Discipline ain’t rigid, pal

Friends, last week brought all sorts of big learning into my world thanks to the intimate groups of wise, powerful people who came out to my two New Year Resolution Reboot workshops and my amazing new friend across the pond, Natalia Alvarez. (Hi, you amazing people – I’m so grateful you’re in my life!)

It all started with Natalia last week and our fortnightly brainstorming/accountability Skype. Natalia and I met last fall in Seth Godin’s The Marketing Seminar. (No kickbacks, no nothing, just real deal endorsement: That seminar was worth every penny and every minute and it took a decent number of pennies and a WHOLE lot of minutes.)

Natalia’s work is about helping people uncover the story of their businesses – that is, the golden core of what they do and why they do it. You can join in on her rad gratitude movement at #athankyoustory. Because Natalia is a grounded, thoughtful person native to Spain and living in Scotland, I asked for her European perspective on work/life balance which is a might different than the way we tend toward Push Push Push here in the States.

She gave me a lot to chew over in that conversation, all of which was neatly tied together when she pointed out that it is a far different thing to be disciplined and committed than to be rigid. That one’s too important to not repeat:

Disciplined and Committed ≠ Rigid

This came up during the workshops as people did what we tend to do, which is pendulum swing from abandoned goals to extreme goals – from never exercising to attempting daily visits to the gym; from a blank journal to setting a goal of 2,000 words a day; from eating all fast food to a plan that involves only home cooked meals.

Those are some seriously unforgiving goals – rigid goals. And rigid goals make for some delicious feasting for gremlins who slurp them up and then vomit them back out when the inevitable day comes that we miss the gym, fall short of our word count, or find ourselves long past mealtime with nothing prepared.

Between these two extremes is a whole lot of space for disciplined and committed exploration, places where there’s room for being human – and we humans? We’re imperfect. By nature. By definition. By way of giving us room to always be learning and growing and doing something great with these long/short lives our ours.

So what might disciplined and committed exploration look like when I’ve got my sights set on eating at home? First, it’s tracing that goal up to the deepest value of eating in ways that are nurturing, healthful, and enjoyable. Then it’s breaking it down into steps that include finding recipe and setting aside time for shopping and cooking.

To keep flexible, though, it might also include things like:

  • Creating a list of restaurants that offer better splurges, like someplace with great salads or thoughtful ingredient sourcing.
  • Buying prepared foods with clean ingredient lists as a freezer/pantry fall back on days when I have packed days and no meals ready to go.
  • Making my eating mantra, “Better choices, more of the time,” rather than “All good, all the time.” (Big ups to Ann Clark Espuelas and Sherri Brooks Vinton for this idea in their book The Real Food Revival!)

Rigidity feeds into our gremlin-fueled on/off switches, the ones that say, “Well, I ate a cinnamon roll for breakfast so I guess I might as well eat junk for the rest of the day… and since I’m eating junk all Saturday, I might as well make a weekend of it…” And off the spiral goes.

With flexibility, we’re setting ourselves up to take one decision at a time and offer ourselves compassion for our humanness (imperfection). “I ate a cinnamon roll for breakfast which isn’t my idea of nurturing my body. I’ll use that info as I make my decision about lunch.”

Rigidity is standing constantly at the ready to self-flog for every misstep.

Commitment and discipline mean loving and nurturing ourselves toward our biggest lives and best selves one little, manageable step at a time.