How often are you flexing your brain?
Sound weird? Let me explain.
When you first complete a set of bicep curls, the 15lb. weight might feel heavy. However, if you’re working out your upper body every day for several weeks, pretty soon, that 15 lb. weight will feel like a feather.
Your will power needs to be strengthened in the same way. The more reps you do, the stronger your “discipline muscle” gets.
What’s a brain rep? Giving your brain a task and following through.
These reps prime the brain to take positive action in the future. By practicing being disciplined with little health habits, your brain will be able to more easily tackle really challenging obstacles.
Forge a Path
Imagine you have to walk through an overgrown field of grass. The first time you navigate from one side of the field to the next, it would be a challenge. You have to forge a path. As you hike to your destination, tall grass tickles your legs, rough underbrush scrapes your shins, and sticks and logs must be moved aside. These obstacles and distractions make the journey a bit tricky. However, after taking that same exact path 50 times, you would form a trail, making it easy to navigate from point A to point B.
This is how your neural (brain) pathways work. The more frequently you choose healthy habits, the easier it will be in the future to take that same action. Your brain will be on healthy habit autopilot.
Conversely, whenever you don’t follow through, that inaction breaks down your will power, making it even more challenging to be successful next time. Stop regularly breaking promises to yourself. It’s crippling you.
As you work towards building your “will power muscle”, start by giving your brain some easy wins. This strategy will help train it without overloading it. Going back to that bicep curl analogy, it is prudent to start with a 15 lb. curl rather than grabbing that 35 lb. dumbbell on your first day in the gym. Build slowly and forge that path.
Here are some little ways to “flex” that will build your brain.
- Getting up after the first time your alarm blares
- Drinking a big glass of water before having coffee
- Avoiding the pastries in the break room
- Stretching while you watch your favorite show at night
- Making your bedroom a screen free zone
By training your brain and making short term sacrifices, you reap amazing long term rewards. When your “discipline muscle” is strong, it positively impacts not only your health but also your finances, career trajectory, relationships, etc.
Discipline doesn’t tie you down. Rather it gives you freedom and flexibility down the road. Here are some examples of how daily discipline with your health habits leads to success:
- Better Focus, Creativity, & Productivity: Waking up early, gives you time to exercise. The neurological boost that you get from exercise enables you to focus better during the work day. This brain strengthening routine can have a huge impact on your career.
- Decreased Digestive Distress: Being disciplined to make a brown bag lunch the night before work provides you with several benefits. 1. Your morning is less hectic without lunch prep. 2. Extra time during your lunch hour enables you to eat slowly and therefore help reduce chronic digestive issues. 3. You can easily avoid unhealthy ingredients that clog up your pipes.
- Easier Weight Loss: Making the short term sacrifice of powering down devices at 8pm can increase your sleep quantity and quality, which is one of the easiest ways to drop unwanted weight and gain energy.
It’s freeing to be able to easily focus on work, to avoid inconvenient digestive problems, and to bust through weight loss plateaus. Discipline is a powerful tool.
Born That Way
It would be foolish to look at a jacked guy and say, “Oh he was probably just born that way. My problem is I don’t have good genes.” Do his genetics provide a good foundation to get really muscular? Maybe but maybe not. I’ve trained hundreds of clients in the gym and those who put in the work each day, gain strength and speed much faster than those who workout only 1x a week or skip their workouts.
In the same way, to look at someone who is disciplined and conclude that they were just born that way is foolish. Do certain people have more of an inclination towards structure and a disciplined life? Yes, but that will only take a person so far.
People who appear to easily and consistently implement healthy habits have a buff brain. It’s likely they’ve been flexing that “discipline muscle” for years. They have primed their brain to make healthy decisions. Making good choices still requires will power for these individuals, but it takes much less energy to do so. Remember they already forged that neural path and removed major obstacles.
- Win the Morning: Pick one healthy habit and use it to kick off the morning. This will help prime your brain for the rest of the day. Some ideas include drinking a big glass of water first thing, exercising, or keeping your phone off for that first hour.
- Plan Ahead: Figure out when your will power is the weakest and find a way to make it easier to be successful in those challenging moments. For example, if you typically grab for a sugary snack mid-afternoon, bring some fruit and nuts to work and eat that instead. If getting to bed on time is challenging, put a timer on your wifi and have it shut off around 9pm.
- Make it a Game: For the next few days, keep a tally of how many times you flex your “discipline muscle” throughout the day. You’ll be looking for opportunities to get stronger.