People are usually surprised when they hear that I started out as a bad student. “But Sifu, you’re so disciplined!” That’s true now, but I wasn’t always that way. Discipline is something that I had to build.
In the beginning, I was incredibly undisciplined. I practiced now and then, but not regularly. I would miss a day of practice, and then a week, and then a month, and then I’d have to start all over again.
So what changed? How did I go from a bad student to a star student? How did I turn my life around?
I did it with a simple decision: A few days before January 1st, 2000, I resolved to practice Lifting The Sky every day, no matter what.
It wasn’t easy. I struggled. Some days, I just went through the motions. But I stuck with my resolution. Every day, I lifted the sky , no matter what.
One night, a few weeks into my resolution, I was lying in bed, exhausted from a long day at work. As I was lying there, I realized that I hadn’t done Lifting The Sky yet. I sighed loudly, crawled out of bed, and did it about ten times. Then I slumped back in to bed.
Gradually, things started to get easier. I built momentum. Practicing became a habit. And I found myself enjoying the habit.
Today, it’s easy for me to practice daily. It’s a deeply ingrained habit, and an enjoyable one. But back then, it was difficult.
Interestingly, the practice session itself was never that difficult, but convincing my mind to begin the session was often torture. And whenever I missed a session (before the resolution), the guilt would roll in.
Since January 1st, 2000, I have not missed a single day of practice. Not one. By committing to this one decision years ago, I was able to build enough momentum to make other, life-changing resolutions down the road, like quitting smoking, creating the Flowing Zen Studio, and pursuing my life’s passion. That resolution was like the key that unlocked the rest of my life’s potential.
If you want to unlock more of your potential then here are some tips:
1. Start Now
New Year’s Eve isn’t the only time you can make a resolution. You can start any time. Action has power in it, so the sooner you act, the better. In fact, why don’t you get up and do the 2-Minute Drill right now. I mean it. Get up from your chair and do it. Start something now, no matter how small.
2. Do a 30-Day Trial
The 30-Day Trial is a fantastic way to implement changes without a lot of pressure. It’s simple. Do something (or quit something) for 30 days. At the end of the 30 day period, there’s no pressure to continue. That’s why it’s called a trial.
Choose something easy for your first 30-Day Trial. Here are some examples:
- Do 2 minutes of Qigong every morning for 30 days
- No TV for 30 days
- Wake up early for 30 days.
- Do 100 Kung Fu kicks every day for 30 days
The ability to stop after 30 days has a powerful psychological effect. It takes all the pressure off. If you’ve ever felt guilty about not sticking with goals, then the 30-Day Trial is for you!
3. Don’t Fail!
“The only rule is that you can’t fail,” I said to a student. “The rest is up to you.” The student thought for a few seconds, and then asked a smart question. “So I can choose any goal I want, even if it’s super easy, just as long as I don’t fail?”
Far too often, students fail not because they lack discipline, but because they set unrealistic goals. In other words, they set themselves up for failure. And then they feel like a failure because they are practicing failure instead of practicing success.
Don’t do it! Don’t fail! Choose the easiest goal you can think of, but do it for 30 days. Even though the goal was easy, you will still feel successful. And that’s key. Because you’ll feel successful, you’ll be ready to shoot a little higher with your next goal.
4. Remember What You Want
Here is one of the biggest secrets of building discipline: Remember what you want. Through years of grueling training, Olympic athletes never lose site of their goal. In other words, they constantly remember what they want, and that fuels their daily discipline.
After winning Wimbledon, tennis star Andre Agassi said that he had already won it 10,000 times — in his head. For years, he was incredibly disciplined with his practice. He maintained that level of discipline by constantly visualizing his goal — to win Wimbledon.
When working towards your own goals, you’ll need to constantly remind yourself of what you want. And make sure to be specific with your goal-setting. Make sure to read my article How to Supercharge your Practice if you need help with goal setting.
5. Practice with Friends
I practiced for years by myself. When I finally found people to practice with, I suddenly realized what I had been missing. What a difference it made!
In my studio in Florida, I work hard to build community because I know how important it is. But many people don’t have a community. They practice alone like I did.
There are two simple solutions to this problem: either convince your friends to start practicing, or find new friends who already practice.
It’s not easy to convince friends (or family) to try these arts, but you owe it to them to give it a shot. Talk about how much you’ve benefited from practicing Tai Chi, Qigong, Kung Fu, or Meditation; or show them my page on Lifting the Sky; or buy them a good book. Unfortunately, most people won’t be interested, but a few may be inspired by your enthusiasm.
The other option is to find like-minded people in your area. It doesn’t matter what style of Tai Chi, Qigong, Kung Fu, or Meditation they practice. What matters is that they are good people who appreciate the importance of community. Even if you only meet once a month, it will still be beneficial for both of you.
6. Read a Book
Even after years of reading and re-reading my teacher’s books, I still find them to be a source of inspiration. After reading a few pages, I invariably want to go practice. Of course, other books on Tai Ch, Qigong, Kung Fu, and Meditation can also be inspiring. Good books are a resource, and you should use them.
Watching a good Kung Fu film (or even a bad one) can also do the trick. As children, many of us were inspired to pursue the martial arts because of what we saw in movies. That source of inspiration can still work today. Even Kung Fu Panda made me want to go practice! Try it. Go watch a Kung Fu movie and see if it motivates you too.
7. Be Like the Sitar String
Don’t be too hard on yourself, but don’t be too soft on yourself either. The key is to find the happy medium. A quote might help:
“If the sitar string is too loose, it will not play a song. If the string is too tight, it will break.” –Buddha
Setting an easy goal is fine. That’s an example of not being too hard on ourselves. But you have to stick with that easy goal! Don’t be too soft on yourself. Don’t allow yourself to fail.
Find the sweet spot where your string will play a song because it is “neither too tight nor too loose”.
8. Enjoy Your Practice!
My best tip for building discipline? The real secret to my success? It’s simple: Enjoy your practice.
Whenever I practice, I truly enjoy myself. Every day, when I step into my practice room or go outside, I let go of everything else, and I focus on enjoying my practice. When I do this, it doesn’t feel like work. It doesn’t feel like discipline. It feels like joy.
If you had to pick just one of these tips, pick this one. You’ll be amazed at how much discipline you’ll build. And the best part is that it will be enjoyable!Mindfully yours, Sifu Anthony I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world how to use qigong for their own stubborn health challenges. As the director of Flowing Zen and a board member for the National Qigong Association, I'm fully committed to helping people with these arts. In addition to my blog, I also teach online courses and offer in-person retreats and workshops.