After reading CrossFit Invictus’ blog post “What Does Discipline Look Like?” and listening to Ben Bergeron’s podcast #023: Maximizing Your Minutes, I really started thinking about discipline and the role it plays in our daily lives.
What is the definition of discipline? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as:
3: a field of study
4: training that corrects, molds, perfects the mental faculties or moral character
When you think about discipline what may come to mind are the “athletes” at the gym that train for several hours a day, 6-7 days a week. You may think of Olympians, or professional musicians. What comes to mind for me is when my father used to tell my brother and I growing up: “Anyone can practice, but that doesn’t make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” What did he mean by this? Just because you are practicing does not mean you are putting forth all of the effort that you possibly can. It does not mean that you have trained yourself to push harder than you did yesterday or the day before. It means that you are possibly just going through the motions and not disciplining yourself to do the best you can or do it properly or correct every single time.
CrossFit Invictus states self-discipline as “your ability to get yourself to do what’s necessary even when you don’t feel like doing it.” Ben Bergeron talks about “seeking out short-term discomfort for long-term gain”, which is difficult in our world of instant gratification.
Discipline looks different for each individual. For someone that has small children and works a full-time job, discipline may be carving out one hour each day to workout before rushing home to cook dinner and get the kids ready for bed. As CrossFit Invictus mentions, “…making it into the gym a few times a week and creating positive lifestyle changes certainly requires some discipline. There needs to be discipline with scheduling, time management, nutrition, forming new habits, and overcoming any internal psychological resistance to make it into the gym for a workout.”
For some people, such as myself, discipline may be limiting their dessert intake. Instead of having dessert 3-4 nights a week or sweets throughout the day at work (because there is ALWAYS someone that brings some deliciousness into work), I am practicing self-discipline and not having any dessert until Thanksgiving. If you know me at all, you know how difficult this is for me. I am a full-fledged sugar addict.
You may see these hard-core athletes in the gym and think, “wow, now that is discipline”. But is it really? CrossFit Invictus mentions that we “should not confuse an athlete’s obsessive-compulsive exercise-induced endorphin addiction for self-discipline.” People that want to be competitive that spend all the time they possibly can in the gym doing several workouts a day because they just LOVE to workout is not necessarily disciplined. They don’t workout that much because they have to exercise self-discipline, they do it because that is what they truly enjoy. Others have to force themselves to go to the gym and eat healthy. They struggle to create the habit of working out multiple times a week.
So then, what is discipline for the “athletes”? Discipline is doing the unsexy stuff:
-mobility and working on flexibility
-eating healthy and eating what their body needs versus what they want to eat
-taking rest days
-rehabbing injuries and giving injuries the necessary rest to heal
-staying on one training program instead of switching around to multiple programs
-getting enough sleep
-cleaning up after themselves when they finish a workout
As the CrossFit Invictus blog post states: “just because you go to the gym all the time doesn’t necessarily mean that you will do what’s necessary even when you don’t feel like doing it. Are you that athlete who consistently shows up for training but always leaves their equipment out afterwards? Don’t feel like putting it away because you’re tired? Everyone else feels the same way but they’re doing what’s necessary. I hate to break it to you but if you can’t do something as simple as clean up after yourself, you lack discipline.”
Discipline is not something you just do. It is something you have to work hard at. Every time I go to a restaurant with my friends and family, I have to actively work at resisting the temptation to order dessert or just have “one bite” of someone’s sweet treat. Just like your biceps, your brain, your quads, or any other body part for that matter, discipline is just like a muscle and you must train it and strengthen it.
If you mislead yourself into thinking you have self-discipline when you really don’t, you are only hurting yourself. You will wonder why you aren’t reaching the goals you set for yourself. “Discipline is a habit. Today, it’s not picking up after yourself. Tomorrow, it’s cutting a few reps here and there. Down the road, it inevitably leads to failure.”
Ben Bergeron talks about how he is a person of habit and routine, and how he thrives under discipline. He didn’t always know that, but what he came to realize is that when he puts first things firsts (roles and core values that are the most important in his life) it allows him to live a life that is set in the direction that he is setting rather than a life someone else is setting for him.
When you clearly define what is most important in your life, scheduling and prioritizing is a lot more simple and clear. But how do you define that? You have to dig deeper and really analyze and evaluate what is most important to you as a human being, what your goals, values, and vision are for your life. How do you define yourself? Who are you? What is it that you stand for? Once you are able to answer those questions, it further defines how you are spending your time. Because you are what you repeatedly do. You are your habits and your habits are what you are doing everyday. Discipline is a habit.
Discipline is saying no to others and yourself when something or someone comes along to distract you. Discipline is all the things you do, you want to do, or should do in a day, and following through, sticking to your routine and habits. It’s knowing that if you want to read before bed, you have to say no to yourself when you want to look at Instagram. It’s knowing that if you want to cut those last 10 pounds, you have to say no to the unhealthy foods and focus on nutrition. It’s knowing that if you want to get a muscle up you have to say no to visiting with friends after you’re done working out and work on muscle up drills.
Discipline is going to look different for everyone. What is important is defining your goals and values and seeking out that short-term discomfort for long-term gain and continually strengthening your discipline.