“We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.” – Jesse Owens
I pride myself on self-improvement and am always listening to audio books while driving or reading while at home. Nearly every successful person in any field throughout history says the single most important key to their success was self-discipline. Without self-discipline, we are doomed to revert back to our old ways and therefore, never truly grow.
Self-discipline can be applied to any field but I thought it would be interesting to apply it to becoming a better athlete-competitive or not.
- Social life. We see this happen to even some of our best professional athletes. The temptation and urge to go out and party and stay out until 3 in the morning has ended many promising careers early. There is an old saying that nothing good can happen to you if you are out past midnight. I am not saying that you can’t have friends, rather that you need to be disciplined in your social life and the people who you hang out with.
- Sleeping in. One thing that most people dread is hearing that alarm clock in the morning. I can look back at my athletic career from basketball through competitive bodybuilding and say that training or practice never got put on the back burner for anything. This meant getting up before school back in high school and riding my bike to the YMCA and working out, shooting 500 jump shots, waking up at 3:30 in the morning to train for my bodybuilding shows-you get the point. Do I regret not sleeping in all those times? No, because this allowed me to get more done in the day before most people woke up than they would do their entire day! I am not saying athletes don’t need sleep, rather if you are going to get up early to hone your craft, make sure you go to sleep earlier.
- Eating. It is easy for athletes to not eat or hydrate properly. Many athletes even tend to eat junk food which results in gaining unwanted body fat and hindering recovery. Having a nice dinner or dessert once in a while is good for the mind and possibly the body at certain points, but we cannot make a habit of it. Rather, we need to eat the right foods at the right times, have a plan and then work that plan.
- TV Time. I love watching a great sporting event or even a Seinfeld re-run, but those are things that I plan into my schedule. Watching long hours of television can negatively affect your energy and state of mind. Most people feel worse after sitting for 3 hours watching television. Ironically, the very reason they think they are watching is to unwind and relax. Instead of watching TV, pick up a good book.
- Mediocrity. We usually compete to win! However, I believe that ninety-nine percent of us don’t strive to win. We must be different! Our lives and careers don’t happen without striving to win!
- Money. True Olympic athletes don’t usually get paid for their efforts leading up to their performances. Later, if they do well, they can reap huge benefits. Many of us invest our time and money into supplements and fitness programs to better ourselves which can provide big dividends.
- Comfort. Becoming great is not easy. We have to work hard to attain our goals. This can lead us to extreme fatigue and even exhaustion. Comfort comes from achieving our goals so stay focused.
- Sex. If you look back throughout the history of boxing, many of the greatest fighters of all time used abstinence because they thought sex would make them fatigued and less aggressive. It’s amazing how far serious athletes are willing to push themselves to achieve success. Each athlete determines their own limitations and discipline.
If you are an athlete (former or current) or a coach, be proud of the self-discipline your sporting career has brought to you and to your sport. The greatest thing I could have ever carried and taken from my competitive athletic career was not a trophy or memories, but rather it was the self-discipline that I can now use in every area of my life. As athletes, this discipline will never leave you. That burning desire will always be inside of you, the only thing that will change is that at some point we will have to put the ball down and continue excelling at the game of life. That is when all the self-discipline and self-denial will truly be worth it.