Monday, October 7, 2019

On Discipline

I have been thinking a lot about discipline due to triathlon training. For the past several months, have been engaged in almost daily training, and felt a level of guilt when I miss training days. So what motivates me to be so dedicated and disciplined for this, and how can I apply it to other parts of my life? I've come up with three things that I think help with the triathlon discipline, and some examples of how it's helped with other things. It's performance review season at my job while I write this, so I'm thinking some about how it applies there as well.

1) There's An End Date
I think the number one thing that helps my discipline with working out in preparation for the race is that there is an identified end date. I have to be disciplined only up to this point, and a day that I skip is a day that I lose out on and can't make up later - because there's an end date. This can also be described as an exit point. Like when my husband and I were learning to ballroom dance, we took courses ten weeks at a time. At the end of the ten weeks, we'd say, OK, do we sign up for another class, or exit? I think this is most often the problem with commitments, is that we don't make the space to identify evaluation periods and end dates. And without those deadlines, things start to become monotonous and boring and so you skip it, and then your discipline is gone. With regards to performance reviews, setting expectations for someone new on the task - i.e. I need you to work this for at least six months before you make a change - helps set an end date and set expectations, and give you an exit point. It's possible that the end date will come and you'll decide to set a new end date with new goals - like I did my June triathlon and signed up for a September event - but the end date/evaluation point for exit, instead of the long, unending task, makes discipline easier.

 2) It's A Measurable Goal 
Everyone's heard of making measurable goals. A triathlon is the ultimate measurable goal, because you can measure in distance, and in time to complete, and in how you complete it relative to the other athletes, and what you have to do to get closer to the fastest athletes next time. Three ways to be measurable. Measurable goals are the hardest thing in performance coaching at work, because "doing a good job" is not measurable. Trying to get people to see their goals relative to last year (like time in triathlons) or to stretch themselves farther/take on more work (like distance in triathlons) is helpful. I also have started asking "who is someone here that you'd want to be like in five years? What can you do this next year to get one step closer to where they are?" (like trying to be a triathlete who places in the top of your age group). There's a reason my workplace calls it performance "coaching" - because sport is a good metaphor! 
3) Other People Are Involved
I post my triathlon updates to my Instagram stories. I've competed in a race with my friend Dave (though he's significantly faster than I am) and Dave also posts to his Instagram stories. Many of my friends follow me and ask about the training updates. Some of my co-workers are in on it too. This tie to other people is key to keeping me motivated, because I know if I don't, someone will know that I didn't do that thing. This isn't a new theme - I've heard about the power of accountability for years in my evangelical upbringing - but this is something more than accountability because there's an end date (as mentioned) and it's measurable. Also, the people you are involving have to be people you care about, people you won't lie to, and people who encourage rather than discourage you. These relationships are hard to build. They take time. As a supervisor, this is something I have to remember. I've worked for my boss my entire professional career, and I trust him, based on the relationship we've built over five years. I have to work to build that relationship with the people I supervise.

I haven't decided yet if I'm going to do another triathlon. I did three this year, which is two more than I was expecting to do, so I've stretched myself and that made me happy. But I'm achievement driven, and there's another achievement right over that horizon...I just have to swim, bike, and run to get there...stay tuned! 

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