Linda Melone
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4 Ways to boost self-discipline so you can achieve any goal

I am writing this post two days ahead of time, which has happened only once or twice before in the history of my blogging career. It’s like last week’s blood moon, only rarer. 

And no, it’s not because I have insider information of an asteroid* about to hit the planet on Thursday, a dormant volcano poised to erupt in the center of SoCal, or any other natural disaster threatening to annihilate humankind as we know it.

It’s much simpler than that.

(*And by the way, yes, I’m well aware I use a lot of astronomical references. Realizing we’re one tiny speck in this giant void of a universe helps me put my problems in perspective.)

I’m just lazy.

And procrastinating.

And writing this post instead of the other tasks at hand because it’s easier. For me, writing comes easy. Other stuff that involves calculating, talking to people, setting up charts and otherwise being productive… not so much.

So I’m here.

Procrastination and laziness are not words normally associated with someone whose main role in life is to motivate others to get moving.

Since the holidays (yes, I know they’ve been over for months now), it’s as if someone’s been spiking my coffee with a motivation killing serum.

For one, the getting older reminder that happens every January (a.k.a. my birthday) sets me back a bit. I tend to wallow in The Way Things Were and Will Never Be Again.

I listen to my 25-year old hair stylist lament about what she sees as “problems” in her life, let out a deep sigh, wrap the blanket around my legs and sip tea with my fingerless gloves. 

Basically, I do the exact opposite of what I tell my clients.

But here’s the thing: Even though my motivation approaches DEFCON1, it doesn’t mean I am not doing anything.

It just means I’m not doing it with a smile on my face. It’s still getting done, even if I’m going through the motions and being a bit cranky in the process.

This brings me to today’s topic du jour: self-discipline, an attribute that goes hand-in-hand with any achievement outside of binge watching Netflix.

Before I offer a few tips, it’s important to realize a few facts about self-discipline.

— For one, in order to stick with an exercise routine or healthy eating plan, you don’t need to practice self-discipline FOREVER.

You only need self-discipline when you first start a new habit. Once you establish that habit, you’re off and running and no longer need as much — if any — self-discipline to keep going.

It simply becomes part of what you do. Like showering (hopefully), you don’t have to make a conscious decision to do it. It’s automatic.

For another example, think of changes you’ve made in prior years. Maybe you quit smoking, stopped lying out in the sun slathered in baby oil, or ceased pouring vodka over your cornflakes in the morning.

Success happens when you find a way to either stop the habit altogether, or choose a healthier substitute for the current one.

— Also, it no how no way may not happen in one fell swoop, either.

It will likely take a number of attempts before the new habit sticks.

Using myself as an example… back in the 80s (a moment of silence for leg warmers and big hair) I was a big diet soda drinker. I don’t remember how much I drank, but it was a lot.

I decided to make a change. I began by substituting a bottle of water for a can or two of soda. Initially it was “ick,” water??

But over time I completely ditched the diet soda.

It took a number of tries, however, and several weeks or more, if memory serves me (which is likely doesn’t). In the end, I not only stopped drinking diet soda but now find it completely gross.

I can’t even make it through half a can before tossing it in the garbage, as it hisses and fizzes its obscenities at me for buying and then wasting it.

Initially, this took a ton of self-discipline. Temptation abounded. Every time I’d pass a soda machine, check out in the grocery store or be offered one, I’d need to pull in my willpower to say no.

Now? Diet soda is not even a thought. Ever. I associate it with excess gas, heartburn and a nasty aftertaste, none of which appeals to me, surprisingly.

That, my friend, is where you want to be with your new habit.

It should be a no-brainer and just part of the 40% of activities you do every day without thinking.

1. Do the hardest task first

Self discipline fades with each decision you make during the day, research shows, in what’s called “decision fatigue.” You’re much more likely to give in to temptation after work or a day of making many decisions. So if you aren’t wild about exercise, do it first so you take that decision off your plate and can get on with your day.

2. Deconstruct current habits

Changing jobs, moving to a new city or otherwise making a drastic change to your environment creates a perfect scenario for changing a bad habit and starting a new one. This changes the existing “cues” you associate with a particular habit.

Since you can’t pack up and leave everytime you want to try to break a habit, the next best thing is to make changes in your environment. Keep unhealthy foods out of sight, whether it’s in a cupboard behind a secret panel or in a sealed container. Better yet, don’t buy it in the first place.

3. Rinse and repeat… over and over

Forget the old belief that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. In reality, the time it takes for a new habit to become permanent actually takes anywhere from 15 to 254 days, depending on the magnitude of the change. Keep at it and you’re bound to succeed, even if it takes longer than you’d like. Consistency!

4. Create a link

Link your new habit to something you currently do on a regular basis, so the first action provides the “cue” to do the second. For example, I put my workout clothes near my bathroom sink. So each morning when I brush my teeth the clothes are ready and waiting for me to put on.

Of course, I can still ignore them, but my workout is such a habit that it takes a conscious decision NOT to do it.

YOUR TURN: What would YOU like to change? What steps will you take this week to create a new habit? Let me know in the comments section below…

Other posts you may enjoy:

How to find hidden clues to unlock weight loss

3 ways to level-up your results

5 Ways to turn failure into raving success

Your Ageless Body Coach,

P.S. By the way, it’s not too late to sign up for my Belly Fat Blasting Challenge! Sign up HERE  and join the special Facebook group HERE.

About the Author Linda Melone

Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.

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Leave a Comment:

Denise Fordyce says

As I hurtle towards 60, I’ve found that the “0” and ” 5″ birthdays are great times to develop new habits. Learned to swim at age 40, for example, which led to a renewed enthusiasm for exercise. Decided 40 was about time to conquer my fear and a “no more excuses” marker. Made similar decisions on other big birthdays.

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    Love that, Denise! Those decade birthdays (mine’s next year!) are great times to prove age is just a number :).

    Reply
    Sandy Archuleta says

    Denise, did you take swim lessons? I’m 58 and terrified of deep water! It has certainly hindered activity with the family who likes to swim, snorkel etc. I want to get over it, but I’ve been too scared to do anything about it!

    Reply
Tammy Gill says

Linda, I love how real you are. Thank you for that. For me I have began breaking down my eating…. First making sure the protein and fiber intake is on point. I want to make this more of a habit then the all or nothing get it done I had before as I learned when my environment changes (vacation with family etc) it drastically goes to nothing very fast. I am now building into my lifestyle good things a bit at a time until they become part of me.

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    Thanks, Tammy! We all experience bouts of inner self-doubt and frustrations. As you said, the key lies in refocusing and readjusting. To coin a line from one of my favorite movies, Galaxy Quest (highly recommended, btw), “never give up! never surrender!” lol

    Reply
Sharon says

Loved this article, it really hit home especially the activities that happen AFTER work.
I already use my ellyptical every morning and walk for an hour at lunch.
I need (and will change) what I do when I get home at night. I will do some sort of activity before I eat dinner. I think if I write it down every morning, I may be more likely to do it when I get home. So there is a plan. Thank you for all of your tips and hard work to motivate everyone !

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    Thanks, Sharon! And yes, taking away ANY decision making helps. It sounds like you’re already doing a lot, so I’m not sure you need more, maybe just changing/upping the ante on your current activities.:)

    Reply
Denise says

Hello Linda!

As I sit here drinking my diet Coke and contemplating your blog, I realized that I do #4, already. Yay, me! Before heading to the office, I put my work out gear on the bed where I normally stand (or sit) to peel off my work clothes. Instead of putting on pajamas, I put on my gear, including sneakers, and get a work out in. So far, so good!

Thanks for your brilliant posts!

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    Thanks, Denise! Keep up the good work :).

    Reply
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