Self-Discipline

Everyday Resolutions

The end of each December is a popular time

to turn over a new leaf.

Rather than making New Year’s Resolutions, I resolve to improve my weak links on a daily basis, as the need arises, and believe me the need arises. But New Year’s Day is as good a day as any to get started, however, it is getting started and never stopping that is what’s worth keeping in mind.

Over the years, I have adopted the motto: “If what you are doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.” And I practice implementing these words into my everyday actions.

Be it how I communicate with my kids, how I make lifestyle changes to eliminating plastic from my life or how I am constantly making adjustments with my body alignment, which causes me to re-evaluate and reconfigure my daily body maintenance routine. (My week 3 Day 7 progression has evolved greatly in the last three years.)

We must practice accepting that what we are doing may not be right and that through exploration we can continue to make improvements. Unless of course, you desire to live your life like a store display mannequin, frozen in time, not having to think or to adapt or to change; believing that what you are doing is right and that the problems you face must be faults outside your control. Most of us don’t know how to eat properly for optimal health, most of us don’t know how our body works, most of us don’t really know that much about the world we live in and how to take care of it.

When we take pause and consider that in order to survive, all of us must thrive on being right, on having the correct beliefs. In other words, if we don’t believe that what we do is correct would we not be crazy for repeating them over and over again? For even the addict, though often knows what he does isn’t right can find an excuse to justify and comfort his addiction. And so he believes that he is right, even if only for a moment in time. (There are many levels of addiction, from coffee, chocolate, exercise, drugs, pharmaceuticals, supplements, social media etc.)

What makes us do what we do?

Try as you might, to control your life, change is inevitable. As our lives change it is wise to become familiar with change in order to adapt without resistance, which enables a symbiotic synergy with family, community and the environment on a larger scale.

I like change. Similar to a cat, I like to see how I will land, and I have learned that there is no one way to land, (although the ideal is to land on ones feet!) which makes it all that more intriguing. As a result, I find myself constantly fine tuning my behaviours and habits, which puts me in a prime position to say a thing or two about how to initiate change.

Here are some basic suggestions:

Q: I want to change ______, but how do I even get started?

A: Getting started can be as simple as having an idea and making the decision to follow through on that idea. However, within this simple step there are a few sub-steps to climb:

You need discipline to develop skill. But, you need to spend some time developing skill to become disciplined.  You must have the willingness and desire, also known as passion or wanting it badly enough to spend the time developing the skill to become disciplined in the first place. Achieving goals and changing habits is not linear but rather cyclical and overlapping.

How To Cultivate Self-Discipline

So even when a person is committed to making change and making personal improvement, you can see it is not seamless. It is not easy or foolproof. It still requires a lot of work.  To outsiders having self-discipline looks effortless, but for those who practice being consistent there is no compliment in off-hand remarks such as: “oh, well you have self-discipline”, as if it were built-in. As if those who achieve anything remarkable is born with a natural talent.

Anyone can develop self-discipline, but it doesn’t just manifest, it must be cultivated. Anyone can be fit and healthy, but it takes effort, discipline and education. It takes practice to become consistent with self-discipline. Period.

Q: I’ve made many resolutions in the past but have always fallen short. How do I change this behavior?

A: By being consistent. Self-discipline is borne from being consistent. Don’t give up on yourself. There is a lot of self-coaching that goes along with keeping your word to yourself. It’s also helpful to understand that goals change along the way. Just because you initiate change with a certain idea doesn’t mean you will stick to that forever. As you learn more about yourself you will be required to re-evaluate your strategy and fine-tune your approach as you go along. You are a work in progress. The goal itself isn’t the point. The point is to realize your human potential and perpetually raise your own bar.

The goal isn't the goal

Q: I tend to stick to a program when I have someone to answer to, like a personal trainer or when I go to a group class.

A: Learn to become accountable to yourself. Try not even telling anyone what changes you have planned. Learn the necessary skills from someone more skilled than yourself and employ self-discipline to become your own expert.

When I had a studio, many of my clients had more money than discipline. Instead of practicing what I taught them so that we could develop their skills to the next level they would use me as a crutch to put them through their paces. Be a willing student because money cannot buy improved health, fitness or skill.

Q: How do I create lasting change?

A: Setting a new habit requires repetition. Let’s say for example that you want to lose weight and get in better physical condition. I believe it is best achieved by making very small changes so as to not overwhelm oneself, which is the idea behind my 4-minute morning series.

Hopefully, as you go through the progressions, you will learn more about yourself (how your mind works) and your body and discover areas that need further exploration. Note: ALL areas need further exploration 🙂 My 4 minute morning series of progressions is the foundation for developing a consistent practice of self-discipline. It is simple but can you do it? Oftentimes it is the simple things that are the most challenging.

I believe that exercise is meant to establish a balanced musculoskeletal system. When we are in balance, our body works at an optimal level (which is different for everyone).

Important: If you exercise with poor body alignment you will only reinforce an unbalanced musculoskeletal system. Keep in mind that when you practice Yoga, run, walk, swim, cycle or lift heavy weights among many other activities, the point of what you are doing is to build an ideal structure that is trained to move in an optimal way when you engage in life: sitting at your desk, driving a car, sitting on a bus, walking, grocery shopping etc. It is the mundane repetitive activities associated with living that require this steady stream of awareness. 

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

―Archilochus 

~Happy New Year 2014 ~Happy New Year 2014 ~Happy New Year 2014 ~

 

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On Valuing Your Life

How to Be Compassionate

Valuing Your Life

by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

“So, this human life is a precious endowment, potent yet fragile. Simply by virtue of being alive, you are at a very important juncture, and carry a great responsibility.

You can achieve powerful good for yourself and others, so becoming distracted by the minor affairs of this lifetime would be a tremendous waste. Resolve to use this lifetime in this body effectively, urging yourself on from the inside and seeking whatever assistance there is from the outside.  You should use your fleeting life for your benefit and that of others.  Physical happiness is just an occasional balance of elements in the body, not a deep harmony.  Recognize the temporary for what it is.  Do not assume that there will be time later.

Meditative Reflection

  1. It is certain that I will die.  Death cannot be avoided.  My lifetime is running out and cannot be extended.
  2. When I will die is unknown.  Human lifespan varies.  The causes of death are many, and the causes of life comparatively few.  The body is fragile.
  3. We are all in this same tenuous situation, so there is no  point in quarrelling and fighting, or wasting all our mental and physical energy on accumulating money and property.
  4. By mistaking what deteriorates moment by moment for something constant, I bring pain upon myself as well as others.  I should reduce my attachment to passing fancies.
  5. From the depths of my heart, I should seek to get beyond these cycles of suffering created by mistaking what is fleeting for permanent.
  6. In the long run, what helps most is my transformed attitude.

Being aware of impermanence calls for discipline – taming the mind – but this does not mean punishment, or control from the outside.  Discipline does not mean prohibition; rather, it means that when there is a contradiction between short-term and long-term interests, you sacrifice the former for the latter.  This is self-discipline, which is based on understanding the cause and effect of one’s own actions.  This type of discipline offers protection.  A tamed mind makes you peaceful, relaxed, and happy, whereas if your mind is not disciplined in this way, no matter how wonderful your external circumstances, you will be beset by fears and worries.  Realize that the root of your own happiness and welfare lies in a peaceful and tamed mind.  It is also a great benefit to those around you.

Human beings have all the potential necessary to create good things, but its full utilization requires freedom.  Totalitarianism stifles this growth.  Individualism means that you do not expect something from the outside, or that you are waiting for orders; rather, you yourself create the initiative.  Therefore, Buddha frequently called for “individual liberation,” meaning self-liberation, rather than freedom achieved through large-scale political or military action.  Each individual must create his or her own discipline.  If they are exploited by afflictive emotions, there will be negative consequences.  Freedom and self-discipline must work together.”

 

From: How to Be Compassionate, pages 51-53. 

Translated by Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D. 

Belief and Butterflies

 I think a lot about belief,

how we shape our beliefs and

where those beliefs come from.

Believe Nothing.

You Are Your Own Religion.

Following the advice from the above quote is a lot more complicated than it first appears, because who we are, what we think and how we act (or react) is heavily grounded in our history, customs, traditions, who we look up to, what we read, see and have been taught.

What is your own reason?

What is your own common sense?

It takes practice to sit quietly ruminating on questions that reveal our true individual beliefs. It is difficult to set aside the beliefs that we have been taught as being correct (that gave us top marks), to settle on our true nature.

Can anyone really say that their beliefs are not affected by the world around them? We hold on so tightly to our beliefs. And it makes perfect sense to do so, because having strong beliefs is our natural link to survival. But there can be a point when belief becomes rigid and prevents us from growing and exploring possibilities. Beliefs come in all shapes and sizes. Not all beliefs come in the form of a radical-life-changing shift. Sometimes when we make a small (as in microscopic – barely noticeable) shift to a long held belief, it at first may seem insignificant, but it is often these little ripples that offer the most catalytic potential. Think of the butterfly effect.

“It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.”- Chaos Theory

Since before starting my blog/website in April 2011, I have been experimenting with consciously shifting my comfort zones, which I have come to realize is actually making micro changes to my beliefs – to my world, as I know it.

It takes practice to change,

and practice requires being consistent.

Here are two examples of what seems like very insignificant beliefs (beliefs shape our patterns and behaviour) that I resisted changing and how much I have learned and grown from adapting to these changes. A few months before I embarked on this hobby of writing a blog, I decided that I would, without fail, each and every night for the rest of my life…floss my teeth. Sounds life changing doesn’t it? It was my butterfly effect.

Butterfly

I have always been consistent with cleaning my mouth and teeth, to a fault I recently learned. I wrote about it here. And I have always flossed my teeth, just not daily :). I would go through phases of being consistent with flossing (like for a week), and then neglect the practice to a now and then or when I would remember kind of practice. Don’t we all do that for a lot of different things in our lives? When things seem to be going OK, we put off doing the jobs that take the least amount of time because we don’t value their significance or impact in the big picture.

“There is no ONE GIANT step that does it,

it’s a lot of LITTLE STEPS.”

It has now been over two years without missing a single day of flossing! My oral health has improved dramatically. Ironically, I have cut back on the frequency of brushing my teeth (the article I refer to above explains this in detail). And as a result of these shifts my self-discipline has improved dramatically too. I am becoming more accomplished at doing ten, twenty and sixty-second jobs that would otherwise be put off to another time. This butterfly effect has changed my patterns. It was a test you see. I tested myself with something that would have zero impact on anyone else. With something that literally takes sixty to ninety seconds. It was something that would make a big difference to my life and health, something that I could do or not do and no one would know whether I failed or kept my word, except for my dentist and hygienist ;). Don’t fool yourself if you really think that your oral health care practitioner believes you when you tell them that you floss regularly. If you have bleeding gums and oral health problems somebody’s not doing a very effective job and the end result is the obvious proof of the neglect. And we all know who that someone is. Hmmm?

“If what you are doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.”

People come up with the most elaborate excuses for not flossing daily (or at all!) and are genuinely amazed as to why they have oral health problems. It is a lot like when I ask my kids if they have brushed their teeth in the morning (knowing they haven’t because I can smell their ‘morning breath’). Instead of arguing that I know that they have not done it, rather I tell them that they should do it again, because the job they did wasn’t very effective. And if they need help doing it properly, I would be happy to help.

“If you’re going to do something, do it right the first time.”

It is much like being overweight or having general health problems. The remedy is so obvious to everyone looking in but not at all to the person affected. And yet even to those looking in, though they can see what the affected person is doing wrong, they have the same difficulty seeing what isn’t working for themselves. Everyone is looking for a medical test to diagnose what it is that is causing his or her illness. Looking outside of themselves for answers, for someone else to do the LITTLE STEPS for them. May I suggest? Do the daily little steps; test your-self for a couple of years and see what happens. If you do it right, it will work.

“If it is important to you,

You will find a way.

If not?

You will find an excuse.”

~Frank Banks

But don’t be misguided; I don’t believe that there is such a thing as perfect health. There is not a place to get to where we just float along without minor pain or discomfort from time to time. The human body is volatile. There is no pain-free life, just as there is no stain-free steel. (Stainless steel isn’t stain-free, it just stains less.) We may become pain-less, but to expect to have a pain-free life is quite the tall order to have for our existence. Perhaps we need to reexamine our expectations and the beliefs attached to those expectations. Apparently the snake-oil salesmen from years gone by are still doing excellent business selling false hope and promises. We need to walk away from those snake-oil salesmen and practice our own little steps.

Snake-Oil Salesman

So, around the same time that I started my flossing experiment, I started doing my 4-minute mornings, which was an interesting shift in beliefs, to say the least. Because what is most interesting to me is that I used to tell clients, twenty years ago about a study that showed that even ten minutes of exercise, repeated three times a day was shown to be as effective as doing thirty-minutes of exercise at one time. I used to dish out that study but I never experimented with it for myself and I doubt that anyone really gave it much credence. My world back then was all about teaching hour-long aerobic, step or cycle Reebok classes. Everything was based on time: hour-long one-on-one private training sessions, hour-long stretch classes, hour-long toning classes and hour-long Pilates classes. For those of us interested in supporting our health, we were willing to put in that hour a day and for those of us in the business, well, we spent all day being physically active. So, for me to downshift these theories (beliefs) in health and fitness to a radical drop in duration was a tough pill to swallow. Could 4 minutes of something really have any significant effect on the body? I decided to experiment for myself. I speculated that 4 minutes once in a while might not be very effective, but 4 minutes daily might…I was willing to see what might happen.

The results have been quite fascinating. I have learned about being disciplined with a daily short duration routine that would otherwise be very easy to dismiss or put off. Every morning for the past two years I have done the same routine, which has evolved from starting out as a few minutes of bed stretches into twenty minutes of a variety of stretches and calisthenics. The significant piece to take away from this is that it is not about the duration (the time spent doing these exercises) but rather in doing specific exercises to correct and maintain MY functional alignment. And the fascinating piece is that I don’t spend more than a minute or two on most of the stretches or exercises. Duration is not as relevant as is the focus and precision attached to each stretch or movement. In other words, what is more important is WHAT you do and HOW you do it.

Exercise is more than moving and perspiring for an extended period of time. Perhaps this is a long held belief that needs to be revisited and questioned? What do you think exercise is? Do you believe that by getting your ‘heart rate up’ for an extended period of time your body will automatically realign itself and by default magically transform into an Adonis?

Sorry, it begs repeating: “If what you are doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.”

If we repeat a physical action misaligned, then our end result will be reinforced misalignment.

Losing body fat and having a functionally sound mechanically efficient body are two very separate actions. Losing body fat through exercise doesn’t automatically generate a functionally sound mechanically efficient body, however the opposite is more likely probable of igniting change.

“When you have eliminated the impossible,

whatever remains,

however improbable, must be the truth.”

–Sherlock Holmes

I have discovered that I really like to start my day like this (bed stretches etc.) and will make every effort to get to bed on time so that I can clock eight hours of sleep and still be able to wake up with enough time to do my morning routine before I start my mom-duty. “If it is important to you, You will find a way. If not? You will find an excuse.”

“If you believe you can or you believe you can’t – you’re right.”

~Henry Ford