment. Even though my word for 2016 is Purposeful, I find that I don’t always have the self-discipline or self-leadership to pursue that word. Some days I do, thankfully, but there are other days when the stress level is high, plans change last-minute, or I am so exhausted that self-discipline flies out the window, especially in relation to food, rest, and exercise.
In the end, it is something we all need to cultivate more of in order to pursue a healthier, happier and more balanced life.
In previous posts, I’ve talked about the book Essentialism. In it the author Greg McKeown walks you through determining the essentials in your life, and what needs to be removed from your schedule and commitments.
The key to this book, however, lies in the sub-title, “The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”. There’s that word again.
Learning to set boundaries, learning to eat better, get more exercise, and making self-care a priority, it all takes a disciplined pursuit.
Making Self-Discipline A Positive Word
We all have some measure of self-discipline. We get up, we sleep, we eat, get kids to school, do our chores, feed the dog… but we can all use more right?
Self-leadership always precedes team leadership. Those around you are always watching – how you deal with people, crisis, conflict, unmet expectations, success, and failure. ~Daniel Harkavy
It’s such an important aspect of our lives and it impacts EVERY part of the Wheel of Life:
- Spiritual: Going to church, reading your Bible
- Financial: Spending wisely, living within your budget
- Physical: Eating healthy, exercising
- Career: Getting to work on time, doing good work, growing your expertise
- Family: Spending time with family, making lasting memories
- Mental/Personal Development: Taking regular breaks, creating intentional downtime, pursuing hobbies
- Social: Being a part of your community
- Caregiving: (I’m adding this one…) asking for help when needed, and making sure self-care is a priority
To make any of these areas work, we have to first need to learn the discipline of leading ourselves. But boy, looking at that list it sounds totally overwhelming doesn’t it?
Leo Babauta of Zenhabits.com says that changing behavior takes planning and deliberate steps:
- Start Small
- Get Started
- Enjoy the Change
- Stick to the Change
- Adjust Again
Start Small & Build Momentum
Building self-discipline into your life takes planning. It takes knowing yourself, where you are doing well, where you might slip up, and need extra help.
This podcast from Unemployable with Brian Clark interviews Michael Shankman and the steps he has taken to deal with his lack of impulse control in relation to his ADHD. He has boundaries in place that set him up for success and takes known issues out of the equation. I found his story inspiring.
Starting small also means that you don’t take on the biggest and most daunting area in your life. Set yourself up for success by picking something you can start right away like:
- Walking 5 minutes longer tomorrow, add another 5 minutes a few days later.
- If you haven’t read your Bible in awhile, pick a short Psalm or just one verse to read today. And do the same tomorrow.
- Watch a lot of TV? Reduce your tube time by 1 hour this week.
When you set yourself up for success you will begin to build momentum and grow into the bigger areas you need to address, with confidence.
Lead by Example
As you make these small changes that lead to big changes in your life, others will take notice. Over time you will be, look, and feel healthier. Friends and family will take notice and some will be inspired to make changes of their own. Now you can help them!
It won’t happen overnight, it will take time. It will take trial and error to find what works for you. It will take adjusting and tweaking of your course along the way. If you don’t start small, you will give up. You will continue to feel overwhelmed and discouraged.
It is important to remember that small consistent steps lead to big changes and results over time.
Learning self-discipline will help you to live a healthier, balanced life. You can become a change-maker in your family. How amazing would that be?
What is one small area you could start adding more self-discipline into your life this week?
Marta Goertzen is an entrepreneur, writer and nature photographer. She daily explores the trails and beaches of the South Central Oregon Coast with her buddy Bailey. You can follow along on their adventures on Instagram. She is also the author of several books including her newest, “Choosing Gratitude: A Daily Quiet Time Journal”.