On Discipline

On Discipline

Something I heard recently made me think a lot about discipline, and about how all of the nice things we want in life require it. Whether it’s being physically fit, success in school or your career, making wise financial decisions, cultivating a good relationship, etc., discipline is so important.

Unfortunately, it’s something I struggle with.  On any given day, there are three areas in my life where I have to exercise discipline:

  • Studying/being productive
  • Healthy eating & working out
  • Not online shopping for things I don’t need

I’ve noticed that if I am disciplined in two areas, I kind of reward myself by being lax in the third area. If I study hard and also eat healthy and work out, I feel like I end up buying clothes or makeup or something else I don’t really need (often on Amazon). If I eat healthy and work out and also don’t waste money on random stuff, I feel like I waste time and don’t study as hard. It’s basically this situation where if I am disciplined in two areas, I use the third area as a stress release, so I’ll either eat unhealthy, spend time relaxing instead of studying, or buy junk on Amazon.

I have been trying hard to increase my level of discipline for the last year or so, and it’s honestly so difficult. I don’t know whether discipline fatigue is a real thing (decreasing self control throughout the day as you ‘control’ yourself), or if discipline is like a muscle that gets stronger the more you use it. I’m hoping it’s the latter, because I would like to one day be able to be disciplined in all areas of my life. I’m just not sure how to get there.

Some people reading this will definitely say “Sofia, you clearly ARE disciplined, or else you wouldn’t be where you are…” and I agree that I’m not too bad. It’s all relative, of course. I suspect that my med school friends wouldn’t necessarily consider me disciplined, since the baseline level of discipline required to get to med school and pass classes here is relatively high to begin with.  That said, I have gotten a couple questions about how I schedule my days in order to be productive and stick to good habits.

Some things I try to do everyday to build discipline are:

  • Having a rule that one meal a day (lunch or dinner) is salad; (the other meal can be something less healthy/more carby/ whatever else)
  • Automatically going to a library after classes because I know I waste time if I go home; I like being in an environment where others around me are working hard because that motivates me to study hard
  • Having a skin care routine that I try to stick to religiously
  • Working out every day

But ‘safeguards’ that I put in place in case I’m not able to be disciplined on my own:

  • Having a friend that I go to the library with or to the gym with, so that I have to be accountable and I can’t back out when I’m feeling lazy
  • Keeping makeup remover right next to my bed so I’ll never sleep with makeup on even if I’m too lazy to do my full skin care routine
  • Purchase healthy snacks like apples and baby carrots for the week; if I buy unhealthy snacks on a whim, the healthy food I’ve purchased will go bad, so I have no choice but to eat the healthy snacks I bought and not buy sugary snacks to satisfy cravings
  • Having a personal rule with myself that I have to take the stairs up to the 9th floor (where I live) rather than the elevator; this was hard at first but is honestly so second nature now that I don’t even think about it. At least if I don’t go to the gym, I’ll have climbed 40 flights of stairs.

Over the summer, I want to try and build my ‘discipline’ muscle more. I want to be able to work out, eat healthy, be productive in terms of studying, read for self-enrichment, meditate, fix my sleep schedule, and whatever else. I’m not sure how to build more discipline into my life, but I’m welcoming suggestions from all of you guys. How do you guys stay disciplined?