Detail of Virgin Surrounded by Female Saints 1488
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium
As I near the completion of a full year without a 9-5 job to report to, I have discovered to the secret to this lifestyle is self-discipline. (Applause here) A flexible schedule is a wonderful thing, but without self discipline it can be a disaster. When you have to get up at 7 am sharp every weekday morning to commute through traffic to get to a 9 am meeting with your boss, you cannot spend the evening before drinking a bottle of wine and staying up until 2 am watching Mad Men on Netflix. The repercussions are just not worth it. That is just plain discipline, inflicted by others.
However, when the only time sensitive thing you have do the next morning is drop your daughter at preschool around 9ish, you can just turn right around and climb under the covers for a mid morning nap. The errands, the blog post, the dishes in the sink can wait until you feel a little better. What isn’t at the front of your soggy mind is that there are many many more things that need to get done that you are not even thinking of. It begins a spiral that results in having to get expensive (in money and calories) takeout for dinner, use paper towels as toilet paper, and to stay up until 2 am the next night to meet a deadline.
“Self discipline is the assertion of willpower over more base desires.”
My willpower is fleeting. I found an article that nailed it. Sid Savara wrote about how your self discipline can be hampered by lack of sleep, stress, and even sugar. And if you drink alcohol (sugar) to combat stress and lose sleep because of it, your self discipline will get even weaker, and the cycle continues. The author talks about how you can exercise your self discipline to make it stronger instead of weaker. There are a lot of great tips there.
I need a way to remember ways to exercise my self discipline. Catholics have saints to remember all the ways they could be better Catholics. I have invented fictional saints to remember ways to be a better work-from-home mom. Because female role models are great for me, all my saints are women. If you are a man, you are welcome to replace the names with guy names and she with he and so forth.
I would like to introduce you to the Seven Saints of Self Discipline.
St. Aurora of the Dawn
Could there possibly be anyone out there who does not know the saying” Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise.” Well, Aurora was the one who got up even earlier than that man and made his breakfast. Getting up several hours before you have to be anywhere, and before your child wakes up makes an extraordinary difference in your day. It allows your mind to wake up and to think of all the wildcards for the day, preventing all sorts of stresses and disasters. To summon St. Aurora one must set a strict light’s out at 10:30 p.m. at the latest for at least three nights in a row.
St. Ramona the Runner
It is a proven fact that regular exercise increases your self discipline, there is no disputing that. The catch is that it takes self-discipline to exercise. Excuses are never more prevalent, when it comes to getting to that class or the gym. St. Ramona just runs. She can run anywhere, at anytime, and with the proper clothing, in any weather. She pushes you to go farther and up punishing hills. She knows that when you finish you will feel like you can take on anything. Someone even wrote a book about that. Run Bitch Run. To summon St. Ramona just lace up those shoes (turns out it doesn’t matter what kind), walk out your door and break into a run. St. Ramona is most pleased when you run at dawn because she can talk shit with Aurora while you sweat.
St. Patricia the Planner
If you are ever feeling shiftless, St. Patricia is the one you need to call on. You can’t get anywhere without a map and you can’t get anything done without a plan. St. Patricia has calendars, to do lists, budgets and charts down to a science. She rings bells every time you are on-time and prepared to a meeting, have everything you need when it’s time to cook a healthy dinner, and every time you put a tick mark on your checklist. To summon St. Patricia make a list of everything you might be able to get done today. Then make a list of everything you want to eat this week. Then make a budget. For maximum results, do all of this at dawn after your run so that Aurora, Ramona, and Patricia can catch up over coffee.
St. Olivia the Objector
Our lives are full of temptations that, while temporarily satisfying, really don’t get us anywhere. Junk food, alcohol, media, toxic friends, are always out there trying to test our self-discipline. St. Olivia just says no. “No thank you. I’m not hungry thank you. Maybe next time. Really I can’t. Not even a bite/sip/taste.” She asks for a doggy bag when her meal arrives out of proportion with her appetite. She declines a ho-hum party invite when she really wants to go hiking the next morning. She makes up excuses when people ask her to volunteer for something that she has no time for. She is an elusive saint and it takes practice to master her. To summon St. Olivia say No to three things today.
Some say it takes doing something for 66 days for it to become a habit. Others say that to make better decisions we need to make life automatic. St. Constance can help. Self discipline is much easier when you can keep the momentum going. Do that thing you should be doing, and do it every day. The more you do it, with the least amount of interruptions, the more St. Constance will help you keep doing it.
St. Dorothy of the Deadline
There is no stronger motivator than a deadline. When I lost 30 lbs in 4 months (2004) it was because I had a wedding date set. Any project I have ever had to turn in has been better and more fulfilling when it has a strong due date. To summon St. Dorothy, make a goal and attach a deadline to it. Try some kind of race – perhaps a marathon. Then you can please all the other saints as well.
St. Trish the Tough
Everyone needs someone to call them on their bullshit. St. Trish can help point out when you are just making excuses. No, you don’t need to celebrate that little accomplishment with something bad for you. No, you can exercise even when you are tired and it’s raining. She pushes you to keep you going and reminds you that you are stronger than you think. To summon St. Trish, force yourself to do that thing you have been avoiding doing because it feels like it will be too hard.
I hope these Saints help you. I will work on making little cards of them I can put by my bedside so I can remember that they are there to help me be who I want to be. If I ever do that, I will share them with you.