Discipline or Willpower?

I went to see a dietician, and she told me I was an emotional eater. Five minutes later, she understood exactly why I hate that expression, which to me always sounds as though it is dripping in condescension. I explained to her that although I might be an emotional eater, I was making the shift from living to eat to eating to live, and that seemed to me to be of upmost importance. Making that shift is about the discipline of eating what’s right for me, buying the right foods, and preparing food at home, but it’s not about willpower. 

Willpower and discipline are not the same thing. Willpower is about the strength and ability to carry out a plan. When a plan fails, as they sometimes can, we blame ourselves for not having enough willpower. I prefer to cultivate discipline rather than willpower. Discipline is about conditioning ourselves, through training and behaviour, to maintain a certain state. 

Say that you want to start getting up and exercising every morning. If you leave it to willpower, it’s really easy to hit snooze on your alarm clock and not get up in time. You can easily say things like, “I’m still tired,” or “I don’t feel like it today.” With discipline however, we work on creating an ideal environment to support what we want to do. We get our workout clothes ready the night before (even if it’s a speedy donning of the t-shirt and shorts to walk the dog), and as we go to bed we say things that help us achieve success, including “I am looking forward to my walk in the morning.” Then, when the alarm goes off our discipline makes us get up whether we feel like it or not, and we get at it. 

Discipline is an attribute of successful people. It’s one why behind the salesperson who makes 20 calls each day; the truck driver who walks around his vehicle to conduct a safety check; and the actor who  know his lines before shooting a movie. 

Are there things in your life that would be improved if you stopped thinking about a lack of willpower and instead focussed on developing discipline?

Yesterday I was at a great big picnic where we were celebrating a whole bunch of milestones at one time. The tables groaned with the weight of platters and watermelon, and I reminded myself about discipline and food, and enjoyed it all immensely. My contribution was a tasty asparagus salad, and you’ll find the recipe below in case you are looking for something a little different in terms of summer salads.  

You know this little story is here because these are things I can help you with. I don’t expect my clients to be perfect or even close to it, although I do ask a lot of them. ;)

You can copy and print this complete newsletter for your personal use, or pass it along to someone that you know might benefit. Just be sure to include the following information without altering anything please:
(c) 2013 Pam Robertson.
Pam is an instigator who helps people to create lives and work that are worth celebrating. She is based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and can be reached at 780.232.0083 or by email to For more information you can also visit her website.

No comments: