The Difficulty in Self-Discipline

It seems like I can only be self-disciplined in so many (or few) areas at once. In trying to maintain my health, for example, it seems like I can either eat healthy or work out regularly–when I try to do both, the bottom falls out and I stop doing either. Baumeister’s research that describes self-discipline as a muscle that, when stretched too far, simply gives out, may begin to explain why.

I remember when I first started going to the gym with my husband. After about 6 months, he was improving every couple weeks on the weights he could lift, while I may have gone up one increment in the entire time we were working out. Why? Because I wasn’t exercising to the point that my muscles were working enough to grow. Guys seem to embrace the pain of weightlifting. Some even seem to revel in it. I’m a girl. We’re generally smarter. We recognize that pain is bad. During a workout, however, I had to learn to adopt, to some extent, a guy’s point of view. If you don’t lift to the point of discomfort, you aren’t going to see any results.

So, if self-discipline is a muscle, it’s time to find that threshold where discomfort becomes pain, and stay on just this side of it so I can strengthen that muscle without overextending it.

I’ll start by making one goal in each of three areas:

Work: I will do 500 words of my book per day

Health: I will exercise regularly again

Home: I will do at least one small item of housework per day (fold laundry, pick dirty clothes off the floor, clean the counters… something)

After a couple weeks, I’ll start adding more light “weights” to my routine. What small goals could you start with to build your self-discipline muscles?


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