“Discipline equals freedom." -Jocko Willink
“That’s stupid” I remember thinking when I first heard the quote. How can discipline offer any freedom. I was connecting the word discipline with words like strict, structured, and regimented. These certainly aren't synonyms to freedom!
Not only did I dislike the quote I actually strongly disliked Jocko Willink voice and couldn't stand listening to him talk #honest. Take a listen to the speech that I first listened to on the CrossFit BRIO blog about a year ago. Great content, agitating voice (haha!).
The fact that I was resenting his message was a sign I needed to lean into it. For the past year I’ve been reflecting daily on the quote. I went from hating it to loving it. The message makes sense to me now. But I will forever find Jocko's voice annoying (ha!).
Like most quotes, this one can be applied to almost any area of life and most certainly health, fitness, and nutrition. I’ll share one of my biggest “aha” moments that allowed me to deeply connect to the quote:
I traveled to Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver. This is a beautiful outdoor stage that attracts the world best musicians! Accessing the theatre requires some walking and a few staircases. I was talking to a man who said his friend was so out of shape that she couldn’t come to a concert for fear of the fitness required to access the venue. Wow! This person, having not prioritized any type of exercise or nutrition in her life, didn’t even have the freedom to go to a concert!
I always associated being disciplined as “not having fun” or missing out. The thing is, discipline is the opposite of missing out. Discipline offers the freedom to get what you want out of life. I had never thought about how my routine of eating well and exercising daily has afforded me freedoms like travelling comfortably, running up stairs, going to concerts, trying new sports (like wake surfing!), or having the energy to live an active lifestyle.
Unlike my initial impression, discipline doesn’t mean you are necessarily strict or regimented. Discipline is as simple as small, accomplishable, daily habits added up over time. Like spending 30 minutes a day moving your body or packing a healthy lunch. Of course, it takes some amount of hard work, effort, and dedication to prioritize your health. Perhaps the only time to go to the gym is 6am so you set your alarm clock early and make it happen. Maybe you get home late and want to go to bed, but you know packing a lunch better aligns with your nutrition or financial goals.
Call it harsh, but you don’t get to decide that you don’t like exercise or eating well. You are obligated to move your body and fuel it with nourishing foods. But you do get to decide how you can move your body in a way you enjoy and how you can make healthy eating work for your food preferences. This turns “being disciplined” into habits that you practice with little to no willpower. Those habits then offer you the health and freedom to live your best life. Of course, even fitness and nutrition veterans have to muster up some willpower and motivation to stay consistent with their healthy habits some days. But the effort is well worth the investment for the freedom it affords!