The other day I was on FaceTime with my folks who were traveling in Australia. I was chatting with my mom about their recent adventures. In the background, I can see my dad who is on the floor doing planks, push ups, and kicking his legs up and down. I looked beyond my mom and asked “Hey Dad, what are you doing over there?” He replied. “My exercises, I do them everyday.”
My parents are enjoying their retirement to the fullest, having moved to the Big Island of Hawaii, building their dream home, and living at Priest Lake in the summers. They take a big trip every year somewhere new and make sure to visit family and friends all over the country. They are 70 years old. My mother underwent heart surgery a year and a half ago and her doctor said to walk everyday to get her heart in shape. So my parents walk 4 to 5 miles everyday and Dad does his core exercises and stretches.
When many boomers are feeling the effects of their age and finding it harder to get around, I notice the ones doing the best haven’t lived fast and hard lives, but have managed to do little things every day to stay healthy. They have maintained a sense of discipline for their health and longevity.
I am one of those people that is fairly disciplined. When I decide I want something, I pencil it out, make a plan, and stick to it. I hit road bumps along the way and make sure to adjust, but I always keep going. Being self-disciplined is not something that is easy. There is nothing sexy or interesting about routine or sameness. Everyone loves the excitement of a new challenge, but many of us “peter out” when we get to the middle of the road.
Now in my 40s there is nothing more middle of the road than where I am now with so much life behind me and still so much ahead. What am I doing everyday? Where am I going? How does discipline show up in my life? For me it shows up in movement everyday. Doing something physical like Pilates, Yoga, or walking. I do it partly to stay in shape but mostly because it’s also a way to find my center and stay grounded.
Taking a long walk gives me time to clear my mind and work through problems. Breathing deeply in a yoga class gives me a chance to be mindful and present. Practicing Pilates builds my strength and energizes me without making me tired.
I think discipline is a tough thing to do when there are so many distractions and choices out there. With the ease of everything being so accessible, it’s harder to be disciplined. Once something gets a little challenging our tendency is to bail and find something else. With so many choices, there is a multitude of options out there that may or may not be better than our current routine. So we bounce from one fad to another, losing the disciplinary routine needed for good health both body and mind.
Yet throughout history discipline was a way of living and the key to our survival. How would we survive a cold and long winter if we didn’t stock pile foods and wood for fires, or plan for spring if we didn’t tend our soil? And we had to do this every year, day in and day out to survive.
I admit, that sometimes even when I face challenges I just want to quit and do something different, but I am reminded that discipline comes in many forms. It is mind and body. Attitude is what makes it work. Instead of always searching for a specific outcome, we should see it as a way of life and being present and taking care. It creates an environment of well-being. Discipline isn’t about the immediate gratification, but more of a daily reminder of what is good and pleasant in our lives, whether we reap a reward immediately or not from it. If you were to take a survey of the most successful people in the world, you would find this common thread. They all have a fair amount of discipline.
In facing challenges it is this that keeps us moving forward. It allows for growth and gaining skill in any endeavor we face. With discipline comes accomplishment and allows us to improve ourselves, our minds, and our environments. It’s not just a boring routine.
Even as my father is doing his push ups, I am reminded of how 20 minutes of disciplined exercise every morning and long walks has not only kept him in shape, but also happy.
So how does discipline show up in your life?