Discipline Trumps Willpower Every Time

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Most of the things that I have become good at, I actually don’t like doing all too much.

I’m an adequate writer.

Adequate enough to attract online clients from it, anyways, so that has to count for something. Our free online course has been used by thousands to shed fat effectively, so my words are having an impact.

I’m an above average Father.

I don’t hit my daughters and I try not to yell at them. I give them their space and allow them to appropriately explore the world at their level. As long as they aren’t dancing on a pole or nose deep in white powder, I’ll be as happy as a clam.

I’m a decent teacher.

I’m not much of a “hand holder”, and because of it, a few kids admittedly fall through the cracks. But I preach personal responsibility and free will, which is something not every educator fosters in their classroom. The kids enjoy being in my classroom and they don’t fuck around. When there is a union of those two items, something good must be happening.

I am a good husband.

I surely have my faults, but I communicate as clearly as I can and I’m (sheepishly) figuring out how to interact in the appropriate manner, so as to run the household efficiently and keep love flowing through our family. If you think that’s an easy task, then you haven’t been married 11 years with two children.

While these titles – writer, Father, teacher, husband – are titles I am proud of, the exact, minute actions which cause these titles to be given to me are often not actions I feel like partaking in.

I enjoy being considered an “author”, but the actual process of writing can be painstaking.

For example, as I am typing this, my wife is watching Shark Week, my kids are snuggled up watching Teen Titans Go, and I am at my laptop with earphones in, struggling to maintain my focus.

I love my role as a “Father”, but there are moments of parenthood which I’m not fond of.

I despise bathtime with the hatred which burns like a thousand suns and cringe every time I walk into my kids’ room at 6:15 am to get them ready for school.

I’m proud to be a “teacher”.

Knowing you have made a difference in kids’ lives is a noble, satisfying feeling. At the same time, arriving to my classroom by 7 am to input over 150 grades into my gradebook, only to be questioned by helicopter parents as to why “Johnny” received a B on his last project is about as much fun as wiping my ass with sandpaper.

I relish my role as a “husband”.

Being the rock of our family unit provides me a great deal of joy. Knowing our children will grow up in a house where they see their father as a strong role model, and provide their mother with the respect and mutual understanding she deserves bodes well for their futures.

There are times when the actions needed to produce fruit in each of my roles don’t match up with what I “feel” like doing at that moment.

We all have moments like this.

Our fitness lives are integrated into this thinking as well.

Maybe we want to be “lean”, “cut-up”, or “carved from stone”.

Perhaps we want to be “yoked”, “jacked”, or “huuuuuyge”.

While these ideals are important to hold onto, we first must eradicate roadblocks from our path and our journey.

The outside perception is that “willpower” is our tool for growth and for self-improvement.

I find this to be misguided and incorrect.

Willpower is finite, willpower is fleeting, willpower will leave you bloated after the 4th of July with nothing to show for your weekend activities other than an empty bottle of Tums and an extra inch around your waistline.

To reach your fullest potential, take your willpower, wrap it up in tinfoil like last weekend’s leftover barbecue ribs, and toss it into your trash bin.

What you really need, my friend, is discipline.

Willpower Vs. Discipline: A Matter Of Perception

Take the case of Billy.

Billy is your average, 38 year old cubicle worker.

Since becoming a Daddy a decade ago, Billy’s waistline has expanded ever-so-slightly year in and year out.

Billy’s latest trip to the Doctor showed a litany of issues:  high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, a high resting heart rate, and pre-diabetic blood glucose levels.

Billy is under strict orders from the M.D. – lose weight now, or suffer the consequences shortly.

Dejected, Billy heads home.

Billy is going to rely on his “willpower” from here on out.

As he drives down the road towards his suburban house, he sees the usual:  McDonald’s, Papa Johns, Wendy’s, hell, even Taco Bell is calling Billy’s name.

There is almost an invisible force pulling Billy’s vehicle into the drive through lane. Billy re-focuses, shifts his gaze down to the radio, and tries to quiet his rumbling stomach.

Knock it off, man, you can do this.

Your life depends on it, dude……….

Billy makes it home, and walks into the kitchen, kicking his shoes off in the general direction of the door.

He walks to the fridge and opens the door.

Let’s see, we have leftover brats from this weekend’s party…………pasta salad…………half an apple pie……….hmmmmmmmmmm………

Each of the delectable items in the fridge seem to be calling Billy’s name, teasing him with fat, sugar, and all the comforts of Americana.

Begrudgingly, Billy grabs some lunchmeat and some lettuce. He makes a “low-carb sandwich”, since he heard somewhere that gluten not only makes us fat, but also has the ability to destroy entire civilizations with its gummy goodness. The cavemen didn’t have bread, so neither should Billy. Right?

Billy sits down on the couch with his “unwich”, takes a bite, and frowns his displeasure.

This is only Day One.

As he thinks forward to the rest of the week at the office, Billy begins to wonder how he will ever stay “on track”. His breakroom is constantly filled with pastries, he will attend two “client luncheons” that week, and on the weekend, his son’s 11th birthday party will be filled with cake, ice cream, and booze.

I hope my “willpower” holds up……..

Billy sighs.

He has a long road ahead of him.

Contrast Billy with the case of Liddy.

Liddy has a plan for self-improvement.

She has been diligently following a strength plan, and has been crushing it in the weightroom.

She’s currently on a habit-based dietary program, and she has loose guidelines she must stick to. They’re fairly simple:

  • 3 meals per day.
  • Protein at each meal.
  • One protein source can be fatty, the rest lean.
  • No added oils or butters.
  • Vegetables at each meal.
  • Whole-food carbohydrates at two meals each training day.
  • 2-3 pieces of fruit per day.
  • One snack daily, consisting of a handful of nuts, cheese, or an additional piece of fruit.
  • Water and other non-caloric beverages only to drink.

When Liddy gets asked at the office to attend Happy Hour, she smiles and politely declines.

After all, today is “Leg Day”.

Liddy heads into the gym and crushes a workout consisting of squats, Romanian Deadlifts, hip thrusts, and some accessory work to boot.

Exhausted, but feeling great, Liddy makes the commute home.

She passes the same restaurants Billy passed:  the burger joints, the pizza shacks, and the ice cream stands.

But Liddy doesn’t feel the same pull.

Smiling, Liddy pulls into her driveway, puts the car in park, and stumbles a bit as she stands up.

It was a tough workout, but Liddy is proud she made it through. She beat her numbers from the previous week, and is feeling accomplished and proud.

Liddy walks into the kitchen, opens the door, and sees the same leftovers Billy sees.

Liddy reaches for some low-fat ground beef, lettuce, and pico de gallo.

It’s Mexican night.

Whistling, Liddy turns on some music and makes a fantastic post-workout meal, complete with some rice and a tortilla.

Munching on her food, endorphins flowing through her body, Liddy checks her progress on her body tracker.

She’s lost 2 inches on her waistline and an inch off each thigh in the past month.

Liddy smiles to herself.

This willpower thing is easier than I thought……….

 

Discipline: A Distinct Mindset Shift

If you’re like Billy – relying on “willpower” to get you through the day – your perception of the world is one full of obstacles.

There are barriers to your success everywhere.

They manifest themselves in common places.

Your fridge, your work’s breakroom, your social events, your parties, even lining the streets of the town you live in.

When you try to flex your “willpower”, you try to “dig deep”. You attempt to summon all your strength to overcome these barriers.

These “barriers” have innate power over you.

Walking through your kitchen, you see these forces pulling you in all directions.

  • The Doritos in your pantry.
  • The craft beers in your fridge.
  • The ice cream in your freezer.
  • The menu at the restaurant.

Everywhere you go, you are being pulled.

Each time you “flex” your “willpower muscle”, you get just a bit more tired. A bit more grumpy. A bit more “deprived”. A bit more “beaten down”.

Only those with an enormous amount of mental fortitude to commit to their “willpower” will ever be able to abstain from all of life’s pleasures for a significant amount of time.

We all know someone who abstained from everything pleasurable – alcohol, tobacco, sex, food – whatever. They likely even made excellent progress in their self-improvement journey.

Ultimately, did it “stick”? Or did they revert back to their old ways?

Willpower won’t stay with you forever. You’ll eventually be pulled back to its depths.

Discipline is a totally different animal.

If you have discipline – like Liddy – you are aware of your temptations.

They are there – they will always be there, whether you like it or not.

You acknowledge that you can make poor decisions. Just like you can make bad decisions. Your decisions are your decisions, and nobody else’s.

The choice you make will be the choice you need to own.

You own it today the same as you owned your decisions from yesterday. And tomorrow’s decisions will likely be the same.

But those with discipline create their own destinies.

Those with discipline will do as they wish, and others can learn to deal with it.

Those with discipline will turn down cake and ice cream at a birthday party, shrug their shoulders, and they couldn’t care less.

They understand every choice will have a consequence. The consequence will be present, whether the moment is justified or not. Those with discipline realize the totality of the goals they are trying to accomplish.

Just like the drip of water which can carve a valley in a vast mountain, the aggregate of thousands of minute decisions will band together, creating a masterpiece if you guide them to it.

Willpower implies that your body is more powerful than your mind.

Your natural urges will be tugged on for an eternity, and you will always be seeking various ways to silence those urges.

Discipline implies that your mind is more powerful than your body.

Your natural urges can go fuck themselves, because you ain’t got time for that.

Those with discipline understand that delaying gratification is the key to unlocking life’s greatness.

 

Do You Have Discipline?

I enjoy being a writer, although at times, I don’t enjoy writing.

It’s currently 7:30 pm, about 45 minutes after I began writing, and I’m rather tired.

But Monday is my “content day”, and I didn’t write an article yesterday (it’s Tuesday today). I instead elected to drink a 6-pack of beer and eat a pizza while laying in the sun.

So much for discipline, eh?

So, here I am on a Tuesday night. I have an inbox full of emails that I need to get to, but priorities come first.

I love being a Daddy.

But in about 15 minutes, it will be “bed time”, and I will take a deep breath and begin the process of getting two kids into bed on time.

Blech.

I’m proud to be a teacher.

Wait……..it’s summer break…………nevermind. (Easily the best perk of being an educator…………)

I relish my role as a husband. After the kids are in bed, I’ll sit down with my wife and watch Shark Week reruns with her.

Hey, it’s better than that Bravo shit she usually watches.

There will always be things you don’t want to do in life.

Whether they’re fitness related, business related, or just general “things that must be done”.

Instead of relying heavily on your “willpower”, you should acknowledge that there will always be external forces pulling you towards making unwise decisions.

The next time a bad decision is looming in the balance, test your own resolve.

Tell that decision to go fuck itself.

Allow your discipline to kick in, and begin to change your view of the world.

 

~Jason

 

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