Self discipline: the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.
From what I can tell, most of us view self-discipline as a thing we need to constantly exercise every moment of every day. We think we need to police ourselves to resist temptation at every turn:
- Resist the temptation to check our phones.
- Resist the temptation to eat the cookie.
- Resist the temptation to hit the snooze alarm.
- Resist the temptation to have a second glass of wine after dinner.
- Resist the temptation to skip the gym and work out tomorrow instead.
But there are two problems with this line of thinking.
First, it’s incredibly draining to police ourselves every minute of the day. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but temptation is everywhere. Most of us cannot use self-discipline alone to resist all these things.
Second, thinking that we need MORE self-discipline is a convenient way of not taking action or doing anything to change our situation in the present.
The truth is, we already have all the self-discipline we need. We simply need to use it in more effective ways.
Over the years, I’ve adopted a few great strategies in order to dramatically reduce the amount of self-discipline I need to use in my everyday life.
Here’s a great strategy to begin using in your life right away to eat less junk food:
My mentor and colleague Dr. John Berardi has a saying (now dubbed Berardi’s Law): “If a food is in your possession or located in your residence, you will eventually eat it.”
Knowing this, I have removed all of the unhealthy food from my apartment that I’d be tempted to eat — things like tortilla chips, ice cream, and pizza.
Removing this type of food from my house has two main benefits: First, it makes it physically impossible for me to eat anything “bad” when I’m at home. Second, it makes the instances when I do eat those things infinitely more enjoyable.
If I’m at home and want pizza, then I really only have two options:
Option 1: Walk or drive somewhere to go get pizza.
Option 2: Eat something healthy instead, and plan the next time I’ll eat pizza.
Instead of having temptations in my kitchen which would available to eat whenever a craving comes on, I put a bunch of barriers in my way. If in order to get pizza, I must stop working, shut down my computer, grab my keys, ride to a store, stand in line, buy pizza, and go back home, then it’s almost inconceivable I’d go through all that trouble.
In other words, I don’t have to use any self-discipline to not eat pizza because I don’t have any pizza to eat.
That means I’ll often go with Option 2: I’ll feel the craving, grab an orange or whatever protein is already cooked (currently have ham) and then get back to work.
If after a considerable amount of time has passed and I still want pizza, then I’ll plan a date with my girlfriend to go to a restaurant known for making delicious pizza. Eating fresh, delicious pizza while catching up with a close friend is infinitely more enjoyable to me than mindlessly shoving Pizza Pockets in my mouth during the day while writing on the computer.
Take action today and go through your fridge and cupboards and throw away (or give away) any tempting, unhealthy foods.
For most people this is junk food like chips, cookies, and ice cream. But for others, it can be beer, Chinese take-out, or even calorically-dense foods that are easy to overeat like cookie/peanut butter.