Disciplined Happiness: Why I Am Happy to Follow a Strict Routine in Life

Civis Mundi Digitaal #41

door Inga Stasiulionyte

³Motivation gets you started; discipline is what keeps you going.² Inga Stasiulionyte


Inga Stasiulionyte, an Olympian and brain training coach


Many people wonder how I manage to be so disciplined. They believe that my life must be very hard, since I am always under a strict schedule. That was true when I was training to be an Olympic athlete, and it¹s true now, when I am a brain training coach, MIT mentor and a co-founder of Onbotraining - an online course for developing happiness.


However, I don¹t see it that way, as I love everything that I do. My journey to the Olympics has shown me what it takes to become good at anything, and I don¹t mind going through that journey. I have never minded the struggle - I knew it will give me the chance to reach my goals.


I worked full time and I trained full time for the Beijing Olympics. By the way, I am not an exception in the world of elite athletes. Many support themselves with dual high-level careers, and live their dream while achieving their goals. They push their capabilities to their limits, and enjoy lives with a purpose.


All these athletes, myself included, know how discipline works. Discipline is a way to show that you are in control of your life - and a way to get anything you want.


How does one maintain a discipline? Mostly, by combining an automated brain program - doing all what¹s needed to be done no matter what - with an incredible commitment to the future goal.


It¹s becoming harder and harder to be disciplined, as we live in the society that prizes instant gratification. We are more concerned about feeling good all the time, so we seek immediate pleasures - whether it¹s a new car, an exotic trip or a new partner. Our long term goals are not so important anymore. We get comfortable, and wait for some special event that will make our lives meaningful, fulfilling, full of happiness and success.


The amount of discipline that we have shows how much we are in control of our life, and how free we are. Otherwise, we¹re just controlled by outside circumstances.


Therefore, for me, discipline means freedom and happiness. It gives me the ability to do what I want, since I can learn how to achieve any dream I set myself to. Discipline also teaches how to control thoughts, since only by controlling our thoughts we learn how to be happy in any situation. For example, it happens in sports that you are feeling under the weather, but you still have to perform at the competition and win. The technique then is to use visualization to bring back positive emotions about the competition, which triggers your optimistic mood. It¹s nothing complicated - you just have to train yourself for it.


Discipline also brings self-confidence, mental and physical strength, and inspires us to grow as human beings.  With growth comes the ability to enjoy life in deeper ways.


Here is my advice on how anyone can develop discipline - it¹s a skill like any other, and can be trained!


Developing discipline


1. Set big goals. Don¹t be shy!

When you challenge yourself to achieve bigger goals, as, for example, being the best at something in the world, then you dedicate yourself to the craft. The more time you spend on it, the harder it becomes to quit. You feel shame that you have already spent so much sweat, time and effort on it, so if you quit, it will be for nothing. And you definitely don¹t want that!


2. Set clear goals

Goals can be set for a process or for a specific thing, for example, to be healthy or to buy a new car - but it has to be clear. Clearly define what healthy lifestyle means to you, and what you will do, exactly, to achieve your goal. Will you go running every day? At what time and for how long? Will you eat healthy? How will you measure if you are healthy? If there is no clear goal, there is no possibility to create specific  steps that you will need to do to achieve it.


3. Every day matters

When you wake up in the morning, you need to know what¹s the most important for you to accomplish that day. Everything that you have set for yourself has to be done! It¹s a life and death matter, since you will determine whether your dream lives or dies. Every athlete knows that if they skip one training session, they are already behind. They know that in the competition that is still three months away, they will deprive themselves from winning if they don¹t accomplish the set plan today.


4. Do not debate the plan!

If you want to go to the Olympics, each training session matters. The same is with everything else in your life. When the process starts, you cannot question it. You have to work every day to reach your dream with full force.


5. No matter what!

The main mindset you will have to establish in order to become disciplined is ³no matter what, I will accomplish the task for when it is set to be done!² No matter what! Yes, you have to create pressure for yourself, otherwise nothing will get done. By the way, there is a good stress and bad stress - and you have to make sure you are operating undethe good stress, which means butterflies in the stomach - a manageable adrenaline that stimulates you.


5. Discipline is a planned routine

You have to create a routine that would become automatic. Athletes know the hour of their training, their lunch, dinner and rest. In the training, they know they have to do a warm up and the main training, then cool down and recover. Everything is set to accomplish the routine.


6. Commitment

Discipline was instilled in me by my Mom. When I would ask her if I could start art, dancing or volleyball classes, she would say: ³Be careful in choosing on what you will be spending your time, because you won¹t be able to quit. You will have to finish it till the end and do it well.² That led me to think hard if I would be able to commit to something for a long time. Also, knowing that it¹s the only thing that I chose, made me explore how I could keep getting better at it.


7. Understanding a process of transformation

Your body and brain will do everything to resist the change and growth. You need to know that it¹s natural to feel lazy and undisciplined. But you have all the power to fight it, and you need to start with your thoughts.


8. Go above feelings

The hardest part about discipline is maintaining the actions needed to achieve your dream or certain state of happiness. It requires constant hard work fighting against comfort and instant pleasures. To do so, you have to separate yourself from feelings that stop you, whether is tiredness, laziness or pity for yourself. You have to go above them, even if your feelings tell you that you are tired, stressed and alone in this struggle. Discipline is direct training of a fighter.


9. Resisting the brain

All people are lazy -  even the most successful businessmen, the most accomplished athletes, and the most dedicated professionals. However, to be precise, it¹s not simple laziness. Rather, it¹s your brain saving the energy for you. Any movement takes the energy away, and the brain is doing everything to stop you from moving by sending body signals about how hard it is to move, and thoughts about how scary it would be if you fail. But you can trick your brain. Imagine your body is a beautiful machine, and you are operating it as a higher force from above. Separate yourself from your body. Play it as a computer game. You are the one who gives commands to your body to accomplish tasks.


10. Mindset - finding pleasure in hard work

Shift your focus to the process, and concentrate on getting the work done faster and better every time. Speed is important. You have to move fast in order to achieve perfection in a set amount of time.


Many quit too early. Success is all about persistence and going till the end. Discipline is what gets you to your final destination - the realization of your dream.


The more you learn about your craft and your own capabilities, the minute you start seeing yourself change, the results will get you hungry for more. Self-improvement is an amazing drug.


I love discipline, as it is the source of power. It is an engine that helps us understand and explore our capabilities and life¹s opportunities. Discipline is not boring: it¹s freedom to put all our energy into creating something meaningful and beautiful.


The good news is that it¹s up to us to choose the life with a discipline or without, with a goal or without - with a dream or without.


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Sign up for my Onbotraining program, where my partner Alex Monaco and I coach you how to achieve all your dreams in life and train you how to be disciplined.


*Inga Stasiulionyte is an Olympian athlete and javelin thrower, who was coached by the best coaches in Europe and the U.S. for over 20 years, and competed at the Beijing Olympic Games. Besides developing her career in sports, Inga simultaneously pursued a career in business, working with executives as a life coach. Inga¹s dream is to provide access to everyone to the knowledge, tools and training that she received in sports that helped her win. She cooperated with a motivational writer to create Onbotraining, an online mind coaching program that trains people skills needed to reach desired goals in life. Inga is a University of Southern California graduate with a BA degree in Entrepreneurship and minor degree in Communication Design. She also completed International Business and Global Affairs Master¹s studies in the International University of Monaco. She is a mentor and keynote speaker at MIT¹s Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp.