Discipline is a practice. It’s obeying a code of behavior that creates the habits that become who we are daily. Here are some tips how to stay disciplined and meet your new year resolutions.
It’s about that time of year when resolutions are at the forefront of our minds. A new year brings renewed aspirations. Gyms are packed. Pantries are cleaned. Priorities are rearranged.
Many of us are eager to make changes. To drive into the new year with fresh resolve. We vow to cleanse, to gain, to lose, to start, to quit . . . to change.
When it comes to making changes, I believe there are two types of people: Those who
crave change like candy, and those who avoid it like their ex.
Whether you like it or not, change takes work. Hard work. It requires you to start new good habits and break old bad ones. When you set a resolution, you are essentially making a pact with yourself — a firm decision — to behave a certain way. Often a different and extremely uncomfortable way. Over and over again.
So how do you stay motivated?
It’s the question friends have repeatedly asked me over the years. Frankly, I never truly understood why they think I have the answer, nor have I ever provided inspiring insight. I don’t do anything particularly special.
At least I didn’t think I did. Until recently, when a friend benevolently argued . . . “but you exercise every morning at 5 am. There is no way I could do that. How do you stay motivated?”
They framed the question with such awe, relinquishing their own ability to execute such an impossible practice at the same time. Which made me think. How do I do it?
The truth is, I’m not motivated at all. I have been getting up before dawn to exercise for more than two decades and there isn’t a single morning that I don’t curse the alarm.
I have a full-blown internal face-off that is reminiscent of two hostile teenage siblings battling over whose turn it is to take out the trash. “I did it yesterday!” “Well, I did it the day before!”
When 5 am screams, I wake up demanding credit for my previous day’s hard work and beg for the day off as a reward. Until . . . old habits prevail and I just roll over and go. I do it, not because I am motivated, I do it because I have something that I didn’t realize not everybody had . . .discipline.
What I should have said to my admiring friend is that what I do, I do despite being motivated. It isn’t about the things we want to do, it is the things we have to do because it means that much to us. And it has to be deeply rooted in discipline.
How To Stay Disciplined And Meet Your Resolution Goals
1. Every day is day one
Treat every day as the first day. Consider your resolution an act of performance. Give the same energy to it as you did the day you started.
Stage actors deliver every performance as if it’s the first time they’ve delivered a line whether they’ve said it a hundred times. Greet each opportunity to meet your goals with the same renewed energy as day one.
2. Know Your Why
First and foremost, you need to get clear on why you have decided — no, resolved — to make a change.
This is where motivation plays an important role in your resolution because it is the reason why you started. Write down your why on an index card.
Treat it like a personal mantra. Memorize it. Carry it with you. (Example: I am doing _______ because _______ .) But bear in mind, while motivation sets you in motion, it’s a discipline that keeps you going. Motivation without discipline is like a dream without a plan — just
3. Budget your energy cubes.
I once heard our limited energy described in terms of a fixed amount of daily cubes. Imagine every day you are gifted with ten energy cubes to sustain your daily duties. Exercise? One energy cube. Work? Four energy cubes. Errands? Two energy cubes. Call your mom. All three remaining energy cubes!
Once you hit zero, you’re out. The number line doesn’t go into negatives. You can’t add something without taking something away first.
So, if you are working extra hard to create a new habit or kill an old one, then you must take something else off your plate that drains your energy. It’s just math.
4. Fall back on familiar habits.
When finding the discipline to stay the course with something new, it’s helpful to fall back on familiar habits. Tack the new habit onto something you’re already doing.(Ex: If you walk the dog every morning and your goal is to stretch more, add the exercises to the end of your walk.) This way you will form new good habits on top of old ones.
5. One percent per day
The checklist for change is daunting. Whether you resolve to read more books or write one, don’t think about everything that needs to be done. A little bit over a long time makes a big difference. One percent per day multiplied by 365 days in a year is life-changing.
6. Give someone your goal
Accountability partners help you keep a commitment. Give your goal to someone you can trust and set up a system for checking in.
Once, when I set a goal to limit refined sugar, I made a friend call me every night at 8 pm — the witching hour when my sweet tooth kicks in. Knowing her call was coming helped me refrain from filling my bowl.
(Disclaimer: Spouses excluded as accountability partners. Nobody needs their significant other to remind them to put down the tub of ice cream.)
7. Keep your goals under control
Frame your goals so that the outcome is within your control. If I resolve to write fifty thousand words this year, the success of that goal depends entirely on me and how I prioritize my time.
But if I set a goal to make five thousand dollars writing, that’s up to the universe to say yes. (For which I’m still patiently waiting.) What you give is within your control, but what comes back is not.
8. There is no finish line.
I was raised with the phrase “In five years’ time… “ I was trained to see life in five-year segments. In five years, I will be ready for that job. In five years, I will be ready for that move.
The problem is, five years from now is coming with or without me — or you. When you have a vision, you must align your actions toward it at all times.
It’s not a five-year plan, it’s a life plan — and there is no finish line. You can either make the changes you desire or not. Either way, tick-tock.
9. Forgive yourself
It is highly likely you will slip up. Habits are hard to break because they are automatic, vaguely conscious responses. It takes intense reprogramming to change. Recognize when you’ve faltered, forgive yourself, and . . .
10. Return to step number one.
Start again. Every day is day one.
Remember, you can have all the motivation to light up Christmas at the North Pole, but a successful resolution coexists with willful discipline. Consistency is key.
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