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Debunking The Myth of Self-Discipline

Since I have been back in school, I have been reading a lot about self discipline, and I have been applying it to what I know about fitness and nutrition. I have had clients pay for training and then just drop off the map because they say that they “really want to get stronger, but they just don’t have the discipline.”
It’s not a unique story, I am sure that every coach has heard it more than once in their careers. But in this article I would like to discuss why self-discipline is a myth.
Self-discipline does not exist. Instead, there is only loving what you do. Based on my experiences, love is one of the most powerful forces in existence. Because of that, you are the result of what you love most. You either love squatting 2x your bodyweight and the ass that is carved out of steel as the result of it, or you love to sit on the computer all day and eat junk food. It’s as simple as that. Don’t beat yourself up about the fact that you have no discipline, or drown your sorrows in a bottle of corn syrup. Just admit that you like being lazy more than you like lifting big.
Your self-judgment is reflected by your self-esteem. One of the best ways to raise self-esteem is to make actual loving choices that will lead to increased strength of body and mind. For example: if you truly love getting big in the gym, you choose squatting with chains instead of the leg extension. If you truly love to feel good throughout the day, you will have a great deal of protein and fat at breakfast, instead of a bowl of cheerios with skim milk.
A good way to ask yourself this when faced with difficult choices in the kitchen or in the gym is to say “would a loving coach recommend this?”. For example: if I truly want the best for my clients, would I recommend the deadlift, or a one arm dumbbell deadlift on the bosu ball? Would a loving nutritionist recommend grass-fed beef for dinner, or a granola bar?
I love you.
The choices you make in life are a reflection of what you truly enjoy.  When people talk about your giant traps, or your flat stomach, and they say that you must have a lot of discipline, just say “No, I just truly enjoy making positive choices for myself”. It doesn’t take a whole lot of discipline for me to never miss a training session because its something that I look forward to every day.
In order to love something, you have to work at it. Think of it as a skill that you must practice every day. You can’t just walk into the rack and cold squat 500lbs, its something that you must build up towards. You may not love it in the beginning. In fact, you may hate it, because you feel weak, you feel that you look stupid next to other strong athletes. But it doesn’t matter. As you practice it every day, you start to love it more and more. 
Pretty soon, it won’t be “discipline” that is getting you under the bar every day, instead it will be a love of increasing the strength of your body and mind.

6 thoughts on “Debunking The Myth of Self-Discipline

  1. Great article! It perfectly encapsulates how I feel about my eating and training sessions. It’s a difficult thing to communicate to the uninformed.

  2. Great stuff!!!!!!!

  3. does it take discipline not to eat a great looking desert? Of course it does because it would not benefit your goals. Would it tast good, you bet. It takes discipline not love. I disagree on how you use discipline. Discipline can be some sort of love thing eventually. I will stick to the old saying and say it takes discipline and hard work to get you body where you want it.

  4. I wrote an article recently saying that self-discipline is a myth. Glad to know someone else also thinks so. BTW great article. Thanks

  5. I agree that love is the only thing that will consistently draw us towards good things, but to riff on Chili’s comment I think maybe discipline is what keeps us from doing stuff that we really like but that we know are not good for us.

  6. Well said but is it not the good habits that allow us to continually improve? And isn’t habit formed from discipline ? As someone much smarter than me once said “the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. Usually lots of hard work!”

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