2017 sped by like a freight train, quietly speeding by through the night. It seems like I blinked and now we are on the cusp of a new year. Again. As with every new year, a wave of reflection and intention setting permeates the air, like the smell of bacon that is present each morning that wafts through my windows from the nearby hotel.
It’s 5:00 am as I write this and I am off work this week. I sleepily peck away at the keys trying to remember the wash of inspiration that flooded me as my alarm went off and I went through my morning dance of should I or shouldn’t I sleep in *just one more minute*
You might be wondering whhhhyyyy I am up so dang early when I don’t have to be. The answer this morning is discipline. Do I want to be up? HECK NO. I want to be curled up in my warm and comfy bed. Instead, I’m wrapped in a blanket in my cold living room, finishing up my “Miracle Morning,” a morning ritual which involves meditation, visualization, intention setting, reading, and writing, before going out for a run. I’m sure this sounds like I’m a paragon of virtue, getting up early and doing all the self-development things and oh, look at me and how wonderful I am…but the only kink to this fairy tale: I DON’T WANT TO BE DOING THIS.
So, you might be wondering, why are you doing it then? And the answer is again, the same: discipline.
Motivation is easy. Motivation comes around January 1st, when you’re going to eat better, go to the gym every day, and pay off all that debt accrued over the last 5 Christmases. Motivation gets your butt up at 5:00 am to write, to forgo the chocolate cake and eat a salad instead, and inspires you to become a better you. But discipline, ah, discipline is what is required when all the shininess of motivation dulls around February 1st, when all those good intentions and goals have been forgotten, the excuses and the chocolate cake bubble up and you end up paying another 7 months for an unused gym membership, while shoving french fries in your face. Or is that just me?
So, how do you avoid the New Years resolution trap? How do you build discipline so that when motivation fades into excuses and chocolate cake, you still push on toward your goals? **Note, I’m coming into this assuming you’re motivated to change, as it’s a new year and naturally, people tend to be more motivated to start a brand new year with a brand new set of goals. If you’re not motivated, you need to either a) make a decision to change b) stay the same as you are now.
If you are motivated to make a change, here are a few ways to build self-discipline so that your goals become habits.
1. Commit To A Small Goal
The keywords here are “a” and “small.” It’s tempting to go the whole sha-bang and start with major life changes you want to make RIGHT NOW, but for most people, that is a surefire way to set yourself up for failure. Find ONE goal you can focus on right now and excel at. Instead of, I’m going to lose 50 lbs, eat better, go to the gym every day, stop watching so much TV, spend more time playing with my kids, and get my Master’s Degree, I suggest you pick one and run with it. I’m not saying that you won’t be able to accomplish all of these great goals, but trying to do them all at once might be overwhelming in your quest to be more disciplined in your life.
So, for the sake of the rest of this post, let’s say the one goal you’ve decided on in the new year is to work out more.
Oh, and on a side note, you can make goals at any point over the year. January 1st is not a magical date. Once you accomplish your one goal, feel free to make more goals.
2. Make A List
When you come up with your goal, it’s important to write it down and revisit that goal every day. Once you have identified your one goal, make a list of steps it will take to get you to your goal. What does “working out more” actually entail? Get specific. Does “working out more” mean getting a gym membership and going 6 days a week? Does “working out more” mean hiring a personal trainer? Does “working out more” mean you need to purchase gym clothes? Remember you’re starting small and getting specific, so maybe 6 days a week is too big of a commitment. Perhaps setting a 3-day a week workout goal to start would be better, then moving to a 4-day a week schedule after a month, then 5-day and so on.
Once the details have been clarified, write it all down. I like to write in a paper planner and so I am constantly updating my goal in the planner, making lists of how to get me closer to my goal and mapping out how I am going to get there. I also keep a log tracking my progress on my goal, this keeps me accountable to keep pushing forward when motivation fades.
3. Eliminate Temptations
Just like a dieter who needs to get rid of all the junk food in the house, you must find and eliminate your temptations. If you’re tempted to skip working out because you’re too tired after work, then try to work out in the morning. If you’re tempted to press snooze instead of getting up for your cardio sesh, put the phone on the other side of the room. Whatever your temptation is, it is important to identify it and get rid of it. Each temptation is a barrier to your success.
4. Change Your Mindset
Many of us fail because we tell ourselves that we are going to fail. We don’t actually believe we can accomplish the goal we set out and so we become our own barrier. So many people say, “I wish I had the willpower to…” and the thing is, you do! Every one of us has it in ourselves to accomplish whatever we set our minds out to do! So, stop telling yourself that you can’t or you’re lacking somehow because you’re not.
Discipline is a learned skill and it’s only through practicing being uncomfortable that we build this skill. Change your thinking about what you can and cannot do, and remind yourself that YOU DO have the willpower. You ultimately control your life through your decisions and your mindset.
5. Find Accountability
For me, having accountability has been very helpful to stay focused on my goals. I am a part of a mastermind group of ladies (Integrous Women) that all want to make an impact. We meet bi-weekly to talk about our goals and keep each other accountable to them. Together, in the last 5 months, we’ve all accomplished quite a bit, which is inspiring and motivating. Having accountability will help you be disciplined when you are not disciplined on your own.
Back to our goal example: going to the gym the first week of January is easy. It gets a little more difficult the second week and by week three, the excuses come creeping in. Start week one with a like-minded someone who has the same goal and be there to push each other toward your goals when that motivation starts to wane. Besides, it’s more fun (and less intimidating) when you have a workout buddy.
There are many more ways you can learn self-discipline so that you can accomplish all the goals you want to accomplish, but this is a good start. I hope that come February 1st, you’ll still be working on your New Year’s resolution (or better yet, have already accomplished it!)
Good luck with your resolutions/goals/intentions/whatever you want to call them! And let me know what you’re hoping to accomplish in the new year and beyond!