Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.
Discipline gets a bad rep. It’s a bit of a dirty word in many places, often associated with overly strict and unforgiving authority figures. Which is too bad, because when we employ it for ourselves, it is an extremely powerful weapon to achieve great things.
The reality is that a self-disciplined swimmer is the one that will triumph talent and good genetics every time. They will show up when no one else will, not complain when challenging sets get scrawled up on the board, and will be the first at the pool to destroy the competition at meets.
The reason this happens is because discipline takes away a lot of the struggle associated with the heavy mental demands of training. When you stop having to gimmick yourself into going to the pool and giving a hundred percent, you are able to remove a metric ton of reasons people fail – self-doubt, low motivation, fear.
The thought of “not feeling like it” never even crosses your mind because it is not an option. It makes the process of achievement something based in reason and routine, as compared to motivation, which is largely based in how you feel at that particular moment.
Here are just a few of the things that self-discipline promotes—
1. Self-discipline is the ultimate productivity tool. Powerful discipline means that when you sit down and list out a set of goals for yourself, they might as well already be accomplished. They are a done deal. Having a powerful sense of self-discipline means that you can set and plan goals with the certainty of knowing that you will follow through on them.
2. Motivation gets you started, discipline keeps you going. The starting period of anything is almost always the easiest. At this point you are generally flushed with energy, focus and motivation. We lay in bed at night and think about that greasy goal, and how wonderful it is going to feel when we achieve it. At this point we are prepared to make all the changes necessary to make our goals happen, and we are willing to do it with vigor. But eventually that initial rush of excitement wears off, and with the fading enthusiasm so goes the motivation and desire to do what is necessary to achieve our goal. This is where discipline keeps you going. It picks up where that big surge of excitement retreats.
3. Allows you to make guilt-free decisions on saying “yes” or “no.” A disciplined swimmer doesn’t have a hard time saying no to that extra slice of pizza or bowl of over-salted fries. They don’t find it difficult to decline an offer to hit the town when they have a big practice in the AM. They don’t even feel the need to make an excuse, because for them, they don’t feel guilty about saying no. There is a clear line that is drawn between the things that will propel a swimmer towards their goal, and those that will not, and a self-disciplined swimmer doesn’t feel guilty about declining to cross that line.
4. Eliminates the back-and-forth banter in your head. It’s 5:17am. The wind is howling outside, snow is blowing sideways, and your bed is so comfy it’s not even fair. Even though the alarm went off two minutes ago, already you have conjured up a list of excuses you can deploy on your parents, your teammates and coach. Car wouldn’t start. Caught that super rare six hour flu that’s going around. Cell phone died in the middle of the night so no alarm. These excuses don’t have a chance when you instill self-discipline. Sure, you might not love getting out of that bed, but you do it anyway.
5. When you’re self-disciplined, it gets easier. Believe it or not, once you have discipline set up, and it is governing the important decisions regarding your swimming, things get easier. A lot easier. You don’t need to struggle with the incessant and self-sabotaging self-talk. The excuses stop to flow. Doing the right thing doesn’t just become easier, it also becomes natural, routine. As an added bonus, you’ll feel energized as you’re spared the exhaustion of having to find new and creative ways to motivate yourself on days where you don’t feel motivated.
6. Self-discipline gives you something else that is very powerful; a strong inner compass. Whenever those nagging doubts pop up, those notions that perhaps you aren’t good enough, that you aren’t up to another bout of training, your powerful skills of self-discipline are there to tell them to sit down and lock it up. Having that authoritative voice within you will do more to hurtle you toward success than any pep talk or motivational playlist.
Next time, in part 2 of 2 of this little guide on self-discipline for swimmers, we’re going to discuss some techniques for developing and honing your self-discipline skills.
YourSwimBook is a log book and goal setting guide designed specifically for competitive swimmers. It includes a ten month log book, comprehensive goal setting section, monthly evaluations to be filled out with your coach, and more. Learn 8 more reasons why this tool kicks butt.