Desire and Belief

How to Be Disciplined Part 2: Dancing With Desire

In part one of this series on how to become disciplined, I shared a bit about what it means to be disciplined. I have some experience with this on both sides of the equation. I have been both undisciplined and very disciplined. Which version of myself do you think achieved his goal? Which was more fulfilled? I would suggest going back to read Part 1 to get the answer!

I also suggested a framework that I believe anyone can use to become disciplined in their own lives, with their own big hairy audacious goals. In case you missed it, here’s that framework listed out.

  1. We express a desire to achieve an outcome.
  2. We make an empowered decision to go after that outcome
  3. We get real with where we are at right now, and recognize that “right now” is not permanent.
  4. We chunk down SMART goals between where we are at now, and our desired outcome.
  5. We establish a plan to get from where we are at, to our goal(s) (the map).
  6. We create an accountability structure around those goals, and evaluate progress regularly.
  7. We follow the plan with consistency and self awareness.

In this series I am dissecting each part of this framework to provide tips and tools to help you level up your discipline. In this post, I’ll talk about the first vital step…

Desire to Achieve an Outcome

I remember the first time I saw the Ironman World Championship on television. I remember being inspired by the amazing athletes crossing the finish line. I remember seeing the people smiling as they ran through the finish arches and achieved a dream they had worked so hard for. I remember thinking to myself wouldn’t it be nice if I could do something like that?

Then, just as quickly as that little flicker of desire entered my mind, it was squashed by the overpowering voice of self doubt and fear in my head.

You can’t do that. You’re unhealthy. You can’t swim. It’s too hard. You’re too weak. You don’t have time. It’s too expensive. There are sharks in the ocean. People will laugh at you. You’re too tired. You’re too old. Other people are better than you…

It was a constant barrage of self defeatism that led me back into my hole of unhealthy habits, shame, depression, and anxiety.

Many years later, after I had about a year of sobriety, I had a new perspective. I had experienced a transformation through sobriety that showed me something new. Belief in myself.

In that newly empowered state, I remembered that day that I saw the Ironman World Championship on television. I remembered all of the smiling faces and excited finishers. But this time I didn’t immediately face self-doubt. Instead of saying “I can’t”, I asked “What if?” That was the spark that started my journey toward success in triathlon, and ultimately other areas of my life as well.

Desire Always Has a Companion

The moral of the story is that desire in and of itself is not enough to push us on to take action. Desire always has a companion. That companion is either self doubt or self belief. If desire chooses to take self doubt to the dance, desire becomes fleeting. We squash our dreams before we ever have a chance to plant the seed. 

If desire instead takes self belief to the dance, the seed of empowerment is planted and we have the courage to take the first action.

So, that sounds great in theory, right? Let’s all just believe in ourselves and everything will be sunshine and flowers! Sorta, but not quite that easy, is it? Life gets in the way. We face external forces of defeat all the time. You can tell yourself that you believe in yourself all you want, and that will work fine until the first hint of something, or someone, that challenges our beliefs. It could be a boss, a relative, an internet troll, an article, a BMW, a tree that is planted in the wrong place, or any number of things that seem to affect our perception of the world around us. So how do we duck and weave our way through the daily trials of life and maintain belief in ourselves?

The first step in establishing belief in your desire and turning self doubt on its heels is allow yourself to visualize your desired outcome. The outcome is the specific result you want to experience when your desire is achieved. This is where you put a tangible metric to your dream and you see yourself achieving it. The more specific you can get, and the more vivid your vision, the more belief you begin to have that it’s achievable.

So what does this look like? Let’s say that the first spark of a desire comes as you first witness a triathlon. You think to yourself “Wow! How cool would it be to be that fit and healthy!” That’s pretty vague, right? Why is it vague? Because there’s nothing specific about it. Becoming “that fit” is a moving target without any way to establish direction. Think about it this way. If you wanted to go on a vacation, and in thinking about your destination your only response is “somewhere better than here,” that’s not very specific. How do you even start to book plane tickets?

Back to the desire at hand. You have to make that desired outcome crystal clear. What specifically would your dream goal be? Is it to finish the triathlon you’re watching within the cutoff time? Is it to finish an Ironman triathlon? Is it to qualify for the Ironman World Championship? Let me tell you, all of these are completely valid, and achievable, goals… depending on how committed and disciplined you can be, and your timeline. 

The point is, when you first experience a burning desire to achieve something, allow desire to take belief to the dance. To engage your “self belief” system of thinking, you have to visualize the specific outcome you want to achieve. Then you will give yourself the courage to take the first actions and begin imprinting the discipline to achieve your desired outcome.

Start with this. Next time you hear your brain tell you “I could never do something like that…,” instead say “What if?” Then jump down the rabbit hole. Chances are, you won’t be disappointed.

Once you have your specific desired outcome, it’s time to make a decision to commit to pursuing that outcome. We will talk about decision in the next post. Until then, happy training!