The second part of the issue is how to summon more self-discipline.
While the question may be asked in different ways, the root of it is usually the same: “Why don’t I do what I know I should do, and how do I do it more often??”
Where I see this show up most often with Triathletes is in the little things – pushing hard to the end of the session, taking proper care of injuries, eating healthy meals, believing in their abilities and doing the smart things the day before a hard session rather than waking up with a hangover before a big ride.
Building on the core strategy for greater consistency, the fast track for improving your self-discipline has two components…
Key Approach: To become more disciplined = Have a vision of a compelling future to generate more lasting motivation, and master the moments of decision.
The most effective and lasting way to grow your motivation to stay on track relates to the principle of ‘push-pull’ motivation.
Push motivation is often doing things because you have to, and if you don’t you’re likely to feel some sort of pain.
You take up triathlon because your doctor says you’re a heart attack waiting to happen, you work extra hours and skip a workout because your boss needs that report done and you don’t want to disappoint.
It’s as if someone (likely yourself) is pushing you from behind, against your best wishes, forcing you to do something…or else!
Pull motivation is usually from doing things because you not only want to but also because you are inspired to.
You are literally pulled into that compelling future, like a magnet drawing you towards a really exciting experience, result or achievement.
You train hard because you want to finally get on the podium, you look forward to each swim session since you’re seeing great improvements and are close to a personal best, you sacrifice time with friends to train for the Ironman that you always dreamed about doing.
What you need to understand is that you can always rethink the actions you need to take, to flip your ‘push motives’ into ‘pull motives’ linking them to a strong, compelling reason that pulls you forward, thus increasing the likelihood – and your self-discipline – to follow through.
In fact, you’ll find that when you operate with more ‘pull motivation’, you’ll actually require less enforcement of discipline because you no longer feel like you should, you start to feel like you want to.
It no longer requires hard, heavy effort. It’s fun, enjoyable and inspires you to take consistent action.
The second point is about mastering the moments of decision.
Sticking with the example of not eating the right foods, what you eat isn’t about the food choices in the store, what your friends or family want, or what the waiter tries to push on you with their seductive descriptions of the daily specials ;).
What you eat has nothing to do with any of that.
It’s has everything to do with what you decide to eat. So mastering the moment of decision is where your focus needs to go.
Here are two tips to do that:
1. Make it easy to make the right choice in advance – put your preferred healthy, nutritious foods and snacks on your MUST BUY shopping list EVERY TIME you go to the grocery store. Keep lots in stock so you never run out. Keep healthy rescue foods in your desk at work, in your car and your workout bag to eliminate the urge to make poor choices.
2. Increase your awareness of how you feel after you eat – notice your energy levels and how your body feels in three stages: while you’re eating, one hour later, one day later. Keep a note for two weeks what foods actually do for you AFTER you eat them, rather than just anticpating how good it’s going to taste in your mouth.
This awareness will help you to recognize the impact of your choices.
What you think will make you feel good in the process of eating (emotionally satisfied by the taste and texture in your mouth) and whether it makes you feel good when that food is in your body, digesting or afterwards (i.e. physical energy or lethargy, physically strong or in pain from digestion) can be very different and at odds.
Remember: you ALWAYS have a choice on what meaning you give to what needs to get done. Chose wisely, get inspired, and you’ll find doing the right thing soon becomes doing the fun and enjoyable thing too.
Leave a comment below or email me directly if you have any questions on how to improve your consistency and discipline as you strive towards being the best athlete you can be.
Founder of TriathleteMind.com and Inner Game Coach