I got an email from a fellow about a week back. He asked about being disciplined, particularly in the areas of food storage and physical fitness/ exercise. I was flattered that he thought me to be capable of talking on this topic. Suppose in some respects I am relatively self disciplined as with anyone else I have areas where I am not so great.
Lets start with a definition of self discipline from our friends at Wikipedia. "Self-discipline refers to the training that one gives one's self to accomplish a certain task or to adopt a particular pattern of behavior, even though one would really rather be doing something else. For example, denying oneself of an extravagant pleasure in order to accomplish a more demanding charitable deed. Thus, self-discipline is the assertion of willpower over more base desires, and is usually understood to be a synonym of 'self control'."
Some of it is admittedly personality. I remember when I was 18. I really wanted a rifle, not just any rifle but an AR. I had a typical (during school) situation where I had a couple part time jobs which payed car insurance and gas plus left a few bucks leftover for typical entertainment and pocket money. I figured out that at that time it would cost me about $1,200 to get an AR, about a dozen mags and a (to me at that time) decent amount of ammo. So I got to saving. By slashing non essential purchases I was able to put $5 or $10 away most every week. That winter break I worked full time almost every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas. Working full time while your friends sleep in and hang out sucks. I kept saving and squirreling away money. Had a drug dealer style wad of fives and tens and twenties in my sock drawer. While I was saving I pretty much didn't do anything with my friends that cost much money. Let me tell you at that age not going to the movie you really want to see with all your friends when you have a wad of cash was hard. In any case by spring time I had an AR-15, a dozen mags and a few hundred rounds of ammo. Turned out that I even had some cash left over.
The point is that I made a choice. To me getting a nice rifle was more important than a couple weeks of sleeping in, seeing a dozen movies and a bunch of random trips to Jack In The Box or whatever else we used to do.
Self discipline is an interesting topic. As I mentioned before part of it is just natural. However I also believe that you just have to make a choice that the goal is worth whatever you are going to sacrifice to attain it. Setting realistic goals which will require realistic compromises and sacrifices is essential.
Self discipline is not a cure all. Most people can't just get off the couch and put their mind to it then run a marathon that afternoon. In fact doing so is dangerous and foolish. However self discipline might be a good way to get your marathon time down for the next one.
I find it is best to apply self discipline to attainable goals which can be broken down to some sort of measurable progress.
As part of this post I decided to apply self discipline to three areas of my life that have been lacking it.
1. Drink less coffee. I like coffee and plan to drink it most mornings for the rest of my life. However as of late my coffee consumption had climbed to a full pot a day, sometimes a pot and a quarter. This just can't be good. Also I think it was messing with fitness and sleep. I decided that I could drink two small cups (like what an actual 'cup' of coffee is not a gianty mug) a day, three on weekends.
2. Get back into the gym. I like lifting weights. I feel, look and perform better when involved in regular strength training. I set my goal at 3 times a week.
3. Go to bed at a reasonable hour. My sleep pattern has been jacked for as long as I can remember. It got pretty bad (some of which was uncontrollable) when I was training but now that my schedule is more regular it is time to get it right. My bed time during the week is 10PM. As I wake up at 5:25-45 this hasn't been a big issue.
However weekends have been the problem. If left entirely to my own devices I would probably wake up at about noon or one and go to bed around two or three. On weekends I have been slipping into this schedule. It means I can't sleep more than a couple hours on Sunday night. That means I am in bad shape on Monday and then sleep like 10 hours that night and still feel bad on Tues. My weekend bed time is now 12:30 and far more importantly my weekend wake up time is 9:30.
I have stuck to these goals for a week. Honestly I feel a lot better. The coffee thing was easy enough. Instead of big cups I drink little ones. I got my three lift days in last week though one was Sunday which isn't ideal. Getting and sticking on a more balanced sleep schedule has helped me a lot also.
I am going to stick with this for at least another 3 weeks before I consider adjusting my goals.
Fundamentally self discipline is just deciding that you want something bad enough to make it happen.