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Why you don’t need more discipline


World renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin, who passed away in 2018, was always full of controversial ideas, such as his theory about vegans having a lower IQ.

But he also had a ton to teach others about strength training, and life in general, evidenced by his massive success as a strength coach and the impact he left on thousands of people who learned from him. He was truly a legend, and I wanted to take the time to remember a concept he articulated so well about the idea of discipline. 

Basically discipline is a myth, said Poliquin.

People always walk around looking for more ‘discipline’ or ‘willpower,’ thinking if they could just find a way to be more disciplined, they’ll be sure to finally lose that weight or gain that fitness they have always wanted. 

Poliquin, however, said this: “There is no such thing as discipline. There is only love…You are the result of what you love most.”

Think about this for a moment: The most successful people don’t have more discipline and willpower than you do. They just have more love—specifically self-love.

Think of it this way: When you really love something, it doesn’t feel like discipline to do the right thing. When you’re falling in love, it doesn’t feel like effort to be nice to the person and treat them well, right? Similarly, if you love pizza, it’s not hard for you to eat pizza. Or if you love working out, it’s not that hard to go to the gym. 

Taking it a step further: If you love pizza more than you love the thought of having the body you always wanted, then you might choose pizza and fee like you failed yourself by not being disciplined to go to the gym, but really all you did was choose pizza over the gym because you love pizza more.

Or as Poliquin put it: “You either love finely etched muscular abs more than donuts or you love donuts more than wash board abs…”.

Instead of beating yourself up, Poliquin asked instead that you choose to love yourself. When you love yourself, you’ll be more likely to make loving choices that lead to a healthier you, and it won’t take searching for discipline or willpower to get there. Thus, if you love yourself more than you love pizza, then maybe next time you’ll choose to avoid pizza and it won’t even feel like you’re giving something up, or using discipline, because you made the conscious choice, which actually feels a lot better than the pizza.

For our purposes, I think this concept can be best applied when we consider goal-setting. Many people announce their goals, but then you look at their choices in life you can clearly see their actions don’t align with their goals at all. 

I have discovered it’s often because people don’t really know what they want. They set goals that they don’t really care about, such as, “I want a muscle-up.” But then they don’t do anything to work toward that muscle-up. It’s OK if you don’t really care about getting a muscle-up; the important thing is figuring out what you really do want, what you really do love, which will give you a better chance at getting it.

Other times, people are striving for outdated goals, for things they used to love and care about but no longer do. This is especially the case when it comes to competitive athletes who are no longer competitive athletes. (I personally have attest to this because I went through this for two years). They’re so used to having these big performance goals, so they continue to make them, yet they no longer line their actions up with their stated goal. What they really want is just to maintain 90 percent of the fitness they once had at their prime, and continue to look good naked, but they still wander around pretending to chase that 500 lb. back squat they always wanted.

So step 1: Figure out what you REALLY want. Not what you think you’re supposed to want, or what you used to want.

Spend a day, a week, a month, digging deep within to figure out what’s really important—what you really want and love—and then striving for that goal will be fun and enjoyable, as opposed to a constant struggle to find more discipline.

What do you want?