Decide to be Disciplined

One of my favorite aspirational phrases is “Discipline equals freedom.” Former Navy Seal Jocko Willink made this phrase famous and even wrote a book about it.  A disciplined life is free from the constraints of bad choices, poor habits, and addiction. Accomplishments build confidence and autonomy and allow one to act without the restraints of bad habits and unfavorable consequences. Freedom is the power to act, think, or speak as one wants without hindrance or restraint. I want to help you see that by creating discipline in your daily life, you can find freedom from the different factors that may be preventing it.

Personally, it has been challenging to build back some semblance of daily structure and a workout regimen while balancing work, social time, and life as a new mom. I know it is probably justified that, after a long day at the office, I would prefer to go home and snuggle with my infant versus going to the gym, but experiencing multiple days without exercise has a pretty negative impact on my energy level and mental well being, both of which I need to be the best mother, professional, and human I know I can be. In a way, I’ve found that lack of personal discipline feels like entrapment to poor decisions, or at least to decisions that don’t bring me closer to my goals.

My aim as a dietitian is to educate my patients on nutritional science and the aspects of clinical nutrition that will help them reach their goals. My post-graduate education has primarily focused on counseling and behavioral techniques that assist people in implementing lifestyle changes, incorporating new purposeful actions, and adopting more discipline in the areas they wish to improve. However, discipline and forcing the adoption of different goals into a daily routine can be very challenging for some people to complete. Why does discipline seem attainable to some and elusive to others?

Having a clear, defined, and attractive goal is such an important start to this process, since one must really desire to achieve a goal if they are going to change their habits to accomplish it. Once they have created a goal, we can then address what is getting in the way. When I ask the question, “What do you think is getting in the way of your goal?” most are slow to respond. The actual definition of discipline is training people to obey rules or a code of behavior. Training oneself to alter a daily practice isn’t always easy, but it is always possible.

If someone feels they have no time to exercise, waking up thirty minutes earlier can allot them that time. When someone forms a habit of stopping to get fast food on their way home, they can develop a new driving route or pack a healthy snack for that time of day. I also encourage patients to eliminate things that waste time, like social media, television, and mindless online activities. A great way to identify where there is wasted time is to write down everything you do in a day in thirty-minute increments. More often then not, we become enslaved to time-wasting activities, while thinking just the opposite. There is little freedom in unhealthy habits.

To truly develop long-lasting discipline, you must rely on yourself and your intrinsic motivation to want your goal more than what has gotten in the way. There is nothing wrong with being accountable to another person, like a personal trainer, health coach, or best friend, but the goal of an accountability partner should be to foster accountability and confidence within yourself. If I did not truly embrace the importance of exercise to my mental health and physical well being, I would keep heading north on the interstate versus taking the exit to my gym. If I did not read my goals first thing every morning, factors like stress and fatigue may cloud my ability to remember their importance. Building new structure into your schedule does take time and commitment. But like Jocko says, discipline equals freedom, and nothing feels as freeing as escaping and moving beyond the poor habits that used to stand in the way of your goals.

In Health & Happiness, Jessica Murgueytio

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