Discipline is more than just doing what you are told by your teacher at school. Discipline is getting up every day to go to work. Discipline is not eating that third helping of pudding, it’s going to the gym when you said you would, even if you don’t feel like it.
The trouble is, with discipline there is always an element of self-denial, or sacrifice. Which in itself suggests that there is a constant battle going on in your thoughts about knowing you should be doing the right thing which is good for you, even though the wrong thing is so much more enticing.
The concept of sacrifice has followed humanity for centuries. The Muslim act of Qurbani, for example, is based on the story of Ibrahim who was commanded by Allah to sacrifice that which was most dear to him – his son Ismail. Confident in their faith in Allah’s will, father and son climbed Mount Arafat to carry out the sacrifice. Allah recognised this unstinting faith they both displayed, and as a result saved the young Ismail, and gave them a sacrificed ram. This the annual tradition of Qurbani was born.
The paradox of discipline and sacrifice lies in the chasm between pleasure and pain.
We perceive eating a plate of donuts as far more pleasurable than a bowl of salad. At the end of a long day at work you want to treat yourself to something that gives you pleasure and satisfaction.
But actually, that plate of donuts sits badly in your stomach, and you soon realise that the pleasure you had was short-lived, and you are now left with the pain – which introduces yet another negative emotion into the mix – guilt and shame.
And guilt and shame are nasty and insidious. They play no positive role in your overall wellbeing, and eliminating them from your emotional stores should be a priority.
This cycle of behaviour feeds into your emotional wellbeing, and can lead to a low self-esteem, compulsive behaviours and depressive thoughts.
Breaking the cycle requires discipline and persistence (painful, but this is where the discipline comes in), and the best way to deal with this is to try and change your mindset around making those changes. If you are serious about making some behavioural changes in your life in the desire to be better emotionally and physically, here are three ways in which you can help yourself get over the challenges ahead.
- In your imagination, future place where you want to be in your journey. If you are wanting to cut out the fatty, sugary foods and eat more healthily, imagine choosing the foods that you know are good for you. Imagine how you will feel eating that salad, how good it will make you feel, how noble you will feel – happy that you made the right choice.
- Magnify these good, positive emotions that your imagination is throwing up. Get excited about them. Congratulate yourself that you are choosing the right path. Even if you are still at the very beginning of your journey, making those first steps is often the most difficult.
- If you slip up, don’t turn it into a disaster – it’s merely a blip, and not a reason to slip right back into even worse habits.
- When tempted, or when you find yourself struggling, remember the long-term pain over and above the short-term pleasure. Then distract yourself from the moment, get up and go to the loo, walk around the block – anything to escape that ‘trigger’.
Remind yourself that behavioural ‘habits’ are just that – a habit. Work at building better, more beneficial habits. You’ll soon find that those sacrifices are no longer perceived as sacrifices but become a way of life.