But what if I don’t feel like it?

BRIAN – DAY 11: Discipline – Busted Halo.

Brian’s article is about faith and religious practice during Lent, specifically about his commitment to pray 10 to 15 minutes a day, but what he says is equally true about any commitment we make, whether it’s exercise or nutrition or really any behavior.

I read his article and found myself wondering throughout the day, when did we become so petulant? When did it become OK to slack off and only do something if we felt like it?

I didn’t feel like exercising today. I didn’t feel like exercising yesterday. Heck, I didn’t feel like doing much of anything for most of last week. If I had allowed my feeling to guide my decisions about what I did and did not do last week I wouldn’t have gone to work, probably wouldn’t have bathed much and would have subsisted on a diet of cookies and coffee. The time change put a great number of the people I was interacting with into a less than friendly mood, and by mid-day Tuesday I wanted to hang out in my bathrobe and watch super hero movies all week.

Obviously, most of us don’t have the luxury of practicing that sort of drastic level of childishness. So, why is that? Well, to begin with our employers wouldn’t tolerate it. We’re paid to work. If you’re self-employed it’s even more serious. Don’t work = starve and go out of business.

It is socially unacceptable to just say “I don’t wanna” about a number of things. Unfortunately, it’s become socially acceptable to be just that infantile about all kinds of other parts of our lives. Internal discipline, or self-regulating, doesn’t seem to be encouraged much anymore.

You see this operating from all sorts of angles too. People who have decided they need to lose weight/get in shape seek out “motivation” to do so. Go visit Pinterest one of these days and do a search for items under the keyword fitness motivation. Therein you will find piles of clever sayings superimposed over photos of people toughing it out or looking exceptionally fit. Some of the sayings are pretty good, but I’m a bit baffled as to why a picture of some guy/gal who is extremely ripped and/or gorgeous is supposed to motivate someone who isn’t that to exercise.

The truth is, the harsh truth, that no one can motivate you to do something you do not want to do. You don’t go to work every day because you’re motivated to do so. You go because you have to. You go because there are consequences for not going. Now if you eat loads of crap, neglect your health and lie on the sofa growing your ass there will be consequences for that too. The problem is, though, that these consequences are uncertain and long-term, so they’re easy to dismiss or ignore.

What do you do then? You stop being a petulant child waiting for someone else or something else to make you tend to your business. As Brian suggests, you have to be disciplined. You need to be a grown-up.

Like any new exercise, having internal discipline is going to be unpleasant at first. It’s not unlike lifting a weight. Afterward you’re going to be uncomfortable. It might even hurt. So don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Make a list of 10 things you need to be doing to improve your life. Now, from that list, pick 2 that you’re going to start doing tomorrow and pick a time for them and put that time on your calendar and treat those appointments as if they are just as important and critical as any others you put there. Once the psychic and emotional irritation and soreness starts to lessen go back to the original list of 10 and pick 2 more to add to your discipline exercise. Keep following this patter until you’ve conquered all 10.

For some things adding them into your life will be a quick adjustment. For others, it’s going to take time. Don’t rush. Only act on new items when you feel you’ve got the old ones in hand. Again, this is like lifting weights. You don’t want to pick up so much that you are overwhelmed by it.

Why should you do this? Simple. Do it because being an adult who acts like a child is revolting and shameful. Being childlike, full of wonder and joy, is fantastic. Being childish, full of willfulness and self-absorption, is pathetic. Do it because having discipline will make you happier and make you an easier person for others to share the planet with.

5 Responses to “But what if I don’t feel like it?

  • I don’t feel like working out. But here I go anyways.

  • Cheers! I was just thinking about this today though related to nutrition-when did eating healthy become something bad or annoying-well after the age of 5! Great post!

  • We need to make this “Old” norm do a 180. If it wasn’t acceptable to skip a workout, imagine where we would be in this world

  • There was a time when it was easy for me to want to skip. Now, I feel guilty for skipping a workout and actually regret it. Great post!

  • “no one can motivate you to do something you do not want to do” Exactly! The idea of the 10 item list is simple and straight forward – meaning it will most likely work. Great suggestion!

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