(Today I’m sharing a guest post from Jane Moore from FitwellTraveler.com)
When it comes to setting ourselves up for long-term success and improving our overall health, focusing on sacrifice and self-discipline is one of the best tools we have in our arsenal.
Sacrifice, the act of giving something up for a greater good, goes hand-in-hand with the concept of self-control. Denying ourselves pleasures in the short-term in the pursuit of a greater good is paramount to living a happy, healthy life. Without this self-discipline our decisions become very short-sided and we have a tendency to fall into bad habits and form relationships that are detrimental to our mental and physical wellbeing.
As the PickTheBrain blog notes, “discipline is freedom … For many people discipline is a dirty word that is equated with the absence of freedom. In fact the opposite is true … the undisciplined lack the freedom that comes with possessing particular skills and abilities.”
Why focus on sacrifice and discipline?
It’s important to know that every time you make a sacrifice in your life, you’re teaching your brain how to cope with self-denial. Like any personality trait, some people are predisposed to have more self-control than others, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be learned and worked out, like a muscle. Practicing small acts of self-discipline in your daily life sets you up for long-term success when your willpower is tested down the road. Denying yourself that extra cookie is just rehearsal for when you need to break that seriously unhealthy habit later in life. Learning to say “no” to someone in your life that you feel is using you will help down the line when you need to remove yourself from a toxic relationship.
How to make it a priority
It’s not enough to just say I’m going to be a more self-disciplined person. Like any goal, it’s important to be specific. Take the time to lay out your specific goals as they pertain to sacrifice and self-discipline. Know exactly which bad habits or toxic situations you want to remove from your life and in the beginning, force yourself to practice denial. It may feel bad at first, but over time you’ll find strength in self-control and you’ll have more space in your life for good habits and beneficial relationships.
Psychologist Ellen Hendriksen, PhD suggests that you should deploy a strategy that involves reducing the attractiveness of your temptations, increasing the attractiveness of your goals, and modifying your environment to make it all more manageable.
After you decide what you’re trying to do, don’t just white-knuckle your way through it,” she says. “Forcing yourself to do something aversive, like being nice to your in-laws or resisting that cigarette, depletes your store of willpower for other tasks. Yes, even though self-control can be improved, it’s fundamentally a limited resource … rather than hacking your way through your self-control task with a machete, use some quick brain hacks to think about your task differently.”
If you can frame your temptations as unattractive in your mind, it’ll be easier to avoid them. Also, if you somehow make your tasks seem more fun or reward yourself for practicing certain acts of sacrifice, you’ll be more likely to stick to it.
Whether it’s giving up smoking, choosing to eat healthy, or breaking off your toxic relationship, the way to achieve all of this is to really focus on self-control in all aspects of your daily life. If you think that denying yourself things is simply a long-term solution – one that will make your miserable in the here and now – think again. Studies have shown that people who practice self-discipline are actually happier in the short-term as well.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com
Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty teacher at Colorado Christian University.
She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice."