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Self Discipline

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I’m sure you will not be terribly surprised to learn that the majority of people struggle in the area of physical fitness. The bad news is that the majority of people will never escape that struggle. The good news is that it can be done; you don’t have to be among the struggling majority! Our sincere goal is to help you become and stay physically fit for life. With that said, let’s move directly to the heart of the matter.


Why do most people spend a lifetime struggling to stay in shape? Is it because they don’t have the time? No (although that’s what most people think). Is it because they don’t have the resources? Absolutely not. Is it because they lack motivation? To some degree yes, but overall the answer is no. There are two main reasons why most people that care about their health struggle to improve it: 1. They lack the required level of discipline to sustain an exercise routine. 2. They do not understand the importance of changing their lifestyle. Can anyone correct both of these problems? Yes! Let’s start down that road to success with a discussion about discipline.


Discipline. If you are motivated to do something, but lack the discipline to follow through, welcome to the club! You fall into the majority of people I’ve known over the years. Merriam-Webster defines discipline as “a prescribed conduct or pattern.” I often define discipline as “The ability to do what you say you will do”. For example, if I make a decision to get up every morning at 6:00am and spend 45 minutes jogging I will do it. I will be successful because I have the discipline to do so. However, if I lacked disciplined, I would not follow through, at least for any period of time. Can anyone achieve this type of sustaining discipline? Absolutely - here’s what it takes.


First you probably need to get reacquainted with yourself. Do you really want to be physically fit? Are you satisfied with never reaching your potential? Does it bother you that you cannot sustain any type of fitness program, or any type of disciplined routine? Have you given up because of failing so many times? I encourage you to look deep inside and answer these questions honestly. Once you’ve done this you can either resign yourself to the fact that things aren’t so bad the way they are, or you can make a conscious effort to change. Make that effort to change!  


Set goals and write them down. Living a well disciplined life means looking ahead and setting realistic goals for yourself. It means analyzing your life and developing a plan that will allow you to meet those goals. It means following through with that plan until your goals have been reached. Sound simple? To some extent it is. Start with writing down your goals. I’d venture to say that most people do not write down their goals. Those that do write them down seldom craft out a plan to reach them. And, of those that set goals and develop a plan, most rarely have the self-discipline to follow through with the plan. Are you depressed yet? I hope not, but I do hope I have drawn a clear picture of most people’s current state. Why did I paint this picture? Because knowledge is power, and knowing these things will give you a better chance for success.


Strive to achieve self-discipline. What is the greatest of all types of discipline? Self-discipline. With self-discipline you are your biggest cheerleader and you are not relying on another person to push you along. For years I’ve seen people start and stop physical fitness routines within a very short time. Some had limited success as long as their partner pushed them along, but as soon as their partner lost interest; nearly 100% of the time both individuals stopped exercising. Those that have maintained a steady workout over the years have done it solo. These individuals did not rely on others for their success.


Determine the root cause of your lack of discipline. The natural question now is what do I need to do to increase my self-discipline? Your inability to do those things you want to do (lack of discipline) could be caused by a number of things. One of the most important things for you to do is determine the root cause for your lack of discipline. Ask the question “why” until the root cause if revealed. Please examine the following example:


Why can’t I keep my commitment to jog each morning at 6:00am? Because when the clock goes off I am too tired.

Why? Because I only get five to six hours of sleep.

Why? Because I cannot get to bed until 12:00 or 1:00am.

Why? I have a four and seven year old that do not go to bed until 10-11:00pm…the only time I have to do anything is when they are in bed.

Why? The children do not have a set bedtime and when they are up I am taking care of their needs.


In this simple example the root of the problem is probably the children’s bedtime, or lack thereof. Now to correct the problem, this person should address the root cause. He or she should announce and enforce a bedtime (let’s say 8:30pm) for the children. Would this solve this problem? Assuming this was the true root cause, you bet it would. Unfortunately, most people would never discover the root cause and be resolved to the fact that they are just too tired to get up in the morning. You must take the time to ask yourself why until you discover your root causes. Once you determine the root cause of why you can’t do something you’d like to do, attack it vigorously and move on to other root causes. It is likely you’ll have to address several areas of your life as you develop self-discipline.  


One last minor point to address - do self-disciplined people still have fun? You may think that having discipline seems so, I don’t know – robot like. Yes, I assure you that self-disciplined people have tons of fun (that is if they enjoyed having fun to begin with). Actually, they probably have more fun because they are able to do many more of the things they want to do! Now, let’s talk about issue number two; lifestyle change.


You must change your lifestyle. In order to sustain a physical fitness routine, most people need to do a major shift in their thinking. The key to success here is shifting your mindset from changing your schedule to changing your lifestyle. A mindset change is usually difficult for people to understand; this is normal. One major reason is because initially, a schedule change and a lifestyle change look the same. A schedule change will set aside a specific time to exercise. A lifestyle change will also involve setting aside some time to exercise. The big difference is that a schedule change may last a few weeks or months. A successful lifestyle change can last forever, or until you make a decision to change it – that is for the better!


Make changes gradually. How do I make a lifestyle change? Make gradual changes to your lifestyle. For example, gradually replace potato chips with carrot sticks, soda with water; decrease the size of your meal portions, etc. The same goes with exercising. If you do not normally exercise set some time aside three to five times a week, let’s say an hour for each workout. If you lift weights start light and then gradually increase the weight. If you are working on your cardiovascular system start out slow and gradually increase your speed. The overall point is to make lifestyle changes methodically, but gradually. NOTE: We recommend you always seek the advice of a medical doctor before starting any physical fitness activity.


Develop new habits. What is a habit? "I am your constant companion. I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden. I will push you onward or drag you down to failure. I am completely at your command. Half the things you do you might just as well turn over to me and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly. I am easily managed -- you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done and after a few lessons I will do it automatically. I am the servant of all great men; and alas, of all failures, as well. Those who are great, I have made great. Those who are failures, I have made failures. I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a man. You may run me for a profit or run me for ruin -- it makes no difference to me. Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will place the world at your feet. Be easy with me and I will destroy you. Who am I? I am a habit!" (Hirsch, n.d.). This article is definitely appropriate for anyone wanting to change their lifestyle! Now, a quick “habit” example – if you are in the habit of eating a meal right before you go to bed, change that habit. If you have the habit of eating more when you are stressed out, change that habit. Pay attention to your unhealthy habits and replace them with healthy habits!


Take control of your daily routine. Some things we do we have very little choice. If we have a job we have to go to work. If we live in the United States, we have to pay taxes. However, there are a lot of things we do that we don’t have to do. If you get home from work at 6:00 pm and go to bed at 11:00pm you have five hours that belong to you! I realize you may have more of those “can’t avoid” things, but don’t otherwise waste this time doing unimportant tasks. Develop a schedule for weekly tasks and only do them during the time they are scheduled. For example, set aside some time to pay your bills, do the laundry, mow the yard, etc. By developing a schedule you can take advantage of your time and more easily develop a less stressful, healthier daily routine.  


Think long term. Will my reason for wanting to exercise affect my long term success? No. Your reason can be to lose weight, firm up muscles, have more energy, etc. Regardless of your reason, you need to think lifestyle change. I am sure there are exceptions, but generally speaking people that think beyond the short term are more likely to engage in a lifestyle change versus a schedule change. Thinking lifestyle change will help you lose weight and keep it off. It will help you firm up your muscles and keep them firm. It will help you have and keep a body that has more energy and so on. So what is the bottom line? You need to think long term…lifestyle change!


Okay I know this is a lot of information, please allow me to summarize it for you.


Keys to Discipline (discipline: the ability to do what you say you will do)

- Get reacquainted with yourself; is becoming physically fit important to you?

- Set goals and write them down

- Eliminate the need of a workout partner for motivational purposes – go solo

- Determine root causes for lack of discipline - then vigorously attack them


Keys to Lifestyle Change (not schedule change)

- Make changes gradually

- Develop new habits

- Take control of your daily routine

- Think long term


Now I encourage you to put these simple tips into practice and live a healthier, more physically fit lifestyle for the rest of your life!



Hirsch, E. (n.d.). The Power of Habit and Commitment. Retrieved on August 15, 2002 from













































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