Check Your Self-Discipline

Meryl Davis and Charlie White, 2014 Olympic Champions

Meryl Davis and Charlie White, 2014 Olympic Champions

Last night I went to see the “Stars on Ice” show where the Olympic and world class ice skaters performed. While it was no Olympic performance, it was still an excellent show and great entertainment. What fascinates me most about ice skaters and other athletes is their intense level of discipline they dedicate to their sport. They would never have gotten where they are without an incredible amount of self-discipline.

Self-discipline is one of the key ingredients to our success in life. If we didn’t have self-discipline, we wouldn’t be able to get out of our cozy beds in the morning to get up and get ready for work. Without discipline we can’t make any progress, we can’t succeed in accomplishing our goals and we can’t even keep up with our own self-care.

The opening line of M. Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Travelled is “All life is discipline.” That is an incredibly true statement. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed we are confronted with thousands of things to do, people and things to take care of (including ourselves), and a multitude of things that seem to show up out of nowhere that demand our time and attention.

When I think of life this way I can feel overwhelmed and disillusioned. Sometimes I get tired of being so disciplined and I rebel. I rebel against taking all my supplements, making healthy meals, exercising, getting to bed on time, and all the hundreds of other tasks that are required of me to stay healthy. It’s so easy to take the short cut, be lazy, rebel and just give up!

There is one thing that I have never skipped out on; I always brush my teeth after breakfast and before bed. I am curious why it is that I can choose to do this one thing day after day, year after year. If only I could do this with all the self-care practices that keep me fit and healthy!

In my self-development and in the work that I do with my clients I am always curious about how life works and what makes us choose certain behaviors and habits over others. I think it is important to know why we do anything. When we know the ‘why’ of our behavior, we have something to work with.

What stops us from being disciplined about our self-care?
What happens when we falter from self-discipline or follow-through on doing what is good for us?
What do we do?
How do we feel?

There are a multitude of reasons why we don’t follow through on our self-care. We have to figure out for ourselves what makes us lose our discipline. What I have noticed for myself is that I rebel. I get tired of doing the same thing day in and day out. Take, for instance, my supplement regimen. I take a lot and I have a system. Most of the time I can follow it and then all of a sudden I get fed up. So I skip out on taking them for that time of the day. Sometimes I take a break for a whole 24 hours, but never more.

What I do is get down on myself and start a tirade of self-deprecating questions like “What’s wrong with you? Why are you being lazy today? Why did you overeat so you feel so full you can’t fit the supplements in? You shouldn’t have eaten so much, you know that’s not good for you.” Blah, blah, blah. I feel guilty and ashamed that I let myself down; I cheated on my health. And then, depending on how bad I feel, I may sabotage myself further and eat more, not exercise because I don’t feel good, etc. I make a lot of excuses for my poor choices.

The cycle is never ending! I do something that isn’t good for me, beat myself up with my negative self-talk, feel bad and guilty, do something else unhealthy, feel worse, say mean and nasty things to myself and the vicious circle continues.

So, what do I do? How do we avoid this cycle of self-abuse? First of all, I catch myself at the first negative comments to myself and I STOP – take a pause. Then, I reframe what I did in a more positive way: “I am so disciplined most of the time with taking my supplements. Surely taking a break every once in awhile is okay. I will get back on track at the next scheduled time for them.”By practicing loving kindness and self-acceptance, I can stop beating myself up and avoid self-sabotaging behavior. It’s very possible to avoid the cycle of self-abuse, it just takes self-discipline.

So the next time your self-discipline takes a turn for the worse, ask yourself these questions and write out what exactly you do. Practice reframing what you did so that you can stop your own vicious cycle.

What stops you from being self-disciplined about _____________?

What do you do?

What do you say to yourself (negative self-talk)?

How do you feel about yourself?

Then, what do you say to yourself?

How do you sabotage yourself?

How do you get out of your cycle of abuse?


Tips for Nailing your Self-Discipline

1. Learn to be nice to yourself. You live with yourself 24/7 so why do you want to be mean to yourself?

2. Listen to your negative self-talk. Nail this one because this is the only way to change what you say to yourself.

3. Practice stopping or pausing your critical voice before it continues too long.

4. Tell yourself the truth and reframe your negative self-talk.

5. Create an action statement for what you will do to get back on track and then follow through with that so you don’t continue the cycle.

6. Be compassionate with yourself. No one is perfect.

7. Forgive yourself when you make mistakes.

8. Practice mindfulness and living more in the present moment. It is easier to do everything when we can ‘be here now.’

9. Create a plan for your self-care, work, and life that is do-able so that you set yourself up for success.

10. Breathe deeply and often. Breathing helps us perform and cope better with life.

Eilise Ward