5 Apr 2014

Willpower and Discipline


Whoooooop, made it! (9041)
Why we need to muster up willpower to go do what we want to do

Discipline...we all need it. Sometimes it is easy to find and sometimes it is very, very, very hard. Many people use the word for when we need to do something we really do not want to do, but do rigorously anyway. Like making the bed every morning, or, working out.
And it is this somewhat negative connotation that often results in a lack of discipline. Because who wants to do something that they really honestly rather would not?

We could also try to see discipline as habits waiting to happen. If you can muster enough willpower to get yourself to make your bed every morning, eventually it will become a discipline or a habit that does not cost you any energy at all...basically all we need to do is find the willpower to do something we want to start (or stop) doing habitually over and over again, until it has become just that: a discipline. 

For me, and I think for all of us, powering up sheer will to do something is easier when you experience immediate results. Because we, human as we are, like to see that any extra effort we take has effect, or is useful. Discipline in making a good cup of coffee is easy (like always grinding fresh in stead of buying pre ground, always rinsing your paper filters, always cleaning your equipment to perfection, and so on). We bother with the extra work and time, because the difference in taste is experienced in every cup you consume.

It is much harder to find the willpower to, for example, make your bed every morning, because other than having a sense of happiness when going back to it at night, the benefits are much harder to detect. 
It is also harder to find willpower to do something that takes a lot of work, than something that really is not any trouble. It's easier to find the willpower to rinse your morning breakfast bowl, than to find the willpower to exercise every day. At least, it is for me, being (as the Dutch it put so cleverly) rather lazy than tired. 

I had a bad run in with this laziness, lack of willpower exercise thing last weekend, while running the circuit of Zandvoort. A 12K event that runs over the race track, the beach and the town of Zandvoort. Finally being back at a 12K distance, albeit very, very slow, I really looked forward to it. However, there I was, at the last 800 metres, ready  for a final sprint, and a little pang went off in my knee. As every scolding bad word rushed through me, I was mainly extremely angry with myself. Why did I stop doing my exercises prescribed by my physical therapist, AKA God?

I will tell you why. Because my knee stopped hurting! And so I stopped doing the exercises, because exercises suck. Okay, you feel amazing and energised afterwards. But, most of you will agree, having to start is horrible and also for the heavy duty exercises this horribleness continues during the exercise...So when my knee felt better I dropped the leg lifting, squatting and planking like a ton of bricks (made of led, or something else very heavy that makes it even easier to drop than regular bricks).

And so, I will jump back on my exercise regime, not only going out for a run, but also getting back to interval training, yoga and the heavy duty physical therapist work out. And every time the willpower threatens to escape me, I will remember Zandvoort (and Gisele Bunchen or Cameron Diaz of course) and get up and go...I hope. At least, until the need for willpower has transformed into something of a discipline or habit.

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