36) Discipline is a Muscle That Needs to be Flexed

This week in the Brain BS Blog and Podcast I am going to explore the concept of discipline, why it is so important to our health, and the correlation between discipline and our physical, mental, and emotional states. I will then discuss why discipline is so critical regarding how we manage our minds. I will wrap it up by sharing a couple ways I plan to incorporate more of it into my life this September that may inspire you to challenge yourself as well.

Okay, so let’s start with defining discipline. I looked up the word and found quite a few different definitions. For the sake of this blog post and podcast, I am narrowing it down to Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s option C which was self-control. Therefore, being in control of yourself and your actions is what I am referring to when I am discussing discipline. Why might this be important? Well I might just as well say how could it not be? We already know that thoughts create feelings and those lead to actions and give us our results, so there is a cause and effect between the way we are thinking and our behavior. We frequently think of discipline in terms of our physical behavior, but what we forget is that we need discipline for managing our minds as well.

Let’s first talk about how lack of discipline impacts our physical health because I think this one is more obvious to all of us. If we do not practice discipline with exercise, eating and/or drinking alcohol (smoking pot) , we can usually see that reflected in our appearance. For example, we may be packing a few extra pounds, possibly move a little slower, perhaps our faces might be a little puffy and we lose that healthy glow. In addition, our energy reserve might decline, and our respiratory rate may go up which can compromise our health and increase the likelihood of injuring ourselves or incurring adverse medical conditions. On the flip side, if we are aware and mindful of how we take care of ourselves, that is also usually reflected in our appearance and performance.

The correlation is evident because all of these physical changes also impact us in mentally and emotional ways. When we pack on some extra pounds, that can consume our minds. We usually talk to ourselves in negative and destructive ways which can lead to anxiety, depression, and self-loathing. When we are moving slower from lack of exercise, we are more likely to feel older, less empowered, and have a mind cluttered with racing thoughts and excessive worry. When we feel like our face is puffy and our skin looks drab, we don’t feel youthful, attractive, or vibrant. In fact, as women, we tend to feel invisible, insignificant, and inadequate just from experiencing age related changes that are not even in our control! When we compound those affects by choosing to not practice self-care, it adds to the negative relationship we have with ourselves and then that permeates all our relationships. When we have less energy, a higher heart rate, physical injuries and/or chronic medical conditions, we then may have to learn how to manage pain, navigate our health care system, implement complex medication management, make lifestyle changes, and can possibly become debilitated. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness, defeat, and bouts of being overwhelmed. It could also possibly lead to feelings of bitterness, anger and self-pity which just worsens the entire situation.

Now that we have established that lack of discipline in exercise, eating and/or drinking has a pretty significant correlation on our emotional and mental state, let’s examine why we need discipline for effective mind management. For beginners, we need to have discipline if we want to become more self-aware; it requires focus, diligence, repetition, and vigilance. Increased self- awareness is necessary for us to take note of our automatic brain habits, patterns, and routines. Similar to when we want to make changes to our daily self-care routine to get different results, we have to start by becoming aware of how we created the results we are currently experiencing. If we want to lose weight, we might start writing down everything we are eating, keeping track of calories, and weighing ourselves daily. Similar to that, we need to practice discipline with our mind management by taking note of all the thoughts that come up, examine how they make us feel, and determine whether we should keep them or not. We have about 60,000 thoughts a day, so this is no small task. Just like we have to resist urges to eat a cookie when we are trying to lose weight, we also have to resist the urge to fall back into lack of awareness and automatic mode of thinking. We have to stay focused on living a deliberate life and learning how to purposely create the results we want in our life, and we have to do that over and over again. This is how we reclaim our personal power.

This would be a good time for me to review how we do that. We have thoughts pop up in our head, we don’t believe them, because we know they are not factual. We do not confuse fact with fiction. We don’t get caught up in the feeling that comes after the thought, we distance ourselves from it, and we don’t make the thought being there a problem. If we can’t discard the thought or the feeling, then we must feel the feeling. We get still, we close our eyes, we breathe into the feeling, we pay attention to how it feels in our body, and we wait for it to dissipate. This is how we release emotions that are trapped in our body. The process of releasing our feelings combined with managing our thoughts is what many refer to as living consciously. I like to call it living a deliberate life and choosing thoughts on purpose.

Alright, so now we understand the importance of discipline and it how it impacts our physical, mental and emotional health and how they all sort of interact together. We have also learned why we must rely on discipline to manage our minds effectively. Now I want to share a few challenges I am taking on to flex my discipline muscle in the pursuit of personal growth. I will tell you the thoughts that help me keep going and the strategies I use to inspire me to create the results I desire. First, I have decided that for the month of September, I am only going to drink two nights a week instead of three. I have toyed with this idea for quite some time, and I am ready to take the leap. I want to increase my chance of success, so I am not approaching it as an all or nothing deal, which is why I made it a goal for a month and not life (even though it could become a longer-term goal). My brain likes this and thinks it is much more manageable to give something up when I look at it this way. I highly recommend that if you decide to make a change, don’t go too big unless it is absolutely necessary. For example, if you are an alcoholic who is chemically dependent on alcohol, it must be all or nothing. For those of us who have more of an emotional dependence on it, this is a strategy that works for me.

Now that I have established my goal, I have to find thoughts that work for me and align with my objectives. If I am thinking this sucks or maybe I hate being bored, that won’t do it. The thoughts I am relying on today are I welcome all of the discomfort that comes with personal growth. I am also thinking any changes require an adjustment period. Another thought I am choosing is that I am looking forward to really feeling the feelings that come with not giving into an urge. I am also thinking that being bored is not going to kill me. Another thought is I am focusing on what I am going to get from conquering this challenge, not what I am giving up. The last thought I will share is it is time to stop being afraid of boredom because it is just an emotion, and it cannot hurt me. If you decide to incorporate more discipline into your life, you will have to find your own thoughts that work for you. Think of them as something you try on. Sometimes they fit and trigger a feeling that will lead to actions that give you the result you want, and sometimes they just fall flat, and you cannot believe them in your body. You must be able to believe the feelings to your core for them to inspire the actions necessary to achieve your goal.

The second challenge I am choosing is one I have tried a few times without success, but I am finally ready to try it again in an earnest way. I am going to create a window of time where I am permitted to work on social media. I am not going to be extreme with the times because this will be a big adjustment for me as a great deal of my work involves Facebook. Similar to how I decided to give up that third evening of wine sipping for just a month, I am making this goal manageable to my brain, so I am more likely to be successful. I am going to have access to work on social media from 7am-7pm and then cut myself off. This will make a significant difference in my quality time with my husband in the evening, so I am looking forward to how that plays out. The first thought that just came up for me is this is going to be hard. I also thought it is going to require me to resist one urge after another. I am going to lose those thoughts though because they are already feeling like an obstacle and not aligned with my objectives. Instead, I am going to think that learning how to resist the urge to get onto social media every time I get a message is going to really improve my discipline in every area of my life. I welcome all of the discomfort that comes with personal growth is a thought I use for every goal so this will not be an exception. Another thought that feels inspiring to me is I can do anything if I set my mind to it. Another good one is I have to do it now that I put it in my blog and podcast, LOL. This brings up a good point! It is always good to have an accountability partner when striving to achieve a goal, which is what you get when you hire a coach.

In conclusion, discipline is critical to our physical, mental and emotional health. We need it to inspire us on how we take care of ourselves with food, alcohol (pot), and exercise. We also need it to manage our minds effectively to create the results we desire. It is important to understand that discipline helps us to show up to the world as the best version of ourselves that we can be. If we are not doing that, it is time to find a way to get discipline back into our lives and start evolving and living up to our potential.

So, what do you think? Is there something you can do to add more discipline to your life? Is there something you have been thinking about doing but just not inspired to take action yet? Let today be the day that you bite the bullet and create a goal that will improve your life. Maybe you have been wanting to start a blog yourself, but you keep putting it off. What would be the first step to get you going? Make that your goal to create some momentum and then you can build on that. Take some time to really think this through and actually do it! Join me in The Brain BS Group to discuss this further.