The 3 best ways to stay disciplined FOREVER!
How is it that some people seem to achieve their goals and others do not? Is it a lack of desire, drive, motivation? Maybe but not always. When we don’t see the results we want, we blame it on lack of self discipline. How many times have you told yourself that you’re not disciplined or not consistent enough. So why do we struggle with staying committed to our goals, no matter how good our intentions are?
At the beginning of this year I told myself I wanted to be healthy, so I challenged myself to go to the gym for a minimum of 5 times a week. Crazy I know, but to me a healthy and fit person went to the gym often. At first it seemed like this was something I would get excited about for approximately a week and then it would fizzle out. However, I’m happy to report that I have stayed true to my challenge and here is why I know it will absolutely stay like this for a long time to come.
Last year I stumbled across a YouTube video by Tony Robbins where he addresses the difficulty of staying disciplined and he said something that completely blew my mind. He said, “we all act consistent with who we believe are”. He talks about how a smoker will remain a smoker if they maintain the mindset of a smoker. The difference between someone who is not a smoker and someone who is trying to quit, is that the first person will probably never accept a cigarette because they remain disciplined to that identity, but the second person will slip up ever so often because they identify with the identity of being a smoker who is trying to quit. What is also interesting is that both people have the same desire, to remain healthy and not to smoke but the identity they have put upon themselves are entirely different. I have always wanted to model, so I needed to have the mindset of a model. What is the most basic thing that models do? They exercise, they take care of their bodies because their bodies are their livelihood. So what naturally started to happen is I wanted to model the life of a model. You become what you believe.
At the beginning of each year, we come up with goals or resolutions that help us map out our lives for a certain period of time (usually a year) and for most people, we are well meaning. We want to succeed but what we fail to understand is the role that goals actually play. Goals give us the direction of our actions (which is very important) but they do not drive us to the finish line. James Clear whose book I’m reading “Atomic Habits” (the most life changing book I’ve read on self improvement) says “we do not rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems". What does James mean? Well basically he is saying that it is not our goals that push us to where we desire to be, it is not based on motivation or desire either, it is based on how well our environment is designed to foster the habits that will get us to the finish line. Basically goals are the Google maps, but our habits do the driving.
Good habits are hard to create especially when we get older, but they are the fundamental ingredient in getting what we desire. We all know that if we want to lose weight we need to get into the habit of being at a caloric deficit. If I wanted to be healthy I needed to get in the habit of eating healthy and exercising. So here’s what I did:
I slept earlier. Just by sleeping earlier, I naturally woke up earlier so I didn’t sleep in during what was supposed to be my gym session.
I removed my phone out of the room. I knew that having my phone near my bedside table instantly meant that I would waste time on social media. So I hid my phone underneath my gym clothes in the kitchen. The only way to get my phone in the morning was to go into the kitchen, and get my phone under my gym clothes. At that point I figured I may as well put on my clothes since they were already there and I ended up catching ip on social media on my way to the gym.
I got an exercise guide. Getting a guide took away the burden of having to think what it was I was going to do everyday. I knew every morning as I woke up what body part I was working out. It was simple. The videos, the notes, the weights it was all spelt out to me. All I had to was show up.
Finally if all else failed I got a gym buddy. Use the need to fit in to your advantage. Knowing that I had someone waiting for me at 6am everyday made making excuses incredibly hard. Steps 1-3 fell naturally because I reinforced them with step 4.
James talks about creating as little friction as possible when it comes to creating your desired habit and creating as much friction as possible when trying to break a bad one. If you want to floss your teeth everyday make sure the floss stands right next to to your tooth brush. The likelihood of you actually flossing your teeth is automatically increased because the floss is right in front of you. He also says if you want to stop watching tv, try turning the tv to face the wall and taking the batteries out the remote. By making it harder to watch tv, you can create a substitute habit that you actually want to engage on, like. getting on your laptop and writing more.
In a nutshell the reason I was able to workout 5-6 times for the past 2 months is because I believe I am a healthy person and so my actions are consistent with that of a healthy person. I came up with a goal which was to exercise 5 times a week because I wanted to bulk up and I built the system that would carry me there by increasing friction on bad habits and reducing friction on good habits. I am not saying it’s been easy. In fact most day I have not felt motivated to work out but I have never ever walked out of the gym feeling terrible. I love that I get to exercise my self belief. Now I go there without thinking. It’s just part of my day. A simple meeting I have with myself and I don’t have to rely on motivation to get it done.
You are disciplined. You are just disciplined in what you believe you are. Take a good look at your life and ask yourself if it mirrors the life you want. The beauty of life is that you have the ability to change it. It just take belief, a goal and good habits.