Why Discipline Doesn’t Work For Achieving Your Fitness Goals. And What Actually Does.

In today’s missive, I’m going to give you a pithy, girthy quickie. (<— I actually lolz’d at myself after writing “pithy, girthy quickie.”)

Many people struggling to get on—or back on—the fitness wagon blame a familiar culprit: lack of self-discipline.

Perhaps you know you’re NOT happy with your fitness.

You feel lethargic and sleepy.

Your thinking seems foggy.

You’re not happy with the way your clothes fit.

You’re eating and drinking too much, and you’re sleeping and exercising too little.

And perhaps most of all, your confidence has taken a hit from consistently breaking your own commitment to self-care. (Remember… self-esteem is your reputation with yourself.)

“If only I had more self-discipline,” you say.

“I know what to do, but I just can’t seem to get myself to actually do it. I make some progress for a while, then something comes up, and the next thing I know I’m back at square one. It’s discouraging, it’s frustrating, and it makes me feel like giving up. I guess I’m just not very disciplined…”

Take heart. This is a VERY common challenge. And while you’re always encouraged to feel your feelings, if I may, I’d love to gently challenge your analysis.

You see, while discipline can have its place when looking to sustainably change your behavior, your discipline is largely a function of something outside of you. It’s not some internal failing.

The biggest obstacle to fitness success is NOT your lack of iron will.

The biggest obstacle to your fitness success is not managing your environment.

Your behaviors are strongly influenced by your environment. The annals of social science and psychology are full of astonishing stories of behavior changes brought on by a simple change in environment.

For instance, during the Vietnam War, almost 20 percent of American troops developed an addiction to heroin. This isn’t exactly known for being an easy addiction to overcome. And yet, upon returning home, 95 percent of these soldiers went on to make a full recovery and kick their habit.

You are impacted in powerful ways by the environments you find yourself in.

I’m not saying there’s never a place for willpower as you develop habits. But I AM saying that rather than whiteknuckle your way through an unsupportive environment, spend some energy either altering or changing your environment to support your goals.

3 Ways to Win at Fitness Without Relying on Discipline

1) Create a kitchen that supports your nutrition goals.

Buy healthy foods you like. Don’t buy (or at least hide) unhealthy temptations. Invest in cooking equipment, tupperware, or whatever else will help you eat in a way that supports your personal vision of fitness greatness.

These investments can be practically useful, like upgrading your pots and pans, or simply ones that make cooking and eating a joy, like getting plates and dishes you truly love. Make it easy to win.

2) Create (or seek) an environment that triggers fitness.

This is part of the value of having a gym (or a Clubhouse did you know we’re back open btw??) to physically go to in order to train. As soon as you arrive, all the signals make it clear what you do in that space.

If you’re working out at home (like with Homebody get started with our 14 day challenge!), see if you can make your space more conducive to training. Consider using a particular lighting set-up, a particular set of clothes, and if you’ve got the real estate, a particular space in your home dedicated to your fitness pursuits.

3) Create a social network that’s aligned with your fitness dreams.

One of the most powerful influences on our behaviors are the people we spend time with.

We are social animals. We’re designed to take our cues off those around us as to how to behave.

If you spend time around people that neither value nor invest energy and time into their fitness, you can’t help but be influenced. You’ll eat and drink more and you’ll no doubt exercise less.

But if you’re around people who have active hobbies, who exercise regularly, and who eat to nourish their bodies and brains, you’ll ALSO be influenced. That’s one of the reasons that community-minded gyms like MFF help people actually workout consistently. Because it creates accountability to other people who are committed to their fitness.

(And to state the obvious, there are takeaways here for any behaviors you’d like to adopt OR any behaviors you’d like to modify/ replace).


So if you’re finding yourself lamenting your lack of discipline, play with one or more of the above strategies. I think you’ll find it lubricates your preferred life choices!

You can always move in with me and Shina and Gizmo but I should probably ask her first,

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