It happens almost every day.
Someone sees me doing something they perceive as ‘difficult’ regarding diet or exercise. They say something like, “I just don’t have the willpower to do that.”
Heres’ the truth. . .
I too, have little willpower.
Don’t set a chocolate dessert in my frig (or in front of my face) and expect me to NOT eat it!
It will call to me all day & night! Even IF it is made with things I don’t ‘normally’ eat.
Don’t put salty foods in my face, especially when I’m being very active; the salty flavor calls to me too.
Don’t invite me to lunch at a good seafood restaurant unless I haven’t had seafood in a month. (My self-imposed limit because of contamination issues.)
Indeed, don’t ask me to find my riding gear at 7AM to get on my bike; especially if the sun isn’t shining!
But discipline & willpower are NOT the same thing.
Here’s how I parse the difference: Discipline makes willpower less necessary.
Here’s what I mean:
Discipline is an instant momentary decision that allows for simplicity in your life. It creates commitment & works by using your standards to create systems & goals. That creates routines and ultimately habits.
Discipline allows you to accomplish more of your intentions and makes willpower unnecessary or less of an issue. . .MOST times.
Daily Discipline gets you out of bed in the morning to work for someone ELSE so you can have a roof over your head & food in your kids’ stomachs.
Discipline and having long-term vision are also why you start that side gig, put your money in a 401k or buy insurance. We all know it COULD be easier in the immediacy of it all to NOT take those actions. When we CHOOSE discipline, life is easier. We all know that.
So, let’s bring it to personal care & self-care:
Discipline, in the moment, is what gets me out of bed when the alarm goes off & put on the clothes next to the bed. Then I get on my bike without really thinking about it. The bed is far less likely to call me back. If I don’t have the clothes by the bedside, that’s just ONE additional thing that is required that will make it easier to stay in bed! When I’ve stopped my routine, for whatever reason, taking action before bed gets me back out there!
Similarly, discipline in the moment, when I’m shopping (shopping when I’m NOT hungry helps) allows me to bypass the cookies, chips, and frozen desserts (even the non-dairy ones MOST of the time). This means those things aren’t in my frig or my cabinets and makes it far easier for me to not eat them. They don’t “call to me” in the middle of the night like the ice cream used to ‘back in the day.’
That also brings up a point. If you have a family that doesn’t conform to how you choose to eat or care for yourself, here’s a suggested adjustment:
Are they willing to CHOOSE to go without those favored foods for a few weeks to help their mom, dad or spouse who is trying to better themselves? If not, perhaps they need to buy that stuff themselves, not depend on you to do it. (Alternatively, if they are still young, it’s easier for you to make that choice for the family’s health.)
Here’s what I found, personally, when I started making these changes: After about 4-6 weeks, my desire for some but not all of those foods started to diminish.
Clients, like Lorna (who has given me permission to use her name & quote) have said things like “I don’t want to eat the things that aren’t good for me anymore.”
But recognize, likely your personal favorites will always be more difficult to say ‘no’ to.
For me, during that transition, I was able to say “no” to potato chips but not tortilla chips, or cheap cheddar cheese but not Havarti or Brie. Vanilla ice cream could go in the back of the freezer & I’d be fine; but not some rich Ben & Jerry’s or Haagen Dazs flavor.
So, there was an initial period when I wouldn’t buy the stuff. If my family chose to buy it, hopefully, I didn’t see it. Then for a long period of time, when I shopped, if I bought dairy or chips for the family, I bought the things that weren’t my #1 items. It helped me move that line between discipline and willpower.
And there’s magic in the way your body functions. You crave the things you’re used to eating. So as you stop eating them, your taste buds change and adapt. You stop wanting that stuff.
Now, I can attend a party with good Brie or Havarti and have little problem staying away from it as long as I’m not drinking.
That discipline has become a habit and my physiology has changed because of it. That can happen to you as well.
Imagine the freedom of a life where your tastebuds rule your world just a little less. As a former cheese and ice cream-aholic. I can tell you: it’s very liberating.
So when it comes to discipline & willpower in self-care, examine it from the conversation of “how can I put SYSTEMS in place? How can I make it easier for me to do the things I know would be best for my future well-being? And how can make it harder to do those things that aren’t good for me?