I consider myself a pretty disciplined person. I’ve always naturally liked following a schedule and a routine. So much so that my “discipline” could feel like a flaw at some points. I had very specific routines for getting ready for school in the morning (down to the minutes) and how I’d get ready for baseball practice and how I’d do my homework.
Being the on sports team both in high school and in college certainly helped me hone my personal discipline skills.
However, getting into a regular running habit has had me reevaluating my personal discipline. So much of what I do is ingrained in my brain and routine already (waking up early, going to work/class, answering emails) that it was a little shock to my system to have something new pop up in my life.
For the first time, I think I really feel myself practicing discipline. With my other commitments (school, sports, my job), it always felt like something I had to do so I had no problem getting it down.
With running? It’s recreational. It’s a bonus. I love it once I’m down the street and on my way, I love being around Boston, and I really love the feeling of accomplishment afterward. But, it’s SO hard for me to get out the door.
I’m going to share my personal tips for how I practice discipline with running and beyond. I’m using my own activities and priorities as examples, so just swap them out and tailor it to your own needs.
Prioritize | I’ve found that with anything in life, if you don’t make an effort to prioritize something, it won’t happen. That could be making time for friends (or for yourself), getting extra credit assignments done, reading more, eating healthier, etc. If you’re finding that you’re not getting something done, figure out what you are getting done and see if it’s a good priority. A positive example, you may not be reading a book a week right now but you’re building a business plan in your free time. On the flip side, if you want to be practicing yoga every day but find yourself zipping through an entire series on Netflix in a week, you’ve prioritized Netflix over yoga.
One of the hardest things to come to terms with as far as prioritization goes is that you can’t prioritize everything all at once. That’s the magic and the curse of prioritization: it forces you to place what’s important to you in a specific order. Prioritization is the first step to commitment. And you need commitment to have good discipline.
Schedule It | My biggest tip is to schedule your priorities. Write it down to show yourself that you’ve committed and it also helps you visualize how it fits into your day. (Part of the reason why I love doing this is because it makes me realize how much I can get done in a day if I don’t deviate from the schedule.) I joke that if it’s not on my Calendar, it’s not happening. And that includes running!
Part of scheduling is also schedule down time. Being disciplined isn’t turning yourself into a machine. You can hang onto that for about a week or so but it leads to burn out. Give yourself the flexibility to relax and unwind and feel unscheduled. By doing this you give yourself the structure to set yourself up for healthy success.
I am fortunate to have the flexibility to schedule my day in the most effective manner. For me that means working normal hours unless the Red Sox are in town. Then my schedule is completely based on baseball. While I think it’s “typical” to relax after a regular work day (happy hours, cooking dinner, watching television), I find that I work a lot better at night (from around 8pm to midnight….or later, whoops) than I do in the afternoon. I “schedule” my downtime in the afternoon so I feel rested for my second wind at night. Having this schedule in place and written down makes me feel less guilty for enjoying the sunshine during the day and more motivated to continue my to-do list after dinner.
Track, but Don’t Reward | This might be a slightly controversial point, but I don’t think you should reward yourself for being disciplined. I think rewards okay for hitting specific milestones or goals because they’re something you work towards, but discipline should be expected. The feeling of accomplishment is reward enough! Keep track of your discipline so you can hold yourself accountable.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself | When you fall off the discipline bandwagon, it’s more like a jumping out of a plane. I know that if I start to slip in my discipline it’s a swift decline. I get very down on myself and feel like it’s not even worth trying again. I let five days of personal frustration prevent me from starting today off fresh. If you do find yourself struggling to maintain personal discipline, cut yourself some slack. Remind yourself that it’s a new day and don’t even think about the past. Every day you’re disciplined is one more day in the right direction.