On building self-discipline, becoming who we really are, and side kicks

I didn’t use to be a very disciplined person.

I’d say I wanted to do something, like work out, practice the guitar, or get up early… but when the alarm went off, I’d always find ways to justify hitting the snooze button.

In fact, I’ve only recently realized I’ve become a fairly disciplined person. As in, one of those people who says they’ll do something — and then actually follows through with it.

And that got me curious.

How can we actively work to increase our discipline so that we can do more of the things we say we want to do?

Here are three science-backed strategies I’ve found personally helpful:

1. Instead of trying to change yourself, change your environment.

Set up your environment in a way that encourages the lifestyle you want to live. If you want to eat healthier, stock your house with healthy foods. If you want to prioritize your workouts, set up your home gym in a way that removes any possible hassle.

Doing this removes any reliance on willpower and makes it easier to do what you say you want to do.

2. Exercise your discipline muscle.

Even if you’re not a naturally disciplined person, deciding that you want to become more disciplined and actively exercising your discipline muscle can help improve your stamina.

Small acts of effort such as practicing better posture, forcing yourself to floss, or yes, exercising regularly can increase self-control and effort toward later tasks.

3. Tie your goals to a larger purpose.

Why do you want to become more disciplined? Is it because you admire others who are self-disciplined and would like to see more of that quality in yourself?

Maybe you have a short- or medium-term goal, such as studying for and passing an important test, doing your first pull-up, or building a regular stretching habit. Or, maybe you have a longer-term goal like being healthy and mobile as you age, making a positive impact in your field, or obtaining a black belt in a martial art.

Whatever the goal, having a meaningful “why” behind your goals and making sure they resonate at a really deep level makes staying disciplined significantly easier.

What I’m reading —

Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization by Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D.

This is my second time through Transcend — I first read it last year at the beginning of Covid and got so much out of it the first time, I wanted to revisit it a year later. Some of you might also know I’m currently an Assistant Instructor for Kaufman’s online course of the same name, an extreme honor and one of the highlights of my past year.

InTranscend, Kaufman provides a roadmap for finding purpose and fulfillment in life, not by searching for happiness, but by opting for growth and becoming the best version of ourselves. Picking up where Abraham Maslow left off, Kaufman provides a reimagining of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to help all of us nurture a deeper connection not only with our highest potential, but also with the rest of humanity.

Writes Kaufman:

“The process of becoming a whole person is an ongoing journey of discovery, openness, and courage, in which you reach higher and higher levels of integration and harmony within yourself and with the outside world, allowing greater flexibility and freedom to become who you truly want to become. Since you are always in a state of change, you are always in a state of becoming.”

What I’m listening to —

Like Streams to the Ocean: Notes on Ego, Love, and the Things That Make Us Who We Are by Jedidiah Jenkins (audiobook)

I first learned about Jenkins on the Rich Roll podcast a few weeks ago and have really been enjoying his newest book. I’m not always great about prioritizing memoirs, but am so glad I did. This is an honest, passionate account on ego, family, friendship, love, and getting to know ourselves over time.

Writes Jenkins on taking risks:

“As you get older, though, you look around the world and see that avoidance doesn’t do much. Sure, it keeps you from a little embarrassment here and there. But all the people I look up to, the artists and the athletes, the chefs and the CEOs, they risked embarrassment… There was a moment when each of them stepped toward the fright. They applied for the job even if they knew it was a stretch. They told people of their coming glory. They asked the boy out. They sat down and wrote the book.”

A quote that inspires me —

“To travel is the experience of ceasing to be the person you are trying to be, and becoming the person you really are.” — Paulo Coelho (thanks to reader Jon Lanman for this one)

What I’m training this week —

Side kicks.

I’ve been training in boxing for about three years now and martial arts for about six months. I wrote in a recent Instagram post about how it’s difficult for me not to compare myself to others who have been training longer than me. But beginner mode isn’t all bad — after all, if we’re never a beginner at anything, that means we’re never challenging ourselves to try anything new.

Three new workouts from last week:

Step it Up HIIT Workout (12 Minute, plyo box)

Full Body AMRAP Kettlebell Workout (AMRAP, kettlebell)

Strength + Stamina Challenge Workout (Challenge, pull-up bar, sandbag or dumbbells)

And here’s an equipment-free workout I posted on Instagram.

Remember, you can get these and all future workouts right in the 12 Minute Athlete app when you subscribe as a Super Athlete (this is WAY cheaper than joining a gym or hiring a personal trainer! In addition, you’ll be helping to support the site and making future features to the app possible.).

As always, I value your feedback, so please feel free to reply directly to this email if you have any questions or comments (yes, I am a real human). I get a lot of emails and messages, so I can’t reply to all of them, but I do read everything you guys send me!

Here’s to building discipline,

– Krista Stryker

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