Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Reply to Robin

Robin’s comment:

“I think this level of discipline is challenging for many people though (including me). How can we not make ourselves miserable by beating ourselves up if we don't reach a goal? It's a tough dilemma!”

is a great one.

I think discipline HAS to be a very personal matter. It has to be self-initiated and self-defined. My idea of discipline with regard to exercising probably seems lacking to a tri-athlete but for me, it requires a huge amount of discipline. Now, how to avoid misery? I think the first and most important thing is to focus on what you have done to reach the goal each day. Always focusing on what has happened or is happening each day alone is important for not beating yourself up about what you have done in the past or might not do in the future.

So for me, I am still trying to build in a regular yoga practice. I have only practiced twice for about 15 minutes just before bed over the last four days. My goal is to do yoga everyday but instead of focusing on not having done as much as I wanted to do, I focus on what I can do today. And, this is why I do practice for a few minutes before bed. Because it is the time of day when I say, “oh I wish I had practiced!” So when I say that to myself, I decide, “why not practice?” Just spend 10 or fifteen minutes gently stretching and over time that will make a difference and become a habit even though it does not feel like enough. Clearly, this does not work for all goals but I have a checklist in my head and ask myself throughout the day what I can tick off and if I haven't checked one off I try to figure out if I can fit it in somehow.

This brings me to the important point, I think to avoid beating yourself about discipline, there are two measurements, if you will, to consider. 1) The act of undertaking action towards a goal which is binary – either you have or have not done it. And 2) The extent or amount of action towards a goal which can vary in all sorts of ways or be measured in all sorts of ways: minutes, number of pages written, number of laps around the track, number of thank you notes written etc. For me, I have decided that addressing Number 1, is key, at first. Before I can be someone who has great, endurance building runs 6 times a week, I have to be someone who at least attempts moderate exercise six times a week. Right now, that is my focus. I am aiming to just attempt an action towards my goal each day – it doesn’t matter if I do 20 minutes or 40, just by following through each day on that goal, I am making the action I want built into my life a habit and building up discipline.

Later I will focus on the extent or amount of action towards a goal. I can’t be biting off more than I can chew! The same goes for yoga. Even 5 minutes a day counts as a gold star in my mental chart. Later, after I have built up the daily discipline, I will work on increasing the duration of things like yoga and running. I think this is one way to avoid beating yourself up about goals and reaching or not reaching them. Really, I think what I mean to say is to focus on each day relative to the goal and do what you can in that day. Focusing on what could have been done yesterday is pointless and you can’t jump forward in time so really, it’s about what can get done towards the goal today.

Obviously this does not work in the same way for all goals and doesn’t even address other factors like the weather, other people, your own health etc., but I think separating the urge to equate doing something with doing an explicit amount is helpful. Just doing something at first is enough. Later working to accomplish specific amounts after something becomes a habit is the way I am approaching my own journey towards more discipline in my life.

Envirowomen is an interesting case of discipline as she attempts to live plastic free. Here is a great case of someone living with a huge amount of discipline but not letting her MAJOR SINS as she calls them, of plastic consumption, stop her from living plastic-free. Plus, I really like her blog and what she is doing and I like reading about plastic free resources she has found so I wanted to give her a shoutout.

Also, this person has a whole series of posts on self-discipline that are interesting.

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