Discipline is one of those words that strike fear into the heart of even the most courageous person. It is something that either reflects punishment, or that reflects discomfort, and both are things that most humans avoid. We all know that self-discipline is a key to creating positive change, we also know that it is uncomfortable, often inconvenient, and can be hard. Well, I have some good news. As much as discipline is necessary for you to live a better life, it has an expiry date.

The best way to explain what I mean is by example. I use this example a lot, so please forgive me if you have heard it before. It is currently winter in Australia, and as cold a winter as I have ever experienced in Melbourne. As I write this, during the last few mornings the temperature has got down very close to zeros degree Celsius (around 30 degrees Fahrenheit). I know for many Northern Hemispherians that is not cold, for us soft Aussies, it definitely is.

My alarm is set for 4:55am every day, except Sunday, and every day, except Sunday, I get up and exercise, rain, hail, sleet, or shine. In fact, this morning (as I write this) I was just finishing up my training and the temperature had risen to a steamy two degrees Celsius, and I saw a lady I see most days walking her dog. We always say ‘hi’, and I pat her dog Margot. This morning, she said to me; you are so disciplined. You are here every day, rain, hail or shine. I thanked her for the compliment as she walked past, but I knew in my heart the discipline part of my morning exercise routine had long since expired.

There is no doubt about it, when I decided I was going to get up at 4:55 every morning to exercise, discipline was a major factor in that practice becoming a morning ritual. However, within a few months the discipline part of the process had expired, and the neural pathway part of the behaviour kicked in. What I mean by that is, with each day I got up, I was creating a neural pathway in my brain, and after two to three months of that consistent behaviour the pathway was so strong that it transformed into an unconscious habit. So, now when my alarm goes off at 4:55am, before I even know what is going on, I am out of bed, dressed, and out the door. No more debate, no more negotiation, no more doubts, and no more discipline. The discipline had expired, and my unconscious mind had taken over. I am so grateful.

The question then is, how do we get through the discipline part of the process to the unconscious habit part of the journey? This is where most people get tripped up. Why? Because what they don’t realise, understand, or pay attention to is that to create a strong and unbreakable neural pathway in the brain, it requires the daily application of a certain behaviour for at least 63-days consecutively. If they miss a day, they justify it, excuse themselves, and just think that getting back on track from where they left off will be okay. It won’t, and it isn’t. You must be disciplined to apply the behaviour for at least 63 days straight and if a day is missed, start again. Yes, you heard me, start again. If you go 7 days and miss one, start again. If you go 25 days and miss one, start again. If you go 62 days and miss one, that’s dumb, but start again!

In the big picture, 63 days is a small price to pay for discipline to expire and an unconscious habit to be created. One that will benefit you for the rest of your life. So, to get through 63 days, get clear on what you want and why it’s important. To get through 63 days, choose a simple behaviour that you really have no excuse not to do every day. To get through 63 days, find an accountability partner to make the journey with you, to encourage you, and to not let you off the hook when you are tempted to miss a day. To get through the 63-days, just focus on one day at a time, and celebrate every single day you do what you planned to do. Do this, and discipline will expire, then your powerful and transformational unconscious mind will take over.

In my podcast this week called Treat people right, I speak with military veteran and mental health advocate John Giampino. After a very traumatic medical discharge, and subsequent mental health challenges, John now, after a period of self-discipline, is living a life of joy and significance. This is a powerful conversation. No matter what kind of change you would like to see in your life, just know that it will require a period of discomfort, inconvenience, and discipline. The great news is, it won’t last, because discipline has an expiry date but your joyful life of meaning and abundance does not.