We have two characters – Tommy and John. They were both looking to lose some weight by implement better eating habits which requires self discipline, however they have different approaches resulting in different outcomes. See the video to find out which approach is superior.
Tommy was so fired up and motivated to start and without any hesitation he decided that right then and there he was going to flip his life around. The world was about to witness the new and improved Tommy he thought. Tommy reloaded he called himself. He went from eating junk food and drinking sugary sodas regularly to restricting it completely that evening. He went to bed determined to use his willpower to create this new life and no one was gonna stand in his way. He woke up the next morning and went for a 30 minute run followed by pushups to failure. Instead of his go-to pancakes topped with chocolate, he had a raw egg with some water and for lunch he had seaweed and a glass of flaxseed oil. Because that’s what a Tommy reloaded eats. After six days of eating and training like this, Tommy reloaded broke down and forced down a pizza covered in chocolate along with a bottle of coke with ten extra cubes of sugar. He just couldn’t handle the abrupt changes.
John on the other takes a different approach and instead of shutting the bad food out completely he made changes gradually to work his way into eating better. He also thought about going to the gym before work but decided not to yet, but instead directed his efforts completely towards eating better and making that a habit before moving on to other things. He strategically implemented two cheat days the first week so that he could calm his cravings. He went on to reduce that to only one cheat day a week, and eventually only one cheat day every other week. Reducing the bad eating doesn’t really feel like a sacrifice as it did at the start and John has come to enjoy the feeling of making progress by sticking to his healthy eating more than stuffing his face in cake or burgers whenever there’s an opportunity.
So the first rule to build discipline is to start small and scale up.
Before Tommy made his decision to change his eating habits, he watched a motivational video on Instagram where a roided guy flexed his abs and he decided that he wants to do that too. The motivation was high in Tommy and he started eating clean with no exceptions and lost some weight. However it got harder to not give in to all those pleasures as it was constantly available to him. The motivation he had in the beginning quickly dissolved and Tommy reloaded could no longer resist the urge for Junk food. Before Tommy broke down he whispered to himself “a little treat never hurt anybody.” That night he looked with disgust at himself in the mirror and thought – if only I had more motivation things would’ve been different.
John on the other hand knows that motivation is bullsh*t and he can’t rely on it to get anywhere. Even though it will get him started it’s not going to keep him going when it gets a little rough. When that initial motivation dies out, he needs discipline to keep on going and he knows that he has to do what he’s supposed to do, when he’s supposed to do it regardless if he feels like it or not. John doesn’t care if he doesn’t feel like it or isn’t motivated enough, but pushes his feelings to the side and gets on with it. It’s pretty difficult at first but he realized the more he does it the easier it becomes and he can gradually remove cheat days and eating better becomes a habit. He goes to bed happy knowing that he’s a little better off than he was yesterday.
So the second rule to build discipline is to never rely on motivation to build discipline.
Let me bring in some science on discipline here. When you first try to discipline yourself to start a new habit, eating healthy for example, it’s pretty difficult and we become reluctant to it and want to revert back to old ways. This is because our brain aren’t used to this new behavior and we have to exert a lot of effort to go through with it. But when you repeat that behavior, you’re building and strengthening neural pathways in the brain, making the that behavior possible with less effort the next time.
It was the same when you first learned to tie your shoes right. I bet you sucked at that at one point in your life but you kept repeating that action over and over and it became easier because you strengthened your neural pathways for tying your shoes and eventually you became good at it. Now your neural pathways for tying shoes are so strong it’s automatic and you can do it without thinking. So John’s habit of eating better is becoming easier because the neural pathways are growing stronger over time and eventually it’s second nature to him.
However the neural pathways you build doesn’t know the difference between a good and bad behavior and will also be strengthened when you repeat a negative action. This is why it’s super important to never allow yourself to give in to temptations you aren’t supposed to. Because if you do that once, it becomes easier to do that again and you’re know strengthening the habit of being a little sissy. Now giving up and reverting back to old ways becomes easier and this is what happened to Tommy, and since he reverting back to his old habits, the neural pathways of giving up and being a little sissy is growing stronger and it’s easier for him to give up the next time.
So the reason why Tommy started this new habit was because of the motivation he got from the dude on Instagram flexing his photoshopped physique and thought it looked pretty cool. The realization that years of work and effort can’t be done in a few weeks was enough to discourage Tommy to continue. He wanted the abs but he didn’t want to build the discipline to get there.
John has a harder time quitting because he remembers why he stared and his reasons are rooted much deeper than something superficial such as wanting to flex his abs. He doesn’t do it to boost his own ego but he knows that his family and previous generations have had problems with diseases related to obesity and he also knows he can’t be the role model he wants to be for the people who rely on him if he stays fat and lazy. In john’s mind giving up on eating better isn’t really a viable option.
So the third rule of building discipline is to have a strong why.
Now obviously this is an over simplistic explanation but the fundamentals remains when it comes to building self discipline and it’s not achieved easily, but over time and through effort. Everyone has their own reasons for building discipline but it’s essential that the why is rooted deep, and that you don’t rely on that initial motivation to keep you going. And hopefully by doing that you won’t end up giving up strengthening the habit of being a little sissy like Tommy.
Hope that helps!
Some of the references: