“You and your family are so disciplined. I take my hat off. At 5 am, I am still in my slumber.” A friend J texted me after reading that my eleven-year-old boy Conan and I work out in the gym as early as 5:15 am almost every morning (018 Make Time To Enjoy Each Day).
Another friend C, who I meet regularly in the gym, made a similar remark, “Quite amazing that you can get your kid to exercise with you that early. Not easy at all.”
Their remarks seem to suggest that we must have put in some incredible efforts in order to be disciplined for daily workouts. Which, I know, is not completely the truth.
I can’t help thinking if people tend to equate discipline with hard work. Knowing a friend F who believe strongly in the value of hard work, I asked her what discipline meant. Unsurprisingly, she said,
“Of course, being disciplined means you can keep on doing things that you do not like because you know it’s good for you.”
By F’s definition, I probably do not qualify as a disciplined person. Neither does my son. But then, we managed to do some seemingly disciplined stuff, didn’t we?
Here is the inside story. Hopefully it may offer you some insights to developing discipline for yourself and your loved ones in a less painful manner.
- A Home Secret To Discipline
Embarrassed by the undeserving praises, I shared with Conan the things my friends said. He responded with an impish smile, “Me? Discipline? Not at all. You’ve to get me to wake up first.”
I laughed. “And I can tell that on some days you are eager to get up. On other days, you dread getting up. Yet, you still go to the gym without fail, why?”
“Well, the feeling of at the start of the exercise is mixed. But the feeling during and at the end of it is always good.” Conan reasoned.
He said it succinctly. That is our home secret to discipline.
- Accept how you feel at the start.
- Find joy in the process.
- Feel satisfied at the end.
- Accept how you feel at the start
Since young, were you fed with contradictory views about getting things started?
On one hand, people say, “Don’t give up. Because the beginning is always the hardest”.
On the other hand, people also say, “Don’t be complacent. It’s easiest to start but hardest to finish.”
The truth is, depending on the difficulty of the task and a person’s threshold for stress, getting started on something new may be a daunting task to some people, but an easy experience to others. And it can also be a mixture of both too.
My point is, no matter how it turns out at the beginning, we must learn to accept. Acceptance means, be it good or bad, you’ve made a decision not to be affected and chose to carry on.
- Learning To Accept Daily Run
Conan never like running. I had a hard time persuading him to run with me in the past. He tried once or twice and concluded,
“I don’t like to jog so slowly like you. It’s so boring. I like to run very fast, but I lose steam quickly. Running is just not the thing for me.”
Since he couldn’t accept running, I played badminton with him at his request occasionally. Then one day I suggested,
“Why not we play badminton in the morning before you go school? Surely, you will shed all the weight you have been gaining rapidly if you exercise daily .”
Conan had no problem waking up earlier to do something fun. Quickly, however, he found it a hassle to play badminton in the early morning. Just getting things ready and finding a suitable spot took time. The actual playtime became too short to be fun.
Conan decided to try out the gym instead. Once we entered the gym, the treadmills were the most obvious choice.
I kept his running time to 10 minutes. And showed him the various ways of running he could experiment on the treadmill in such a short duration.
Keeping the run short and helping him to find his suitable pace and method work! The boy who disliked running, started to run day after day.
Many people believe in the dogma of “no pain, no gain”. Whether they find joy or not, doesn’t matter. That’s suitable for the strong-willed people, not everyone.
Finding joy in doing things, especially in seemingly mundane activity, is imperative to keeping a person motivated.
Conan thought running was no fun. But after he experimented with starting slow and building up gradual speed at every minute, he felt good.
He also tried walk-and-run intervals, which quickly helped him to break into perspiration and feeling invigorated.
He also learnt to shift his focus to distance and timing, and gained satisfaction in knowing that he now covers a one-kilometre distance faster than before.
Conan also learnt to put speed, distance and timing aside. Simply enjoy the run by refining his running posture and improving his breathing technique.
Running may not be his favourite thing still, but finding joy in the process certainly helped to keep him going.
- Feel Satisfied At The End
Conan likes the adrenaline rush of running in top speed towards the last minute. He feels satisfied knowing that he can run faster and faster at the end.
I always encourage him to talk about his run at the end. That allows me to find out his satisfaction level.
Sipping a cup of water from the water dispenser having completed his routine, once he told me that running on the treadmill is unnatural. He said, “I feel that my legs are still running even after I stop.”
Another time, he said, “Running fast right from the start is a bad idea.” Yet another time, he even corrected my arms’ movement while running, “Dad, do you realise that you are swinging only with your right arm properly? You should try to move both arms up and down like this.”
And when asked if he feels tired after the run, he always say, “I feel so energetic going to school now.”
Indeed, he is visibly invigorated and quicker in his movement.
- Discipline: To Endure or Enjoy
Both endurance and enjoyment are necessary elements in developing discipline. But if you have to make a choice between the two, which one do you chose?
I say, enjoyment must precedes endurance. Endurance will develop as a result of continuous efforts. Absent of enjoyment, however, will become the Achilles heels that hamper you from becoming really good at something you do.
William W K Tan
19 November 2017, Sunday
Thanks to all my family and friends, you’ve made my birthday this year most memorable. For a middle-age man like me, I have longed past the age of being excited about birthdays. But you have made it special. I truly appreciate. Thank you!