Gratitude, Discipline, and Intentionality

I have been struggling to find a topic to write about for the last few days, and then I came upon the ideas of gratitude, discipline, and intentionality, and how they relate to my current roles. These are great things to consider, especially during the Christmas season, so here it goes. This time of year, we hear a lot about gratitude, but it is often quickly eclipsed by the frantic mass consumerism that is synonymous with Christmas. When we are continually inundated with advertisements to buy and give more and better things, it can be easy to lose sight of the blessings we currently enjoy. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is a worthwhile endeavor all year round, and it is something I am striving to do. 

What about the things that take effort to be thankful for, such as challenges, trials, and failures? In my short thirty years, I have found that there is much more to be learned from the difficult times than the easy times. When increased effort is required, increased awareness, knowledge, wisdom, and experience result. Remember when we had to look things up in a dictionary or encyclopedia instead of just quickly googling it (I was young, but I do remember it!)? I’ll bet we remembered things a lot better when we had to take the time to flip through the pages to find the answer. Since it took effort, we did not want to have to repeat it! So it is with trials and failures. 

It is easy to be thankful for the obvious blessings, such as health, prosperity, relationships, etc., but how important is it to be thankful for the trials? As a Christian, it is easy for me to look back see how God was guiding and developing me/us in the midst of our trials. It was not easily visible at the time, but hindsight is 20/20. Personally, I have become a better steward of both time and money because of the problems that arose from me not managing those things well. I don’t always get it right, but I am aware of the importance of striving to be intentional with both. 

Being intentional is another popular phrase right now, and for good reason. So many things distract us from what is important; TV, social media, text messages, e-mails, etc. If we are not careful, we will end up missing out on the gift of the present. Technology and social media have a way of making us “unpresent”. A person can be a room and have no idea what is going on around them because they are so engrossed in what is happening on their phone. How many of us have missed out on quality time with friends and family, good conversation, or even just a peaceful moment because we could not put down our phone? I know I am guilty of this, and it happens nearly every day. This is why being intentional is so important; if we are not careful, we will give ourselves to the pointless things while missing out on the essential things. This requires discipline, which is a fantastic tool to have in your back pocket, as it applicable in so many areas of our lives. 

Discipline is a funny thing, isn’t it? One moment you can be ready to conquer the world via strength of will, and in the next moment you are succumbing to your desire to act in a way that is contrary to that goal. Call it human nature, sin nature, or a lack of self-control, as they all apply. How can we create lasting change in the areas of our lives that need to be improved? The thing that helps me is finding a valid reason for personal change. When you are truly motivated enough to do accomplish something that takes a lot of effort, you typically have an important and personal reason(s) to do so. 

Since I have become a mother, this has really hit home. For starters, I did not lose my pregnancy weight easily, like I had planned on doing. Six months after giving birth, I had lost maybe fifteen of the forty plus pounds I gained. As someone who has remained nearly the same weight for nearly all of my adulthood, this was not cool. My joints hurt, I wasn’t comfortable, and I didn’t have many clothes to wear. In fact, I was still wearing my pregnancy clothes for a few months after I gave birth. I know plenty of people do this, but that possibility never crossed my mind! I just thought I would drop the weight easily, because that’s what everyone else seemed to do. Wrong. 

I didn’t fully commit to cleaning up the poor eating habits that I had cultivated throughout my pregnancy and into motherhood, and it showed. After feeling sorry for myself didn’t pan out, I decided to start working out, albeit in a half-hearted way. This made me feel better, but it really didn’t help me get back into my pre-pregnancy clothes. While I was relying on working out, I kept reading that your diet is approximately 80% of the equation when trying to lose weight. Yuck. Who wants to hear that? 

Well, I started cutting out added sugar, which was very difficult for this sugar fiend. That helped me to make some significant progress with my weight loss, and it was very encouraging to see the scale move, as it seemed like it would never happen ever again! That went on for about a month before it plateaued. It was during this time that I decided I was going to do a half-marathon. It was something that I always wanted to do, and why couldn’t I? All it was going to take was time and effort. So, me and baby boy started running three times a week, starting in January. Now, that is my husband’s busiest time of year at work, so it was a poor decision ton my part to choose to run in the cold when the husband was usually not available to watch the baby while I go run X miles (ha!). The half marathon was a few months away, so I thought that would give me plenty of time to get my mileage up, lose some more weight and just generally get back into shape. I lost a little bit of weight throughout the training process, but I was still north of where I wanted to be. After the race, I needed to take a break from running to allow a nagging injury to heal, so how was that going to help my weight loss struggle?

I started reading an amazing book, called the Obesity Code, by Dr. Jason Fung, and it was so insightful, I highly recommend it. It is about intermittent fasting, and how doing so allows your body to get out of the cycle of having constantly elevated insulin levels. High carb diets, frequent snacking, and high levels of daily sugar consumption all wreak havoc on our body’s ability to keep insulin levels within a normal range, which leads to insulin resistance, which leads to weight gain and general malady. For me, this was the missing piece. I incorporated it into my daily routine on the days I went to work, and once I made the conscious decision to do it, the actual fasting wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. That being said, intermittent fasting was certainly not easy, but its benefits were undeniable. I had more energy, the weight and bloat around my middle decreased, and the number on the scale was finally getting to where it should be. Wow. It took about one year for me to get back to where I wanted to be, but I got there. 

I should add the caveat that intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone due to medical concerns or certain situations like pregnancy or breastfeeding, so do make sure it is appropriate for you before trying it. 

Growing up as an athlete, I got used to the idea that I would have to do things I didn’t want to in order to get to do what I wanted, such as running to get in shape for basketball, or playing defense so you get to play offense. However, those are relatively brief things. When I was confronted with not sleeping well for months on end (while being pregnant and then later with a newborn) and not being able to lose weight any way I tried (also for months on end), it was tough, and it was unrelenting. I let myself wallow in self-pity and discouragement, but that served no purpose. I don’t even remember what my catalyst for improved discipline was, but the important thing is that there was one. One good decision led to another, which led to another. As that momentum built, I realized I was learning an important lesson; discipline is developed by making small, intentional decisions. We often think that the small decisions are meaningless, but they are not. The parts make up the whole, and is the whole what you want it to be?

Cutting out sugar, exercising, and intermittent fasting were all invaluable tools that helped me reach my goal while also teaching me a very important lesson: things worth having require effort, and effort is successful when paired with discipline and intentionality. Now, struggling to lose weight is trivial in the grand scheme of things, but it was a great way for me to learn the importance of discipline and how it relates to successfully reaching your goals. 

I have learned so much about gratitude, intentionality, and discipline since becoming a new mom, and it has been amazing. Day in and day out, we are given new opportunities to make intentional decisions for the things that matter. For me, that looks like getting into/out of bed on time, so I can be well rested for the day ahead, putting my phone down to show the husband and the baby they are more important than what’s on my screen, and cooking/cleaning to provide healthy food and a clean environment for me and my family. That is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a start. I want the people I share my home with to know how important they are to me, and my daily choices reflect my priorities. We are given new opportunities to practice positive habits every day. It may not be easy to do, and I know that I fail in this more than I care to admit, but the important thing is to make an attempt. 

It may seem more logical to take the easier road when confronted with a challenge that requires discipline and tenacity to overcome, but what do you learn? You miss out on an opportunity to get better, to expand your horizons, and to push your own boundaries. It is a mistake to live solely in your comfort zone and allow your own limits to be unchallenged as you go through life. We don’t know what we are missing if we don’t get out there and look! We were created to be purposeful, intentional, thankful, and courageous, and what a blessing that is!

Now, let me go and be thankful for my challenges and remember my motivation to make time for all of the things that truly matter 😉

What things or habits do you want to be intentional and disciplined in?

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