Now I sit me down to write,
Unknown readers I hope delight.
Yet, when prime motives I define,
It is my own soul to refine.
Last Friday, I attended an offsite training session for my work. I had forgotten to tell the organizers of my diet, so when lunch showed up, as usual, I was at a loss of what to eat. We were offered fantastic sandwiches, chips and a selection of enticing pastries and sweets for dessert. Times like these make it difficult to stay on a diet. Little that can be done inconspicuously in a group setting. I took a sandwich and pulled it apart to eat the turkey, lettuce and tomato, discarding the fragrant, tempting focaccia bread. This practice sparked a discussion around the table on diets, exercise and how we all wish we could stay on them.
One question asked by a colleague stopped me dead in my tracks. As he polished off a large chocolate chip cookie and a rich-looking chocolate eclair, he asked what is my motivation for staying on the diet. I stuttered and stammered over a response. I couldn’t explain it. I wasn’t even sure myself. That question has bothered me for the past two days.
The easy answer is I want to lose weight. However, I have wanted to lose weight on previous attempts, too. Those attempts always ended in failure. There is more to the answer than dropping a few pounds. What about the exercise? I have stuck closer to a regular regimen of running than at any time previously. I had a goal of running 5k, and I made it. It would have been easy to give up so many times. When I started, I thought I wanted to run in a race and get a cool T-shirt. Now that I can make it over 3 miles without gasping like a fish out of water, I have no desire to run the race. I prefer to run alone in the dark, early morning.
When I lived in Boise, I decided I was going to ride my bike to work instead of drive. I bought a bike, cool biker clothes and did it. I rode two or three times each week for over a year. Sure, I wanted to be healthy and save money over driving, but those weren’t the prime motivations, either.
Why have I persevered on writing this blog for nearly a year? Why, even when I have taken a few days or weeks off, have I come back and continued to write? Originally, I thought perhaps I could make some money doing it, but have since learned very few people make money blogging. What is the attraction?
I mulled the question of motivation this weekend, finally pulling it apart enough to come to an answer. Anyone remember the first topic I took up in January as I started? Discipline. I have struggled with discipline my whole life. From a child, I was told I was undisciplined. I spent money as quickly as I earned it. I wouldn’t practice my French horn regularly. I got good grades but wouldn’t study. I couldn’t keep my room clean to save my mother’s sanity.
My adult life seemed just as undisciplined to me. I watched too much television. I started hobbies and didn’t follow through. I drifted on a career path, not knowing what I wanted or having any set goals. I allowed life’s currents to take me where they would.
The turning point, I believe, was going back to school to finish my bachelor degree. My motivation began as a requirement from my boss – get it or else. However, as I discovered the joy of learning, my motivation changed. This was something difficult that I could do for myself. I could do difficult things. In this case, I could take one or two classes while working full time and still being a good parent.
After finishing college, I took on learning the piano. I took up hobbies and developed talent people respected. I began turning pens, not because I could make money doing it, but because it was something no one else was doing and I could make something admired.
It has been the striving to be disciplined that has kept me on my diet, writing the blog and running. It is a drive to do something special that keeps me coming back, day after day. The only way I can prove it to myself is by adding one more link to the chain. I hope to prove to myself someday that I am disciplined and can do great things. This blog is therapy for sorting out my feelings, thinking them through and putting them into concrete form. The diet demonstrates I can stay on something every day, without fail until a goal is reached. The running helps me fight against the demons of procrastination. Sometimes I lose, sometimes I win. Each win is a triumph that leaves me glowing the rest of the day.
This has been a winning year. I am making the progress toward discipline I hoped for back in January. I appreciate the question from my friend. I hadn’t thought this through enough to know what I have been chasing all these years. Now that it has a name, perhaps I will figure out how to declare victory.
Thank you for indulging me in a little introspection. Do you feel you are disciplined? If so, how did you develop it? I would love to hear your thoughts.