EMAIL #106 - 31ST JANUARY 2021 - SELF-DISCIPLINE SHOULDN'T FEEL DIFFICULT
For me the last two weeks have been pretty tough getting back into my work routine and starting up a new fitness routine (more on this later!). Each year it seems to get harder and harder to bounce back into full on work mode after several weeks of holidays and I often think about why the start of the work year (and self-discipline in general) feels so difficult? The answer came to me this week after listening to a fantastic podcast (see link below) where Tim Ferriss interviews Michael Phelps and Grant Hackett. As the greatest swimmer of all time (39 world records) and the winner of 23 Olympic gold medals Michael Phelps knows a thing or two about self-discipline. (For example, in the lead up to the 2016 Reo Olympics Phelps reportedly trained 8 hours a day,7 days a week for 5 years and did not miss a single training session); now that is self-discipline!
"Self-discipline is when your conscience tells you to do something and you don't talk back." W K Hope
Most people think of self-discipline in terms of "willpower" (e.g., someone that gets out of bed at 5.00am everyday has a lot of willpower). However, in the podcast, Phelps explained that no amount of willpower can get you out of bed super early every day for years. The truth is that the only way someone can do this is by actually enjoy it; or by enjoying what getting up super early allows them to do. To have any real chance of achieving your goals in life, Phelps believes you must train your self-discipline little bit by little bit over time. Start by taking little easy steps, then gradually build up over time. This way you avoid a lot of pain and potential failure early on and the self-discipline doesn't feel so difficult to maintain.
"Self-discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments." Jim Rohn
Over the last two weeks I have been putting this approach to self-discipline into action when starting a new fitness goal of swimming laps twice a week at the Prahran Pool. In my 20's I was a keen swimmer and used to swim 20 or 30 laps several times a week. But after a 30-year break from the lap pool, swimming one or two 50m laps was unbelievably difficult and a real wake up call. I have now done 4 swimming sessions and am proud to have built up to 12 laps (although not continuous) per session and I am really enjoying the physical challenge. So, by starting slowly and gradually building up the number of laps, I now realise this is the best way of achieving long term success and not maxing out my self-discipline.
To be successful at anything, self-discipline must be based on self-acceptance and feeling good about yourself. Otherwise, you will eventually run out of willpower and stop doing what you set out to do. To have self-acceptance you need to know what motivates you and what you enjoy doing. This way you can set realistic goals and achieve positive results, and self-discipline doesn't feel too difficult.
PS: Here is the link to the podcast interview of Michael Phelps & Grant Hackett; it's well worth a listen.
"Willpower is nothing but the willingness to do." unknown
Thanks for reading,
Stay safe and try something new.