Thank goodness for January 1st! Either we are just seeking a day that gives us a reason to start fresh with ambitions and goals or it’s simply the overwhelming number of parties, family gatherings, and hectic days in December that leads the majority of the population to clean up their routine come January. One of the most common goals of the New Year you will find is losing weight, or at the least an attempt at living a healthier lifestyle. These resolutions typically consist first, of a clean diet; and second, an exercise routine.  If this sounds like you, no need to go any further or even write these resolutions down, much less mention them to someone else unless you have defined this one word. DISCIPLINE.

One simple word can be the key that opens a multitude of doors; yet if not discovered, it can be the very roadblock to discovering your potential. To the average individual the word brings to mind a trap, a restraint, a party crasher, a bore.  However as Mathew Kelly states, “Discipline doesn’t enslave or stifle us; rather, it sets us free to soar to unimagined heights.”  It is that very discipline that allows you to channel your energy, your efforts, your passion, and your talents and in the end accomplish what you have set your mind to. You can state you have a resolution, you have a goal, you have a yearning to achieve, but until you truly desire the discipline it takes to attain it, you might as well keep writing that list. Why is discipline so hard? It’s hard because, for most of us, it means work. Hard work. But isn’t anything worth having worth working for? How much more appreciation do you have for a meal you have labored over than one that has been delivered to your door? How much more appreciation do you have for a vehicle you have worked and saved for than one that is given to you? Unfortunately discipline isn’t something someone can do for you, you must achieve it on your own. But the good news is the more you practice discipline the easier it becomes.

So where do I start, you ask?  Start by examining and reflecting on your answers to the seven R’s. The following seven steps are keys to your success and will help you on that journey to creating discipline: repetition, routine, reinforcement, rest, relevance, reward, and restarting.  Wow, does it really take that much to simply establish discipline? Yes, I did mention it was work didn’t I? A healthier lifestyle and/or losing weight will represent the test you take in the end. Discipline is “the studying” that prepares you to pass. So let’s break down the 7 R’s simply so you can move on to studying and passing the test.

Repetition means consistency…over and over and over.  For example, what are the changes you want to make to your diet? You’ll need to do this more than just once a week. How are you going to implement your fitness? You’ll need to do this more than once a week. It has often been stated it takes 21 days to create a habit, not 2 of those 21 days! This habit needs to become part of your core being.  Do you desire your goal enough to give yourself 21 days of repetition, no excuses? This will define your discipline.

Routine, although extremely helpful, isn’t possible for all individuals. Routine would signify that you are repeating this newfound habit (repetition) at a predictable time and on a predictable day each day of the week.  In regards to exercise, it is best that you look ahead at your week and find the times that are most realistic to exercise. Not when you would choose to exercise, but when you are able to exercise. This might mean rising early in order to finish your fitness before the kids get up, or not taking any clients after 5pm in order to get to a class at your local gym. If you do not make these changes part of your routine upfront the repetition of this new found habit will have no chance to happen.

Reinforcement means support. You can go at this alone, but if you have any potential distractions good or bad ie: extended family, stressful work hours, spouse, children, multiple long standing bad habits, bad weather, etc. your motivation and opportunity for success at repetition and routine will dwindle. You can’t always alleviate the distractions, so your best bet is to gather the troops and seek support…reinforcement. Who is it that is going to stand behind you and help you, not enable you, in reaching this goal? Who do you know that will keep you accountable? Who needs to be aware of your goal in order to coordinate responsibilities with kids and family? Who is going to be your motivator? Make a list and talk to these individuals before you dive headfirst into your resolutions.

Rest is a must if you want to have the self-control and right mindset to stick to your resolutions. When you are sleep deprived you will look for comfort in any and every direction and your sluggishness will hinder productivity. Sugar, processed food, convenient but unhealthy meals, extra caffeine, extra naps, and sleeping in will be all too tempting and the effort it will take you to do ordinary tasks will leave you no extra energy or time to tackle harder ones that require discipline. Turn the lights out and go to bed!

Relevance might not seem like an important question to tackle when making your resolutions but it has more impact than you think. There must be a deeper meaning to why you want to succeed and reach your goal? Can you tie a person or a cause to your goal? It is important that on our own you decide what resolutions you want to tackle because trying to accomplish a goal that is not driven by your own desire can fade quickly.  If your resolution is something you personally have set out to accomplish, list 4-5 reasons why and attach a person or a cause to your goal.  Make it known who or what this goal is due honor, this will just add to your drive, persistence, and accountability.

Reward yourself! Yes reward yourself along the way for small and large successes. What might keep you going is seeing progress. You want to know what you are doing is working even before the final goal is captured. Back into this by attaching a reward to the final goal but making sure you have rewards linked to smaller landmarks along the way as well to keep you motivated. For example: If you are trying to establish a habit of consistent exercise for 2015, you will first define what that means. More days a week than not is a good place to start. This means exercising 4 days every week. You will most definitely reward yourself come December of 2015 if you have attained this goal. However a weekly goal is appropriate in the beginning seeing you are trying to establish a new habit in which you are not accustomed.  However, after the first 2 months, moving to a slightly larger reward but making it monthly will begin to test long term discipline.

Restarting is essential. If you fail one week and you decide to throw in the towel you will never know if you were capable of attaining that goal after all. Life happens, but it doesn’t mean you don’t get back up and try again. Just because you were not able to exercise four times in one week doesn’t mean that the two times you did weren’t worth it. So try, try, try again. Anyone can give up on a habit, and claim it just didn’t work, but will you be the one who actually follows through?

If you are like me, the big picture can often be, well actually always is, overwhelming. Just figuring out where to start is enough for me to second-guess diving in. However when you break a task down into smaller pieces, especially with some help, it suddenly becomes attainable and sometimes exciting. Who ever said the resolution must actually start on January 1st? Isn’t taking the proper steps to attain it more important if that means success in the end? So in this sense, you are starting January, you are just actually starting with the right tools this year. So gather a notebook and pen and start defining your seven R’s. You can do this, Good luck!