I was in a crazy rush to get to my weekly Pilates class this morning (when I say weekly, that’s an aspirational term!) For some reason it felt very important that I did Pilates this morning. Maybe it’s because it’s the season of diets, fitness and positive changes? Whatever it was, I was determined to get there on time.
But halfway there, I stopped for a rest and realised I felt pretty awful. My blood sugars had been all over the place in the night and I had a bit of a hypo-hangover. I knew that the sensible thing to do would be to go home and crawl into bed for an hour before collecting Tiny from nursery. But something in me – perhaps the stream of virtuousness that flows around us at this time of year – made me reluctant to give up. I felt as though I would be ‘letting myself down’ or giving up too easily.
As I stood on the street corner in my woefully under-used active wear, I realised there were two different voices in my head offering opposing forms of self-discipline. The one pushing me towards my Pilates class was telling me to do what I had resolved to do at all costs – to see it through and overcome the challenges.
The other was telling me to listen to my body, look after it and think through the consequences of ploughing through. Ultimately, this voice won and I turned around and headed back home.
It made me realise that self-discipline is more nuanced than just sticking rigidly to a plan. Sure, there’s a place for that kind of determination. But in life there will always be more than one factor at play; perhaps being self-disciplined is taking decisions that make the best of a situation, rather than doggedly following the course we’re on. Perhaps it’s about being OK with changing plans rather than sticking to them, if that’s best for everyone involved.
Whilst this form of discipline makes it a bit trickier to decide on a course of action, it allows you to focus on wellbeing in a broader sense. Having a chronic illness forces you to take this wider view of life – there is always more than just the situation at hand to consider. There are your plans later and your wellbeing tomorrow, next week and beyond.
I’ve realised that for me, self-discipline is less about getting a thing done and more about considering the best action to take in the bigger picture of life. I very much plan to make it to Pilates next week, but if something prevents me, I’ll rest assured that my decision is based on more than laziness – it is rooted in discipline.