As I’ve built a more disciplined life, I’ve become clearer on what self discipline means to me.
Ultimately, it comes down to this:
Self Discipline = Consistently doing things you don’t want to do
Now, on the surface that sounds pretty miserable right? One could make the argument – what sort of a life is that to live? But, let me tell you, without any doubt at all, it’s EXACTLY the right type of life to live.
The things you don’t want to do aren’t usually big or horrible – they’re minor points of discomfort. In most cases, it’s not even discomfort – it’s more that there is an easier and more comfortable alternative. And once you get into it, it’s always less uncomfortable than you imagine.
Let me give you some examples:
I never feel like drinking a litre of water within the first thirty minutes of waking up. It’s not overly uncomfortable to do. There’s just an element of discomfort, and therefore friction associated with it. Instead, its very tempting to wake up, drink a black coffee and get started with the day. But, almost every morning, drinking a litre of water within thirty minutes of waking up is exactly what I do. Because I know if I don’t, I will struggle to hit my goal of three litres per day.
I rarely feel like working out. I’d guess I feel like it about 20% of the time. It’s always tempting to put it off and do something easier and warmer instead. But, if I plan to workout, I WILL workout. I push the temptation to the back of my mind, put on my trainers, and get out for a walk (first part of my warm up). I then get into the garage gym and push through the rest of the warm up (yeah – still not feeling like working out). Then I get into the session. By now, I’m either happy to be doing it, or at least OK with it. I continue to push through that early friction and discomfort because I know I have to do it. If I want to be healthy, fit and happy in my own skin, I have to do it.
Everyday, I eat within an eight hour window – usually between 1PM and 9PM. I start to become aware of some hunger around mid morning (I’m feeling it now as I write this at 11:30). I feel this because I’m either genuinely hungry, or because eating would be nice (I kinda like food). Almost every day, I observe that feeling of hunger and discomfort, and I choose not to eat. I do this because I know sticking to my fasting period helps me eat less and make better food choices. This is foundational to my health and fitness goals.
Like I said, these examples are not big or horrible things. Simply, they are things I would rather not be doing – and there is a much easier and comfortable alternative.
My day is filled with these moments. Whilst I don’t choose the right option all of the time, I do choose it most of the time (80% is good enough, remember?).
OK, let’s go back to the argument of consistently doing things you don’t want to do – what sort of a life is that to live? Exactly the right one. These moments aren’t a huge hardship. They’re about making conscious decisions to delay short term gratification, for a much, much bigger prize.
What is that much, much bigger prize?
It’s being at a body weight I am comfortable with. It’s being comfortable taking my top off. It’s having energy. It’s being in a good and optimistic mood. It’s being in good health – meaning a good lifespan and healthspan . It’s having pride and confidence, that comes from making good decisions and living life the right way.
Imagine the inverse – leading an undisciplined life. One where you take the easier and more comfortable option more often than not. That leads to being overweight. Being embarrassed to take my top off. Being tired a lot of the time. Feeling down. Having health problems. Struggling with confidence. Fuck that. It makes all of those moments of discomfort worth it.
I’ll say one other thing, that I only realised in writing this article. The sense of pride and confidence you feel from consistently doing things you don’t want to do, is one hell of a feeling. It helps to soften and neutralise those moments of discomfort.
It’s clear to me that the bigger prize, combined with how you feel about yourself on a day to day basis when you consistently do things you don’t want to do – that’s exactly the right life to live. There’s no question about it.
 Lifespan is the total number of years we live, whereas healthspan is how many of those years we remain healthy and free from disease.
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