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!