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The Belly Runneth Over


Most people want to avoid pain, and discipline is often painful. But we need to recognize that there are really two kinds of pain when it comes to our daily conduct. There’s the pain of self-discipline and the pain of regret. Most people avoid the pain of self-discipline because it’s the easy thing to do. What they may not realize is that the pain of self-discipline is momentary but the pay-off is long lasting. ~John Maxwell

One and a half years ago, I was in the best shape I had been in over 10 years. I did not wake up one morning to find I had miraculously dropped 20+ pounds of fat and added muscle while sleeping and was able to cycle the century. The fitness level was achieved through disciplined attendance at local gym and countless hours logged on my bicycles. Today, I have rediscovered the 20 pounds and lost the cardio endurance I worked so hard to develop. And I had to waste hard earned money on new pants to cover the added girth. Still, some of that girth manages to spill over my belt.

What Happened?

I traded the discipline of physical development for the discipline of mental development and the discipline of career development (without cutting down the large quantities of food I was ingesting to fuel my workouts.)

I did not make a conscious choice for the tradeoff. I sort of fell into the new life dynamic. I had the opportunity at work to create a leadership development program and simultaneously teach it to seven up and coming leaders. Leadership development is a passion of mine so I became engrossed in creating the program which required shoring up my leadership knowledge with a lot of reading and creating the course content to best transfer the knowledge to the group of seven.

I became engrossed to the tune of long work days (12 to 13 hours) and long work weeks (60+ hours). I didn’t mind because many of those long work hours found me in The Zone (a concept pioneered by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as Flow) and hours would disappear in the blink of an eye. At the end of those long days, I was too tired to go to the gym and the gym would be too crowded in the evening for an effective workout, at least, that’s the song I sang to myself to assuage the guilt I was feeling. However, there was always enough energy to delve into another book or blog before nodding off to sleep.

I played those same lyrics over and over again until going to the gym no longer entered my mind. I played them over and over to the tune of adding back the twenty pounds I had laboriously discarded in the gym and on my bicycle. I played them over and over until I was no longer fit enough to race mountain bikes and long distance walks were more a challenge than filled with pleasure.

The time spent reading and creating content was time well spent. The class was met with highly positive reviews by the attendees and I read my way through 90 books in the past nine months, with a target of 100 by year’s end, expanding my knowledge in many areas related to leading people.

What’s Now?

While most of the time I regard as well invested, the lack of discipline in going to the gym must be changed. I should have returned to the gym  when I completed the course development early in the summer. I had become too used to not going…lost my personal discipline…still justified my gaining knowledge through reading as more important than physical fitness. Juicy rationalizations can sometimes disguise themselves as fact.

I recently started back to the gym in earnest. I am off of work for a week so have disciplined myself to going there every week day. Half the time I spend pumping iron and the other half on the stationary bike in a mountain climbing simulation mode. My muscles ache but it is a good ache because I know the ache will be short lived as compared to the benefit to my physical essence.

My new goal is to get to the gym at least three days a week. I don’t set weight loss goals because I see that as taking the focus away from the discipline of going to the gym. I have complete control over going to the gym. Weight loss, on the other hand, is something that may or may not happen depending upon the amount of muscle mass I build.

My end of year vacation begins on 14 December and will find me with a lot of free time before returning to work on 02 Jan 2013.. I plan on spending a part of every day (except Christmas) at the gym being disciplined in my quest for fitness. I will also be listening to books on tape to ensure my mental acuity is not neglected. Come January and a return to work, I will  leave work early at least two days a week so I can get to the gym and make sure I am there at least one day a weekend. After all, my physical well being is worth fighting for a few hours a week, each and every week, for the rest of my life.

What juicy rationalizations are keeping you from achieving a disciplined life?

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