2019 - Year of Discipline
Each year like to focus on a specific theme as a means of development, it can be career/professional, or personal. In 2018, I focused on health. I wanted to start exercising regularly and keep up a generally healthy lifestyle (by the way, I hate the gym). So I began 2018 with an exercise routine where I went for a run at least twice a week (which I hated) and stretched every morning and did a set of callisthenics. It was not easy. I kept a track of my record on a calendar, giving myself a tick for each “successful” day that I had where I kept to my plan, and a cross for each “failure”. I also combined this with not eating and any junk food/sugary foods (including carrot cake!) for the month, and I went back to being vegetarian (which I was able to sustain for the whole year – and I’ve now adopted as a lifestyle, and I feel much better for it too). At first, it was virtual torture. I felt like my body was fighting against my mind, but eventually, I started to feel better and “levelled up.” I lost weight, and got really fit. It is difficult to keep this up, unless you are doing so intentionally. After a couple of months, I decided to give myself a break and I got back to in relaxed habits. Though I weren’t as bad as before; I just did not feel as sharp, motivated as I did whilst on the exercise and healthy eating regime. So throughout the year, I made the effort to continue this, and although I put weight back on, my body feels much better and fitter than before.
So, to start this new year 2019, I am focussing on a new theme of personal development: discipline. In every aspect of my life. I will try to be disciplined and intentional with all of my actions, behaviours and thoughts – from spending money to eating to relationships. But before I enter the year, I usually start with a month of “ritual” cleansing to help me get into the right emotional, spiritual, mental and physical state of being, which should help me be more successful in achieving this ideal of being disciplined. Often times, when we want to make a change in our lives, people think it is just as easy as doing it, but much like anything else, I believe we have to prepare ourselves for the changes that we want to make in our lives. You don’t just go into running a marathon without training for it. Even if you are fit already, or exercise regularly, you still have to train; mind and body. So, what I like to do is go on a month (the whole of January) of zero gratification/gratification denial: which basically means you deny your body and mind of all the things that you would usually find gratifying. This usually involves:
1. Interactions/relationships: no sex (for those of you out there who are having it)/no sexual gratification, in any form/not even mental/visual sexual gratification, no dates, no flirtation.
2. Diet: no alcohol (I don’t drink anyway, but for those of you who do)/no artificial sugars/chocolates/cakes/sweets etc, no meat or fish; essentially a month of fruit and veg (don’t worry, you’ll be fine)
3. No socialising: no nights out with friends, no bars, no clubs etc, etc (small sacrifices have to be made, remember this is all about self and personal development).
4. Media: no TV shows, no Netflix, no music, no social media: delete the apps for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, all of them, don’t even check them on your laptop browser. If you really want to be super serious, just deactivate your accounts (but remember the 30 day period most of these accounts have).
What this does is really help you to hone in on yourself and focus on you, without distraction. Now more than ever, we are bombarded with content. We consume it at an unprecedented rate, and I really believe this alters/influences your thoughts, and can take you away from yourself. And considering we spend all year round consuming content, taking a bit of time away from it helps to quieten the noise. Also, what you’ll find is you have at least a spare hour or two in the day that is freed up because you’re not checking your social media feed. Use this free time to exercise or read a book.
I’m a visual person, so to help me keep a track of my progress, I used a large wall calendar where I marked each day that I successful kept to my regime, and crossed the days that I didn’t. I also wrote out what my goals/targets where, so that I could see them and reflect in the morning and evenings. Not only was it a brilliant remind, it was also a great way to find strength on those days the cravings/temptations feel overwhelming. When you see that you are on your 3rd or 10th day in a row, you focus in more and try to keep that run going.
I also used the wall calendar to plan and keep a track of the rest of my year. It helped me to plan in advance and reach a particular target, and in each month, I would write beside it, what I wanted to achieve, for e.g. write 10’000 words, or run twice a week, etc. I did this January through to September, after which I became really busy and stressed, after a few challenges that came my way, and fell back into negative coping mechanisms; avoidance, procrastination and the rest of it (I think you can see where my calendar becomes empty in the latter months – I started avoiding it). That’s why I am deciding to focus on discipline this year, because I believe that discipline is the key in fulfilling not only your goals and targets, but also your potential and self-actualising into the kind of human being you want to be, no matter your situation.
I truly believe we are just one positive habit away from being the best versions of ourselves, but we get distracted, get so caught up and negatively influenced by our environment that we are diverted away from our true paths. We all have goals that we want to achieve, but it’s difficult to be motivated everyday to fulfil though. However, in the absence of motivation, discipline is what carries us through. Now, this isn’t a one trick solution. It won’t immediately fix your problems, I’m not sure how well it will work for anyone else (this is the first time I’m sharing it with anyone) but this has been one of the most influential tools I’ve used to rebuild myself and overcome arguably the most difficult periods of my life. I do think that there are long term benefits in being able to exercise self-control in all aspects of your life. If for nothing else but how you feel (where else do you have to go if you don’t feel at home in your own mind and your own body?). And how you feel about yourself can fundamentally change the way you perceive the reality and environment around you.
So, do let me know what you think. I’m going to be doing my time away in January, and if anyone of you want to try and check back in and share how it went for you, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or share on social media (when we come back in February, obviously!). Wishing you the best on this journey of growth and self-development.