Those crazy super-fit people must have a ton of willpower, right?
We dove into why this is false in Part 1 and why we should be cultivating discipline rather than willpower to reach our fitness and even career goals.
It might just blow your mind…
Yeah, discipline is boring and far from an earth-shattering idea, but it’s incredibly effective for long-term success and it’s rather simple to ‘use’. And I’m going to tell you how you can hack discipline so it can even be easy at times.
I’ve been using these discipline hacks for years which have been my secret sauce for sticking with exercise (and healthy eating!) with ease.
Now why do these hacks actually work? They prevent our brain from rationalizing and trying to default to using willpower, which we know is a lost cause. If we can learn how our brain works we can learn how to work with it in the best way rather than battle it. A huge win there!
Now before we dive in, remember that discipline does require actual work, quick fixes and ‘tricks’ don’t exist for long-term success….and that’s what we want, to feel and be fitter, stronger, and healthier for our entire lives, not just the next month, right?!
If we put the work in today we can reap the benefits for years and years to come. So embrace the fact that invoking discipline in your life is a challenge, a good and fun challenge which I know you thrive on!
Discipline is simple but it’s not always easy.
My 5 Tried-and-True ‘Discipline Hacks’
1. Fitness is Your Job
You’re a hard-worker and love your job, every day you go into work and try to do your best.
But we know there are days you don’t feel like going to the office, maybe you’re tired, have a daunting project on the go, or just want a day off, but you still show up every damn day and you do the work you need to do.
This is partly due to your high-achieving personality, but also because you want to rise in your career and have that long-term success.
What if we approached fitness the same way? Because really, it’s no different. Getting fit and strong takes consistent work that requires you to ‘show up’ every day even when you don’t feel like it.
Just like our jobs, we show up and do the work because:
a) it’s good for our bodies and minds, and
b) putting the consistent work in now means long-term success.
(Plus, ‘working-out’ has ‘work’ right in the name!).
I use this hack all the time. When I’m tired, not motivated, or the workout just feels ‘hard’, I tell myself this is just like my job.
I show up to work every day and do my best, so why on earth can’t I do the same for my workout right now?
I push my mental strength at work, and in the gym I need to push my physical strength.
Next time you’re thinking of skipping that workout or it feels ‘too hard’, think of when you pushed past your limits at your job, how you ‘showed up’ even when you didn’t’ want to….now use that to fuel your workout.
2. Snowball Effect
I did mention discipline can be easy, it’s not all hard-work and grind!
I want you to think of a time at work when you did a task that was outside your regular duties, something that felt a little hard and uncomfortable; something that you procrastinated on. Eventually the time comes when you have to do said task. You start the task, you build up some momentum as you plug away at it and an hour later you feel….great!
You got a good start on the task and it begins feels a bit easy. You power through to finish the task and then use that feeling of accomplishment to knock off a few more items on your to-do list, which also feel rather easy.
This my friend is what I call the Snowball Effect. Once you start on the path (of discipline) it’s like a rolling a snowball, as you get started and build that momentum it becomes easier and easier. That sense of accomplishment keeps pulling you forward making what originally felt ‘hard’ begin to feel rather easy and even addicting!
The thing is, the more we avoid or procrastinate on a task the more our brain rationalizes all the reasons why we don’t want to do it, making the task feel bigger, hairier, and more dreadful than it actually is. (i.e. The more you avoid that workout the more it dreadful it sounds, right?!)
On the days I feel ‘unmotivated’ to hit the gym, I do the opposite what most of the world does, I just go start. I start anywhere; maybe it means driving to the gym, or just warming-up, or doing my first exercise set.
Because once I start, I stop avoiding it which means I stop dreading it.
And that means I’m feeling accomplished and excited to keep going.
What I thought would be ‘hard’ begins to feel simple and rather easy.
When you begin to procrastinate on your next workout, how are you going to, ‘just start’ and get the snowball rolling?
3. Don’t Reward, but Withhold
“Go workout and then reward yourself with a treat or new exercise outfit!”
I’m sure you’ve come across this idea that you should reward yourself after working-out; it’ll help you stick with exercise, right?! This sounds like it would work, but in theory it has a tiny chance of being sustainable.
First of all if you hate exercise, no matter what reward plan (or any plan) you instill you’re not going to stick with it. You need to find some type of movement that you enjoy, and there are plenty of options out there!
Secondly, do we really need to reward ourselves for doing something that our bodies and minds need (i.e. exercise)? Especially if it’s a reward that negates the purpose of the action (i.e. a doughnut after your workout).
Let’s go back to our “Fitness is Your Job” hack… Monday comes and you don’t feel like going into work, the thing is, you still go! You don’t have a, “If I go into work today I’ll go on a shopping spree after work” kind of system in place, do you?
Now I don’t want to remove all the fun and games around exercise, so rather than a reward system I want you instead to ‘withhold something you need’.
What is something you have or (legitimately) need every day that you enjoy and look forward to? Perhaps you love a good cup of coffee in the morning, or make yourself a delicious supper every night, or relax at night with a bit of Netflix-watching? Now can you ‘withhold’ this item until after you’ve finished your workout?
For myself, I love a great cup of coffee after my workout, so when my workout is getting mighty tough, I just think of my steaming, delicious cup of coffee waiting for me and I push on through. Honestly nothing is more satisfying and accomplishing then finishing a tough workout and digging into that ‘thing’ you enjoy indulging in every day.
By not adding a reward to your day but withholding something you’d normally have, you can prevent your mind from rationalizing if a ‘reward’ is enough to entice you to workout. (Which we know is a waste of time and exhausting!)
What do you look forward to everyday that you can indulge in after the work is done? Don’t deprive yourself, but what can wait just a little longer to have?
4. Celebrate your success
Let’s be real, being consistent with exercise is tough especially when progress slows and the novelty wears off. If you have something that keeps you excited and looking forward to workouts for the long-term you are 100% more likely to hit the gym. How do we do this? Simple, we celebrate the little things or what I call the, “Small Wins”.
As high-achievers we often ignore the little achievements because we know deep-down that we can do bigger and greater things! But when we ignore the small wins, it’s really easy to get discouraged when progress slows (which is natural) and fall off the exercise bandwagon.
I celebrate the small wins by keeping track of every workout. This allows me to see progress workout-to-workout, even when it’s really small. Perhaps it’s an extra push-up one day or an extra exercise set. These are small successes, but in the grand scheme these little increases build on each other and amount to HUGE progress! And so I celebrate! This keeps me happy, feeling accomplished, and excited to keep going…even when the going gets tough.
Go work-out. Now what are you proud of from that workout, no matter how insignificant it may seem now?
Ever have a gym buddy or accountability partner?
I’m not a big fan of them because what happens when your workout buddy can’t make it one day? Or what if they’re tired or injured and can’t give it ‘their all’ in the workout? Since you depend on your buddy for motivation this usually means your workout also suffers.
Rather than a ‘buddy’ I like to focus on the idea of a ‘community‘, and instead of ‘accountability’ we should think of our community ‘supporting’ us.
For me, my community is the gym I go to. It’s the place where I can celebrate my PR’s (i.e. personal records), complain about muscle soreness, and where I’m always welcome even when I’m rocking the “just rolled out of bed look” (which is legit by the way).
This isn’t a formal community, we don’t work out together but it’s a place where:
a.) They foster my exercise and healthy living habit
b.) I have a connection and feel a sense of belonging
c.) I feel supported in my fitness journey
These are the 3 key things that a community needs for it to help and make discipline feel simple and even easy.
A community doesn’t need to be a gym, it can even be a virtual place. Where can you find and join a community?
Discipline today, equals freedom tomorrow.
If getting fit were easy, this article wouldn’t exist. But as a rising-professional, you don’t take the easy path, you seek out and embrace challenges. Rising to the top of your career is a challenge for your mind, whereas getting fitter and stronger is a challenge for your body. If you can tackle one, you can tackle the other.
Drop a note below, what ‘hack’ are you ready to put into place this week?