Keeping faith with self – the power of self-discipline

In the hustle-bustle of life, where are you? We’re accustomed to getting our work done to meet deadlines and others’ demands. We’re accustomed to taking care of others. What are you doing to keep faith with yourself? Whatever your age as you read this, you should be giving some thought to your well-being and maintenance of a healthy mind and body. That requires honesty, and self-discipline.

None of us gets a pass on this. If you aren’t proactive about your health, you’ll have consequences, even if you’re fortunate enough to be disease and accident free.

Self-discipline is often disguised as short-term pain, which often leads to long-term gains. The mistake many of us make is the need and want for short-term gains (immediate gratification), which often leads to long-term pain. ~ Charles F. Glassman

For some people, the wake-up call to better self-care is an event. For others, it’s recognition of the toll time and life can take. You know, the day you’re looking in the mirror and wondering who’s staring back at you? Where did that face / body come from?

Habits, good or bad, can make a world of difference in health, longevity, mental acuity, and peace of mind.

Keeping a habit, in the smallest way, protects and strengthens it. ~ Gretchen Rubin

What have you done for yourself lately?

Some of my daily self-care has been sterling throughout my life. But I’ll admit, some has been hit or miss.

Now in my mid-50s, I’m more motivated to take care of all of me. And that means changing some habits. I’ve become more intentional about exercise (never a favorite activity) and adding nutritional supplements to my diet. I’m also more thoughtful about eating sweets, breads, and drinking sugared beverages.

I’m more thoughtful about the influences I absorb, the ways I make use of my time, all the things that seem small, but can really add up. I’m especially mindful of attitudes I display to others. While these considerations may seem to have little to do with immediate physical health, I believe my state of mind, my peace of mind, is actually very important to both body and spirit.

I’ve become thoughtful and intentional about legacy. What I model to my family, my friends, to others, influences how I impact. And there’s no doubt: I prefer to be a role model rather than a cautionary tale.

Striving to be a role model doesn’t mean I’ve got everything sorted out, or under control. It means I know what I want my life to look like, and I’m trying. That’s all.

I’m committed to doing the best I can.

Here’s what I currently do, every day / week:

Physical health:

  • Oral care – brush and water-floss 3 times daily
  • Skin care – clean and moisturize 2 times daily
  • Water – about 6 glasses daily
  • Coffee – 1 to 2 cups daily
  • Sugar – a few teaspoons a day
  • Fruits and vegetables – 2 or 3 servings daily
  • Dairy – 2 or 3 servings daily
  • Meat – 1 or 2 servings weekly
  • Fish – 2 or 3 servings weekly
  • Nutritional supplements: Collagen, glucosamine, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, garlic daily
  • Arm, leg, and core exercises daily
  • Walking – 30 minutes daily
  • Exercise bike – 30 minutes 2 – 3 times weekly
  • Alcohol – very limited use, 2 – 3 times monthly
  • Soda / pop – 3 – 4 times monthly; unsweetened iced tea is my go-to beverage
  • Routine physical / dental screenings as recommded

Mental health:

  • Postive reading / reflection daily – source varies throughout the week
  • Writing, 3-4 times weekly – current project
  • Contact with family and friends daily – phone, Facebook, or other
  • Ordering my space – daily
  • Monitor my finances – weekly
  • Music – daily
  • I limit conflict as much as possible
  • I limit TV viewing – usually view no more than 2 – 3 hours weekly
  • Limit non-work time online
  • I focus on a positive narrative, for myself and others
  • I’m curious
  • I like to laugh

For others:

  • I try to be kind
  • I try to remember I don’t know the circumstances other people face
  • I prefer to give rather than receive

What I don’t do:

  • No artificial sweetener of any kind
  • No prescription medications
  • No recreational drugs
  • No phone at meal times

These lists aren’t comprehensive, but you get the gist of what I’m saying.

As I’m more thoughtful about what I eat, supplements, daily movement, and intentional living, I feel better and I appreciate the additional self-discipline in my life.

I have a weight range I target, and I also have an upper weight limit for myself. I acknowledge my weight will fluctuate due to schedule, special events, holidays, etc., but while I’m ok with some variation in weight, I also find it helpful to keep my weight below a specific number. That helps me eliminate weight creep…the five pounds turning to ten pounds turning to fifteen pounds.

I focus on moderation rather than absolute rules for myself, in general. There are some things I always do and some things I never do, but in general, I feel best about avoiding hard and fast rules. That means that I’ll indulge in a decadent sweet. Sometimes I binge watch a TV series. Rather than feel guilty about those choices, I see them for what they are – a blip in my routine.

Being honest with myself is a critical component of self-care. Honesty is key – if I tell myself I’m a healthy eater, but really I’m not – if I tell myself I exercise, but really I don’t – then mostly I’m a wishful thinker, and dishonest with myself, and that doesn’t help anyone.

If I tell myself I’m kind and considerate, but can’t remember the last time I went out of my way for someone else – what does that really say? If I say I’m not addicted to my phone, but I can’t interact with others without checking my phone, who’s kidding whom?

Achieving these goals won’t make me perfect. No, that’s not the point. I’m not striving for perfection. That would be self-defeating.

No one reaches perfection.

I’m striving to be better, to be the person I want to be, and the person I can be.

In fact, perfectionism is so defeating, it can stop you in your tracks, before you even have a chance to see what you can do. Perfectionism says if you can’t stick to your goals every day, you’re a failure, or worse, you’ll never make real change.

But this is about the long haul, and in the long haul, you have to be real, and that means you’re human.

We humans can do so much, if we’re determined. Begin by telling yourself you can, and then get started!

If you find yourself needing to re-set, try this path:

  • Make a promise to be honest with yourself.
  • Assess where you are physically, mentally, financially…any area of your life you choose to address.
  • Think about changes you want to make…set your goals, both long range and short range.
  • Consider finding an accountability partner to help you as you implement your new habits.
  • Create a simple log, journal, or some other method to track your progress. Focus on consistency rather than results. Results will come, if you’re consistent. There are phone apps that can help you track habits, fitness, diet, Bible reading, meditation, time you spend online, etc. Whether you go high-tech or low, don’t trust tracking your journey to memory. Seeing your progress will be powerful as you follow the changes you make over time, and you’ll be inspired to continue your new habits.
  • Document where you’re beginning…weight; what you’re eating, drinking, etc. Make photos, charts, or use whatever method you choose to note your starting point.
  • Get started!
  • If you miss a day, don’t let it get you down. Get back to your new routine the next day.

Self-discipline tends to be its own reward, in my experience. The more you do what you say you’re going to do, the more likely you are to keep up the good work. And as you grow more consistent, you’ll also be rewarded with results…better health, better focus, better self-image.

So what about it? What will you change today?

Self-discipline is a self-enlarging process. ~ M. Scott Peck


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