On Discipline and Better Things

On Discipline and Better Things
Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash

Back in May, I began a journey of discipline. It started out as a dietary change – I gave up sugar and most carbs for the entire month, with a few cheats here and there. It was hard. I failed often, and my cravings got the better of me. Since I wasn’t wholeheartedly committed, since I wasn’t disciplined, I fell off the plan for June, July, and the early part of August.

When August came around, I committed to discipline again. I’d recently been prescribed medicine for my frequent migraines, and I didn’t like how it made my body feel. I began my journey of discipline again, except this time I plunged in. I gave up sugar. I restricted my carb intake to 20g net carbs or less a day. And, I began running.

That was 5 weeks ago. I have only cheated once – a few bites of wedding cake last week. I’m amazed at how good I feel. My body doesn’t ache. I have had zero migraines in 5 weeks. My energy is consistently high. I’ve gone from living sedentary to running 4+ miles multiple times a week. And, I’ve lost just under 20 pounds. It’s incredible.

This journey of discipline isn’t about weight loss, though that is nice. It’s about saying no to some things, and it’s about pursuing the better things. I was not unhealthy before – in fact I had a recent checkup with a doctor where I got a good report of healthy, if not a little overweight. But though I may have been healthy, I didn’t feel good. I had low energy most days. Getting out of bed was a struggle. My brain fog prevented me from focusing on tasks for too long. I wanted something better.

As I’ve gone through this transformation, I’ve given much thought to the idea of discipline and the pursuit of better things. It’s what the Christian life is about, really. We give up some things – they may be bad or good, depending on what it is – for the better things. By the transforming power of the gospel, we say no to sin and pursue holiness. We hold loosely to the temporal for the promise of the eternal. We give up the world to gain Jesus.

Paul says it this way,

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 

and

One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way…let us hold true to what we have attained.

Now, do I miss donuts? Sometimes. Yet, now that I’ve tasted the better things, I no longer have the appetite for the lesser things. The few bites of cake I had last week were a letdown, and a reminder that though they may be good, they do not satisfy. Just like the lesser things of this world. Money, sex, extravagance, pleasure, unholy relationships. They promise so much but deliver so little.

I’m reminded of C.S Lewis’ poignant thoughts on this subject:

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis

What are the lesser things you’re holding tightly to? What are the better things you should be pressing into?

Goals for May: kick the sugar, read more books, budget better

May Goals

 

Tomorrow is the last day of April, and I’m already looking forward to May. We have a mini family vacation planned with my in-laws, my husband and I are doing a quick overnight trip to Kansas City, and the end of school means my husband starts having Fridays off, so May is promising to hold lots of fun for us.

With the start of a new month, and in looking forward to a new season, I decided to set some goals for myself for the month of May. I believe goal setting is important, pushing yourself to achieve new things and improve your skills are worthwhile pursuits. In fact, one of my favorite writers and theologians, C.S Lewis, said the following, and it’s becoming one of my mottos for life:

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. – C.S. Lewis

So, here are my goals for the month of May.

21 Day Kick the Sugar Challenge

For the most part, I make good decisions with food. I tend to eat whole foods, I prefer to cook with real ingredients vs. processed ones, and I try to avoid overly fatty or fried foods (most of the time). However, I have a sweet tooth that begs for attention several times each day. I’m totally guilty of falling prey to the cycle of eat something sweet – experience the blood sugar spike – come down off the sugar high – crave sugar like an addicted fiend – repeat ad nauseum. So, to break free from my candy-coated chains, I’ve signed up for one of those 21-day eating challenges through the Facebook group of a personal trainer friend of mine. In addition to cutting out adding sugar to my coffee, I’ll also have to say no to breads, pastas, etc. throughout the challenge, and keep track of my food each day and share it with the group. Hopefully this accountability will help me stick to the program and overcome my addition to sugar. The really sucky part of this challenge is that Mother’s Day is next weekend, and I would love to celebrate with a big ol’ slice of Cheesecake Factory Dulce de Leche cheesecake.

Read 5 Books

In the month of April, I finished exactly one book. I started, and have yet to finish, FOUR others. Clearly, my follow-through was lacking this month, and I’m hoping to see some improvement in May. However, as you can tell, 5 books is going to be a rather lofty goal when compared to my record of accomplishment in April. I haven’t decided if the books I started in April should get to count towards the May reading goal. It will definitely be much harder to accomplish if I have to start and finish 5 new books as well as finish those I started last month.

Blog 3x/week

Blogging took a back seat to other commitments in April, and my consistency suffered as a result. Contributing regular content while being realistic about my capacity for blogging should allow me to post three times per week in the month of May. I need to improve in my blog planning, and I’d like to see myself implement an editorial calendar to organize my content and post schedule.

Stay Within Budget

I use the EveryDollar app to track our income and expenses, and I’ve designated a certain percentage of our income to certain expense categories. However, over the past few months, we have consistently gone over budget in a couple of key areas: eating out and miscellaneous purchases. So, for the month of May, I’ve reallocated the budget a bit, and I’d like to stay within budget on every category this month. The biggest challenge I foresee to accomplishing this goal is the travel we have planned for this month, since we will be eating out quite a bit for one of those trips.

15 Minutes of Physical Activity Every Day

I sit in an office all day, and then I come home and sit on my rear for most of the evening. I know 15 minutes doesn’t sound like much, but right now my normal level of physical activity is at sloth status, so baby steps. Also, since my daily schedule is already full, I decided 15 minutes would be more manageable and easier to achieve.  I don’t necessarily have a plan for how to achieve this, yet, but I’ve considered these workout DVDs. If you have a recommendation, I’d love to hear it!

I feel like these are rather ambitious goals for May. As a classic Type-A overachiever, the idea of setting a goal and not achieving it is anathema to me, but I’d rather see myself pursue a goal and not meet it completely rather than not strive for something out of fear of failure. Do you set goals for yourself? What are some of the goals you’re pursuing right now?