At the end of 2012, I determined to bring myself up to a level of excellence in life that I knew would require discipline. The encouragement came at the time from the Christian bible. In it, the author Paul had written, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training…Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.”

You see, I’d been average my whole life. I’m naturally gifted and it seems everything I put my hand to, I have some measure of aptitude for it..this made me indisciplined and lazy. I’d coasted through most things giving only half of my effort. I’d even had teachers at high school commenting that very thing..”If only Janessa would make an effort, she would excel”. Well there came a time when I saw that for myself…and as I like to say, ‘What is seen cannot be unseen’. When you see that a change must be made, change and let growth happen. I determined to utilize the discipline of athletics to conquer my self and my self-sabotaging attitudes. I had no idea where the journey would take me but I was determined to press forward regardless of any obstacles.

I started off with no dietary changes and working out only five (5) minutes a day…that was all I could muster at high intensity. I didn’t try to build Rome in one day. I started very small. For an entire year, I made no dietary changes except for one – attempting to drink more water..incrementally drinking more and more water per month, per week and then per day as my trips to the bathroom became less of a bother. I did however work my way up to 30-45 minutes of high intensity interval training daily sessions during this year. I eventually bought a road bike and began cycling.

It was only at the end of the first quarter of 2014 that I began making dietary changes. I began preparing my own meals instead of buying food, learning how to make healthy home cooked meals by reading and experimenting. This began saving me quite a bit of money, which I invested into my training. I began running and bought gear consistent with running, including running shoes and a GPS watch. I ran my first half-marathon that year. I hope you’re noticing thus far that disciplined and healthy choices in one area of your life flow into other areas of your life. My brain became less foggy and I found myself being able to concentrate better for longer periods. I also made tremendous leaps in my self-confidence, not only because of physique changes but because I began to feel like I was in control of my body instead of my body being in control of me.

At the point at which I began cooking my own meals weekly and packaging them for the week, I dropped a few quick pounds. A co-worker at the time said she felt like I had dropped weight almost instantly. What she was witnessing was the difference dietary changes make. Exercise is great but what we eat will always be the difference-maker in our physique and health. By this time it was easy to continue making dietary changes because I’d made a habit out of cooking my own meals/snacks and walking with them wherever I went to avoid buying junk food. I’d also already made a habit of working out regularly – I didn’t have to think about it, I’d already re-wired myself.

You see..”despite what many may think, self discipline is a learned behavior.” This has to be my favorite line in this article: Proven Methods For Gaining Self Discipline – Forbes.

This is a misconception that I hear all the time from people who aim to live healthier lives. “Oh my gosh, but…the discipline!” We aren’t born with self-discipline but we can learn it.

The second misconception I hear all the time pertains to cheating and the guilt attached to it which can derail the course altogether. At one point in time, I would have had ‘cheat days’; it is something very popular in bodybuilding communities. Even then I tried to sustain within myself the discipline to cheat only on my cheat days. By consistently making small and progressively impactful choices that were difficult, I’d learnt that cheating affects none other than yourself. Through successes AND failures, I learnt that when you cheat, you reap disharmony and unhappiness. The ability to make positive choices make you a happier person with a less complicated life. Indulging yourself without self-control reaps destruction.

Becoming disciplined has helped me immeasurably. I now actively believe that I can achieve ANYTHING that I put my mind to because I’ve learnt how to diligently attack a goal: step by step, with consistent and disciplined effort. There are no shortcuts beside this…no fast-tracks, no diets and no super-pills..sorry.

I do like the fact that I can help people attain a better quality of life by being an example for it, though it’s always going to be a work in progress. I hope that the one thing you take away from this article is that discipline is a learned behaviour. I also secretly hope that you’ll notice that a three year journey has been described. It continues. You can do it too…start now and just keep going. Don’t stop, don’t ever stop.

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