Working out was important; in college I had developed a consistent workout routine that was energizing and filled me with self-esteem and a sense of purpose. Equally important to the time spent exercising were the things I did pre- and post-workout. Getting dressed, eating healthy, and the after-work out shower were just a few pieces of the daily routine – each I treated as their own event and each provided a sense of fulfillment. The exercise taught me discipline.
Discipline comes from commitment. Retired Navy Seal Officer, Jocko Willink, wrote a book called Discipline Equals Freedom. Jocko says,
"Discipline means taking the hard road - and it will put you on the path to strength and health and intelligence and happiness. And most important, discipline will put you on the path to Freedom."
But discipline is hard to maintain during active drug addiction and my exercise routine eventually took the backseat. As I substituted drugs for weights, my love for physical fitness faded until it disappeared completely. No more putting out the clothes; no more nutritious lifestyle; no more relaxing shower; the fulfilling things that were a major part of my day were gone. But they weren’t forgotten.
Gratefully, I got clean three years ago and, with new clarity, the desire to exercise returned. Like riding a bike, I fell back into the committed routine which had brought discipline years before.
I built my new routine on the foundation of my college routine. I wake up at 4am every weekday to make sure I’m at the gym right when it opens at 5am. I get everything ready the night before to make it easy as possible in the early morning. I pack my clothes for the next day in a gym bag that I put in my car – this makes sure I actually get in the car. Since I’m already in the car, it’s an easy drive to the gym.
Some days are harder than others; no one is immune from that, but every day that goes by makes it easier. The most important thing is showing up. Last year, I had tendinitis in my elbow and was limited in what I could do as far as exercise. I did what I could as far as exercise but at the very least made sure to get to the gym. It’s a non-negotiable agreement that I have with myself. Building discipline takes work.
Recipe for Discipline
Discipline can be uncomfortable and inconvenient, but with discipline we can achieve our goals. Whether it’s working out, learning how to cook, or building a bookcase, there is a universal approach to discipline. Here are some things that help me stay on track:
- Set and define your goal: “Getting healthy” isn’t a goal. A better way to get toward a healthier life is to set nutritional, mental health, and activity goals. One goal could be to stay below 20 grams of sugar every day. Another could be to walk five miles per week. By giving a concrete measurement to goals, they are easier to track and easier to achieve.
- Get an accountability partner:One thing that helps me get out of bed on the really hard days are my friends that workout with me. Whether it’s someone who is trying to reach the same goal or someone who is helping you track your progress, an accountability partner is a great motivator.
- Focus on one goal at a time: It’s easy to get carried away and want to make changes to all aspects of life but this can lead to stress, burnout, and falling back into old ways. Be sure to steadily meet one goal before moving on to another.
- Set a scheduled time every day to work on the goal: Nothing builds routine like repetition. Setting aside a certain time of day (for some things this might be several times/day) to work on the goal helps minimize the excuses or interruptions that might pop up. If you’ve set the time aside, you should be available!
- Tell yourself that your scheduled time is non-negotiable: Don’t let it be an option. It’s easy to look at our new routines and think of them as just a “bonus” to our lives. To build a discipline, it’s important to regard our time as essential.
Things don’t happen overnight, but I look at every day as its own success. As those days accumulate, our disciplines grow, and we move closer to the goal we have set.
If you need help or have any questions, please feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Jared Skaats