Distractions are, unfortunately, a reality in our professional lives nowadays. In fact, I’ve previously blogged about how often we lose focus at work by the well-known (and notorious) “squirrel” and I’ve subsequently asked you how you minimize distractions and stay disciplined. Which is why I am thrilled to welcome our guest blogger today. Mark Black is my professional colleague and my friend, but he was also only 24 when he found himself lying in a hospital bed clinging to life, praying for a life-saving heart and double-lung transplant. Three short years later, he was crossing the finish line of his first of four marathons. So if anyone can give us practical advice on how to stay disciplined, manage distractions, and help us build resilience so that we can thrive in challenging times, it is Mark!
“Stay disciplined” may not be popular, but it works!
What do you think of when you read the word “discipline? If you are like many people, it probably brings up negative emotions. When most of us think of discipline, we think of experiences from our childhood where our parents “disciplined” us. It’s no wonder then, that most of us associate it with punishment and have a negative impression of it. That’s too bad.
Discipline is actually a very positive word. If you look at its origins, the word discipline comes from the Latin word “disciplina” which means: “”instruction given, teaching, learning, knowledge”. To be disciplined then, means to be someone who accepts teaching and seeks learning and knowledge. Sounds good to me.
When you study those who have achieved any measure of success in their lives, you discover that they all stay disciplined. Not only do they work hard, but they work smart. They cut through the clutter, they prioritize, they filter out distractions, and they get things done.
We are facing a discipline crisis!
Our society is facing a discipline crisis today. We’ve worked so hard to “progress” away from the negative manifestations of discipline, that we’ve lost sight of its benefits. We don’t want to discipline our children or stay disciplined ourselves, and avoiding discipline is having seriously negative consequences.
Take a look around. We have a 50%+ obesity rate in our country, and a massive personal debt crisis. Many of us are chronically sleep deprived, and a recent study published in BNN Bloomburg reported that 32% of Canadians were retiring with no savings. At some level, each of these problems is a manifestation of a discipline crisis.
We need to re-instil discipline into our lives and into society. We ought to be excited to do it. Understood properly, discipline becomes a very positive thing. Discipline is not about taking things away, but rather making room for the things in our lives that we really want and need. Here then, are 3 things you can do right now to flex your discipline muscles:
- Say No – This sounds simple and obvious, but most people struggle to do this consistently. We know the chips we eat in front of the TV or the cake we have after dinner, isn’t good for us, but we eat them anyway. We know that running on six hours of sleep isn’t good for us but can never seem to get ourselves to bed on time. We know we don’t need to watch that second (or third) episode on Netflix, and we should be doing something more productive, but before we can turn it off, that next episode starts, and we settle in for “just one more”. Every time we fail to say that little “no” to ourselves, we miss an opportunity to build self-discipline and strengthen our will. Individually, that one drink, desert, or TV episode doesn’t matter. But the cumulative effect of not saying no to ourselves when we know we should, reduces our will and make it more likely that we will cave next time.
- Exercise – Like it or not, you need to get your exercise. You don’t need to be a gym rat or a body builder, but you need to ensure you are getting your heart rate up for a sustained period of time (30-40 minutes) at least 3 times a week. The data is simply irrefutable at this point. Beyond the obvious physical benefits, regular exercise increases energy, boosts mood, and drives productivity. Forcing yourself to move, even when you don’t feel like it, is a fantastic way to become and stay disciplined. Not only do you get the benefits of exercise, but you teach yourself how to do things that you find uncomfortable.
Get to bed
- Get to Bed – There is a good chance you are sleep deprived. A study published by Statistics Canada in 2017 reported that more than a third of adults (18-79) weren’t getting enough sleep. If you are a working adult aged between 30-60, you are even more likely to be among the sleep deprived.
Perhaps you’ve fallen for the mistaken belief that the more you work, the more you accomplish, but the data is clear – that just isn’t true. A lack of sleep has a negative impact on performance, memory and focus, not to mention a host of other consequences. To be your best, you have to get your six to eight hours a night.
Discipline is practice. Like any other practice, it requires repetition over time, but the more you exercise it, the stronger yours will get. Decide to implement one act of self-discipline every day for a week and notice if you don’t feel more effective, more focussed, and more empowered. If you do, keep going. If you don’t, at least you will be slimmer and more rested.
Learn more about Mark Black at his website www.MarkBlack.ca .
P.S. A couple of years ago, Dr. David Merrell (who specializes in sleep disorders) guested on the blog. Turns out that the research shows that sleep-deprived leaders aren’t very inspiring!