NEW YEAR! NEW HEALTH! It’s that time of year where we all feel the rejuvenating feeling that the new year (and new decade!) brings. After a busy holiday season, we are settling back into the mundane routines of “reality.”
Many of us, myself included, adopt the New Year’s Resolution this time of year as a time to set goals for ourselves to accomplish throughout the year. I think it’s a great way to reset and start working on ways to improve your life, your career and your health.
But how do we go about successfully implementing these new found set of rules and goals we set for ourselves. Why is it always so hard to maintain that enthusiasm we experience in the first few weeks of January?
I believe it is because we have placed too much emphasis on the idea of motivation. Motivation is this euphoric idea that many of us depend too highly on in order to be successful. Rather, we need to start recognizing and prioritizing discipline.
Motivation Vs. Discipline
Motivation is rooted in an emotional state - think of it as the “why” we do the things we do. For example, the motivation for losing weight may be that you want to be able to keep up with your children or have more energy to do the things that interest you like hiking or skiing. It can be a very powerful tool to get the wheels in motion but it can also be exhausted and is not always reliable.
Discipline is different. It is rooted in “what” we are doing. It is strongly influenced by our ability to correct and regulate our behaviours to help us achieve our desired goals. Discipline is what helps you do the right thing in the moment that is going to benefit you most in the long term. Discipline is like a muscle that gets stronger the more you work it (pun intended).
Let’s be honest. For anyone who has exercised regularly it can be hard on many days to find that motivation to get off the couch and get your butt to the gym. Often times when we only rely on motivation (especially in the fitness world), we are setting ourselves up for failure. How do we make the shift towards discipline?
Tips for Developing Discipline
TAKE SMALL STEPS: Our brains, as amazing as they are, can be very reluctant to change. Our brains thrive off of routine and “set-points.” Don’t overwhelm your system and try to change everything too quickly. For example, if you want to read more books start by adding 15 mins a day of reading. Everyone can spare at least 15 mins and you’ll be surprised how quickly you make it through books (This is one of my goals this year to complete 1 book/month).
START PRIORITIZING: Determine on a daily or weekly basis what you need to accomplish that day/week in order to obtain a bigger goal. For example, determine which days a week you are going to go to the gym, when you are going to set aside time to meal prep, grocery shop etc. The more organized and scheduled your life is, the more likely you are to be successful. Technology can be super helpful here.
MAKE MISTAKES: It takes time for discipline and routines to become habit. For instance,I have a strict discipline of waking up at 5:30am on weekdays to get in my morning walk, enjoy my morning coffee, read, and listen to a podcast on my way to work. This discipline probably took me the better part of a year to get to the point where I consistently do this 5 days a week. Don’t let failure or mistakes limit your success.
PRACTICE GOOD DAILY HABITS: Even if they are small to start. Order the salad instead of the fries, pick one night a week to go out instead of 2, find time to fit in some kind of movement everyday, drink more water, add vitamins to your morning, skip that can of Pepsi.
In health, it's the accumulation of things that we do in our lives that make us healthy. Think in terms of weeks/months and not days. Having only 1 can of Pepsi a day is actually 810g of sugar/month.
Stay accountable, stay honest and enjoy the amazing body you have been given. Happy New Year!
Dr. Alfredo is an health enthusiast who’s goal is to help people and families live healthier, happier lives. My philosophy on health is simple - our body’s have the amazing ability and potential to self-adapt, self-regulate and THRIVE in this world.