In our home, there is a long hallway that leads to the master and guest bedrooms. At the end of the hall there hung a four foot long mask that my wife picked up when she was in papua new guinea. It had hung there for years, but this summer Eveline decided she wanted a mirror hanging there instead, so we went out and picked up a full length mirror, which created the illusion of a hallway twice as long.
As we live alone, we don’t bother to put on clothes every single time we leave the bedroom. So here is the picture. I’m walking down the hall towards the bedrooms. I am naked. I see my reflection in the mirror, but instead of me, it’s a naked Alfred Hitchcock (www.mysterynet.com/hitchcock) . Needless to say, I am stunned that the self image that I had in my mind of the young handsome stud was actually nothing like this old fat bald guy coming towards me. Humbling stuff, let me tell you.
At that point, I decided to do something about it. I had read that it takes forty days to really establish a habit and it also takes forty days to actually impact your metabolism. So forty four days ago I started going to the gym. Everyday. No matter what. Regardless of what time it was, if I hadn’t gone, then I’d go.
Today is day forty four and I’ve already lost ten pounds and changed the shape of my body. For the first two weeks nothing happened at all, except I was tired all the time. But right now, I have tons of energy, a body that is clearly responding to the exercise and a history of keeping my word to myself, which is another phrase for the the word discipline. And that empowering discipline has started showing up in all other aspects of my life. This is an epiphany for me. I know that I’ve probably had it before but, as I am fond of saying, “everything I’ve ever learned in life…I’ve had to learn again” Discipline.
And that’s what this little narcissistic aside was setting up. How do we get discipline? How do we maintain it? How do we start?
Here’s what I suggest. Make a commitment, even in writing if you have to, of something that you want to do; need to do and are willing to do. It doesn’t have to be climbing Mt Everest. I suggest something much more humble, like making your bed as soon as you get out of it, or feeding your pets before you feed yourself. Something that isn’t hard, but something that you are not presently doing. And then make certain that you do it. Remember a commitment is you giving your word to yourself. You are going to know instantly when you don’t keep it…so keep it.
After a week or two of doing whatever you decided, take a look at how that feels. You’ve kept your word. You have done what you said you would do. Now add something a little more challenging to the mix. Say practicing a particular song for fifteen minutes a day.
And I should stress that the easiest way to keep a commitment like that is to do it as soon as you get up (and have made your bed). Just go do that fifteen minutes, then the rest of the day is wide open. Every accomplished musician will tell you that playing fifteen minutes every day is more beneficial than practicing two hours, once a week. You will see a dramatic improvement in the song you are practicing in just a few days.
See what you are doing is demonstrating to yourself that, a). you can do it; b). that the benefit of doing it is manifest almost immediately; and c). that you can do more. Once you establish this control over your life, you will find that just like they’ve always said, you really CAN do anything you set your mind to do.
I always wanted to practice every day, but never did. That’s part of the reason why I loved going on the road. I actually did play my guitar every day when I was out there. But at home, life intrudes, excuses and rationalizations show up. But now, at 62, I do practice every day. If I had done this when I was twenty, you’d actually know who I am. Better late than never (www.jamesleestanley.com in case you forgot). And the beginning of this discipline (this time) was this blog. I have written an article for it at least three times a week since July of 2007. One article at a time and there are now several hundred.
Just take the baby steps. One at a time. Not too broad, just a baby step. Soon you’ll be sprinting across the chasm between you and your dreams. Trust me. This time I mean it.