Every morning, my kids (the two still at home — the oldest is in college) wake up at 5:45 a.m., get ready for school, make themselves a healthy breakfast and leave the house on time to get to school (my middle son drives, so he leaves extra early to avoid traffic; my youngest son catches the bus).
I stay in bed. I was never an early-morning person anyway, and with all the stress of the past couple years, I couldn’t sleep and would be too exhausted to get up. I’d lay there feeling so incredibly grateful that my late husband and I, somehow, did a good job in letting the boys develop self-discipline. (I write ‘letting them’ and not ‘helping them’ because by not over-managing our children, the kids get to exercise and strengthen their willpower ‘muscle,’ which is responsible for self-discipline.)
Don’t get me wrong; it took me a while to stop feeling guilty about not fitting the usual definition of a ‘supermom,’ which would mean getting up before them to make them breakfast and pack healthy lunches for them. (And then begin my day with exercising, praying/ meditating and journaling – looking all put together like in those pretty Pinterest posts.) Realizing they needed me to be healthy more than they needed a picture of a ‘supermom,’ beautifully packed baby carrots and whole wheat sandwiches, I employed my willpower and self-discipline to stay in bed, sleep and allow my heart and my body to heal. 🙂
That’s the thing with willpower and discipline – it takes both self-awareness AND grit. We need to discern when to push through, and when to stop, rest and get replenished. Last year was not the time for me to play tough. I was in the process of healing, and I used my willpower to get me through it with gratitude and love. This year however, I’m back to a lot more disciplined and structured days.
And the kids? I was there to love them through it – providing a support system without which it’s a lot harder to have willpower. I allowed them to rest after school and on the weekends (by not putting more responsibilities on them) and made a nutritious meal each day to replenish their energy and their souls.
Recently, I read a few articles and watched a TEDx talk by Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal and author of “The Willpower Instinct.” Here are a few of her tips on willpower and self-discipline:
- Self-discipline is driven by willpower. And willpower is fuelled by motivation (not instant gratification).
- Self-awareness is an important tool for working on your willpower and motivation.
- Give yourself permission to take small steps rather than think that there’s an ideal you need to reach.
- Have a support system that will keep you motivated.
- Stress, sleep deprivation and feeling guilty will kill your willpower. Reorganize your environment to reduce stress and reward yourself (as long as it doesn’t conflict with your goal).
- Have self-compassion and forgive yourself when you lapse. Then, reconnect with your goal and motivation behind it and keep going.
Hope this inspires you!
Now, enjoy a restful weekend and replenish yourself before you get back to your disciplined and driven work week 🙂
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