Stop. Start. Discipline.

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Building good habits one failure at a time

Ah discipline…love it or hate it, it’s good for you*. I’m not a practicing Christian but I just gave up chocolate for lent with a friend of mine. We also gave up alcohol but I invoked the ‘pandemic-lockdown-war-inflation-world-on-fire’ caveat and remembered I was an atheist after week three…anyway, back to being pious. Chocolate. Focus people.

It’s in my top three weaknesses and has been consistently for years. I know I eat too much of it (and I really do mean too much) and I’m often full of self loathing, whether it’s as I’m still reaching for more or as I put out an unfeasible amount of chocolate packaging in the recycling, yet I still binge on the regular. Giving it up is a big deal. Or at least I thought it was. 

For the first few days I thought about chocolate every day, multiple times a day. If there had been any in the apartment I would have crumbled, no doubt. But then after the first week I thought about it less. It became a vague longing rather than something I searched the back of the cupboards for yet again to no avail. By week three I wasn’t thinking about it at all, I wasn’t even looking at cacao based products while doing the online shop and wondering whether they counted (they do).

Now Lent is up, and despite smashing my Easter egg at the weekend I haven’t careered headlong back into the old ways. I’m not pausing as I pass shops on the way home to have the internal debate on whether I get some “just to to have a piece” that evening (it’s never just a piece). I’ll no doubt end up snacking on it occasionally as a treat, but for now, a whole five days in, the cycle is broken. 

Photo by Start Digital on Unsplash

“Discipline is choosing between what you want now, and what you want most”

Self-efficacy as a superpower

I imagine you’re wondering why I would write about this experience – clearly not to clearly brag about meeting only half of my objectives for 40 days, that would be somewhat self defeating. It taught me, or reminded me, of a couple of things that are applicable to much more than my ability to eat an entire chocolate orange in one sitting: 

  • Consistently applying self-discipline builds and reinforces self-efficacy (our belief that we can achieve what we set out minds to)

  • We adapt quickly to things that appear hard and unbearable at first – this is how we build reps, weights, step counts and dare I say it, good habits

  • Self compassion is key to lasting change – whatever change we’re making, we’re bound to relapse once in a while. The difference is how quickly we can cycle through the grief cycle for our clean streak and get back to what matters – building a better version of ourselves.

So on that note, my challenge to you this week is what tiny daily change could you make that would build your sense of confidence in your ability to be disciplined? What do you secretly want to stop doing, or start doing? Break it down into a simple daily step and get going. We all have it in us, it just takes practice…

*yes,  it’s vegemite, not marmite, I know the cultural reference doesn’t strictly work, but I hate them both so I’m sticking with it

Life is short. Until next time take care, stay safe and be kind 🙌

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