A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that simple email reminders to choose healthier habits actually has an impact on the health choices a person makes each day. It may sound crazy, but the short emails that made easy suggestions to eat more healthfully or boost physical activity had a significant effect on the recipients’ behavior.
People that were receiving emails about physical activity increased their exercise by one hour per week, and those who were reminded to eat more fruits and vegetables increased their intake by about 1/3 of a cup per day. One of the senior research scientists from the study, Barbara Sternfeld, suggested that the emails serve as “quick alerts [that] remind your brain of the goals you’ve set for yourself. So instead of standing around talking to a co-worker for 10 minutes, you may decide to take a lap around the parking lot and back.”
So my Just For Today challenge for you is to sign up for a healthy newsletter that will serve as a little reminder about your health-related goals!
If you want to learn more about healthy eating and choosing the best foods, Shape magazine has a great newsletter called “SHAPE Your Diet” that I highly recommend. The weekly newsletter has a variety of articles about eating well, healthy recipes, and food news.
If you’re looking for some exercise and fitness motivation, Jillian Michaels has an awesome newsletter with fitness tips and new workout ideas that’s delivered five days per week. You also might like Men’s Health magazine’s “Exercise of the Week” newsletter, especially if you tend to get in exercise ruts or get easily bored with the same routines.
I think the same theory – that daily reminders really make a difference – could also apply to other areas of your life besides physical fitness. If you want to get better at being financially fit, you might like stretcher.com’s Dollar Stretcher Tips newsletter that’s delivered twice each week and contains tips on saving money and time on a variety of expenses.
Email newsletters are really just gentle reminders. When you get reminded each day of your goals – and get new ideas on how you can achieve them – you’re more likely to keep thinking about them and also act on them. So Just For Today, sign up for one – or two! If you have some favorite newsletters, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
In the first article of this three-part series, we covered why self-discipline is important and what you can gain from building that skill in Self-Discipline: The Link Between Goals And Accomplishment. The second article, 6 Empowering Steps To Build Self-Discipline, Part 1, covered the first three steps: awareness, self-analysis, and progressive training, and now we’re ready to move on to the last three steps, which are (1) removing temptation, (2) finding inspiration, and (3) resisting the initial urge to overdo it.
Now that you have an idea how to identify the areas where you need more self-discipline, you have done some work to identify why you might sabotage yourself, and you have a grasp of how to build your self-discipline skills by progressively training yourself with increasingly tougher challenges, your next step in order to ensure success is removing temptation.
- If you tend to procrastinate when you should be taking on projects, try to eliminate the distractions. Unplug the TV for a set amount of time on the days you plan to work on more meaningful tasks. Stash your gaming system under the bed, hide your books or magazines out of sight – you get the idea. Regardless of how you usually occupy your time when you are procrastinating, take one or two extra steps to remove that temptation rather than just telling yourself again that you won’t watch television or flip through the new magazines.
- If you want to build self-discipline when it comes to your spending habits, start by limiting the amount of cash in your wallet. Don’t go window shopping or surf shopping sites online – even just for entertainment. You might also try some of my new ideas for resisting the urge to spend that you’ll find in 4 New Tips For Spending Less Money. If you’re one of those people who will spend money if you have it (regardless of whether you need to save or invest), you need to think about all the different things that tempt you to spend money and then design ways to remove that temptation.
- If you want to get better at self-discipline so you can turn away junk food and eat more nutritionally, clean out your cupboards and fridge, and get rid of anything that doesn’t fit the bill. It’s easy to say with your new devotion to self-discipline, you just won’t succumb, but the best plan is to set yourself up to succeed, and you do that by removing any temptation that might cause you to fail.
- Now you get the idea, right? This is an important step, regardless of which area in your life you need to be more self-disciplined. Whatever it is, remove any temptation that could hinder your progress.
Remember those “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets? If you think about it, that saying could be a great self-discipline builder. When you want to get better in an area where someone else has already succeeded, you think about what that person would do, and you act accordingly.
Find an inspirational figure in the area that you are working on, and think of that person when you are tempted to let your self-discipline slide. Some examples might be:
- If you’re trying to get better about exercising, but you’re on the verge of slacking off one day, think about what Olympian Michael Phelps or NFL star Tom Brady would do.
- If you want to get out of debt and learn to live frugally, think about how Warren Buffett handles his finances, or read some advice from financial journalist Jean Chatzky.
When you feel like your self-discipline is wavering, think about what your idols would do, and count on their judgment to steer you in the right direction. And you don’t even have to depend on celebrities or people in the news to give you a lift. If you have friends who have accomplished goals that are similar to yours, count on them to inspire you and ask for their help along the way if needed.
Don’t Overdo It
Sometimes people get so motivated about overhauling their lives that they try to change everything at once. Before long, it just feels like too much change, and then everything’s a struggle. Don’t make that mistake.
When I suggested training progressively, keep in mind that you should start small and probably only try to change one area of your life at a time. Regardless of how motivated you are, it would be really difficult to give up junk food, start exercising regularly, stop smoking, and start getting enough sleep every night all at once. So do one thing at a time.
And don’t worry that you have to change everything NOW because now is when you are motivated. You will find that as you change one area and get better at self-discipline, your motivation will grow, and you will get better at making lasting changes. The motivation will stick with you!
Think of your lifestyle changes and the gradual building of your self-discipline skill as a marathon, and not a sprint. If you try to change too much at once, you will have a hard time sustaining your momentum for the long term, and you will burn out much quicker.
I hope you are inspired to identify areas in your life where you could use more self-discipline, and then use this six-step plan to help you work on that skill. Once you have mastered self-discipline, you will be well-equipped to make long-lasting changes in any area of your life that needs work. I’d love to hear from you as you follow the plan to get better at self-discipline. Let me know how it goes for you!
In my previous article, Self-Discipline: The Link Between Goals And Accomplishment, I talked about the importance of self-discipline and all the things you will be able to do when you build that skill. Most importantly, you will get better at breaking unhealthy habits, overcoming procrastination, and accomplishing goals.
Now I want to give you some steps you can follow that will help you get better at self-discipline, which is such an important component to realizing your dreams and building the life you truly want. Today I’ll start with the first three steps, and in my next article, we’ll go through the final three.
(1) Start With Awareness
You’ve heard the old saying, “the first step to getting help is admitting you have a problem.” That applies here. Take some time to think about your lifestyle, goals, and projects. Now think about what your behaviors are that are helping you to move toward the life you want to have, and also think about your typical behaviors and actions that hinder your progress.
For instance, if you are in debt and you regularly think that you would really like to be debt-free, what are you doing about it? Are you saving money, cutting down on unnecessary purchases, and tracking your spending?
Or are your behaviors are contrary to your goal? Are you buying things whenever you want them? Labeling things as “needs” when really they are “wants”? Spending money you have, without thinking about saving or paying down debt?
Try this exercise: Write down some of your goals (both big and small), and then write down your current behaviors that are affecting your progress toward those goals, both positive and negative. Think about whether one of the negatives is simply “nothing,” in other words you have something you want to accomplish, and although you are doing nothing to hinder yourself, you are also doing nothing to move in the right direction.
(2) Do A Little Self-Analysis
Now that you have an awareness of the behaviors that are hindering your progress, see if you can uncover some of the underlying reasons that you are sabotaging yourself.
- If you’ve been putting off a project, do you lack the confidence that you will know how to get it done?
- If you are engaging in an unhealthy habit, are you using that habit to placate an emotional pain?
- If you haven’t made any progress on a big dream, does it seem so big that you are immobilized to even get started?
- If you are a procrastinator, why aren’t you making your goals a priority? Why is immediate gratification more important than clearing your To Do list of the things that are weighing you down? If you think really hard about the answers to these questions, you might be able to figure out how to work around them.
Sometimes the thing that keep us from making the right decision is knowledge. What do you need to know in order to finish that project, break that habit, or stop procrastinating? If you feel like there is something that you are lacking, read up on your project or talk to others who have accomplished your goals.
The added bonus of knowing more about the topic is that it naturally will motivate you to take steps in the right direction. Added knowledge will give you power! Try to gain an understanding of why you’re doing these things, then build your knowledge to move around those obstacles.
(3) Train Progressively
If you’re starting to get a better idea of why you aren’t disciplining yourself to do the things you need to do, it’s time to start to change that. And you’re most likely to see progress and stick with it if you start small. Training progressively just means you start with something a bit easy and each time you conquer one step, you raise the bar a bit. Try these steps:
- Think about an area of your life where you’d like to build self-discipline, and then try to think of one small step that would move you in the right direction. For instance, if you’d like to eat healthier, maybe you should start with skipping your routine afternoon visit to the office vending machine. It’s a small thing, but you are pushing yourself just a bit out of your comfort zone.
- Once you have reached the point where you don’t even think about getting an afternoon snack, increase the challenge. Your next goal might be to eat a healthy lunch every day. If you’re used to going out and grabbing fast food every day, this will be a tougher challenge than skipping the vending machine. But that’s the point – when the challenge is harder, more self-discipline is required. And that’s how you keep building on your ability to discipline yourself.
- Keep taking it up a notch. Once you master one level of self-discipline, think about what you can do to make the challenge even tougher and move up to the next level. Skip dessert? Get up earlier to make sure you have time for a healthy breakfast? Keep training progressively until you have reached your goal of eating healthier.
- Make sure each time you set a new challenge for yourself, it isn’t just a new challenge, but also a tougher one. That’s how you train yourself to get stronger in self-discipline.
- Once you reach a goal in one area, like eating healthy, think about the next area where you’d like to be more disciplined, like exercising regularly. Then start at the beginning again and train yourself in the same progressive way.
Those are the first three steps to help you build self-discipline. Not too painful, right? In my next article, I’ll talk about the final three steps, removing temptation, finding inspiration, and resisting the initial urge to overdo it. For now, though, start thinking about the areas of your life where you could use a little more self-discipline, and also think about your current behaviors that are both helping and hindering those goals. You’ll be on your way to building a more fulfilling life soon!
While many people understand the importance of staying active, they often don’t realize that strength training is also a key part of maintaining their health. It’s not just about getting toned, but strength training slows the muscle loss and bone loss that accompany aging. It also helps you improve your joint flexibility, improves your balance, and decreases your blood pressure.
Strength training is also an important part of any weight loss regimen. While you can lose weight by simply creating a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you take in), you burn more calories when you have stronger muscles. Your muscles need energy to work, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn during the course of the day. For every pound of muscle you have – even if you do nothing else all day – you burn an extra 35 to 50 calories each day.
Some women are hesitant to start weight training because they are concerned they will end up building big, bulky muscles. Don’t worry, though. Women typically don’t have the hormones needed (testosterone and others) to bulk up. When women build muscle, they look toned, not built.
If you’re interested in starting strength training, there are a few different ways to begin. Read about them below and think about what would fit you, your personality, and your lifestyle best.
Do you need to be accountable? I recently read a story about a woman who pays for a gym membership, even though she has all the gym equipment she needs at home. Why? She needs to be held accountable, and she knows with the gear in her basement, she can always put it off another day. But when she pays for a gym membership, she refuses to let that money go to waste!
If that’s you, you have a few different options. Your local Y probably has lower prices than the fancy gym in your neighborhood, and they have plenty of equipment to get you started. The Y also has family memberships, and many provide child care.
Some people prefer the camaraderie of like-minded people at a big gym. At the Y there will be kids groups and (maybe) crowds, and it’s certainly a no-frills approach to working out. At a gym, though, you will find people who are mostly strength training or working on their cardio on treadmills and ellipticals. Your local gym probably has later hours than the Y also, and many are open 24 hours.
Do you want to work out with your own gear? Many people are more comfortable working at home, which also affords them plenty of flexibility in terms of fitting a workout into their schedule. For some, as I wrote in a previous article about sticking to a new exercise plan, part of the process is gearing up for the big change. It gets them excited about the new change when they buy the equipment, get shoes, and move toward a new goal.
If that’s you, don’t worry – you don’t have to buy a home gym! Start small with dumbbells and DVDs. A good starter set for dumbbells if you haven’t worked out with weights much before is the Altus Athletic 32-Pound Dumbbell Set which you can find at a heavily discounted price on amazon. It has a pair of 3, 5, and 8 pound weights, which is a good place to start. If you know you’re ready for heavier weights, check out the Cap Barbell 40-Pound Dumbbell Set, which goes up to 35 pounds on a single bar and is also very reasonably priced on amazon.
You can also get DVDs that will guide you in your workouts if you aren’t sure where to begin. Some libraries carry these, and you can borrow them for free. Just be sure to look for ones that aren’t more than a few years old and make sure they target all three areas: upper body, lower body and core.
There are a couple of good beginner strength training DVDs that I would recommend, and they’re fairly inexpensive. One is called Step By Step Strength Training. It covers upper body, lower body, and core, and although it’s set up as a 30-minute program, you can do as few or as many as you have time for. Another one, called The Great Dumbbell DVD not only has a great workout routine, but also is very specific in teaching form for those of you who are new and want to make sure you’re doing it right!
If you have some experience with weight training and want something a bit more advanced, check out Tracey Staehle’s Sculpt Sweatfest DVD This one not only covers more advanced strength training with dumbbells, but it also incorporates moves with an exercise ball and BOSU.
Do you just want to get started without buying any equipment? If you think you want to start strength training, but you’re not ready to spend money on any weights or other gear, that’s okay. There are countless exercises you can do using your own body weight as resistance, and you can even use items from around your house (books, canned foods, etc.) to add weight.
Pickthebrain.com has a good outline of simple and effective exercises you can do at home without weights. That’s a good place to start, but if it gets too repetitive, just search the web for bodyweight exercises, and you’ll find more options. There’s an excellent book called You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises that does an excellent job of teaching exercises that use your body as resistance. Exercises are divided into four groups (push, pull, core, and legs & glutes), and you workout just four times per week (one group per day). One thing I really like about this book is that there are different programs for different levels, so you don’t need to figure out which ones to do or in what combination. It really is a great place to start if you don’t want to buy equipment, you don’t want to have to figure out any workout routines, and you just want to get started!
Regardless of your age, weight, or fitness level, it is never too late to get started with strength training. Your body will burn more calories, even when you are at rest, you’ll increase your metabolism, and you’ll make your physical body more resistant to injury.
I hope you decide to get started on weight training if you don’t already do it! And if you know someone who is thinking about getting started, I would love it if you would share this post with them too! If you’ve come across some good workout DVDs or have other recommendations to share, let us know in the comments!