After running a full marathon this spring, my discipline disappeared.

With a half marathon (or two) on the calendar this fall, I am running again, although not without moments of regret about all the fitness I’ve lost.

A summer’s worth of neglect — that’s all it takes.

My choices this summer, choices that did not include running, have determined my current (compromised) fitness for running.

My lost fitness is mostly cardio-vascular. My legs are okay. Running six miles isn’t so bad; my legs aren’t sore at the end. But carry on a conversation while I run? Sprint for more than a few paces without being winded? Nope. Nope.

The only way to recover the fitness is to recover the discipline.

While thinking about lost physical fitness, I realized that it’s crazy easy to lose fitness in other areas, as well.

You may be able to identify with these other areas in which I can easily lose fitness/focus.

Without discipline, I can lose my fitness for perspectiveMy friend and client Linda Freeman is leading a service group to Cambodia. She leaves next weekend. Over lunch last week, we talked about the living conditions of families in Cambodia. She shared the startling fact that many families sell their daughters, as young as age 5, into sex slavery, out of desperation, in order to support other family members. They sell their daughters for as little as $150 US Dollars, less than the price you would pay for a pig. I spent twice that much money yesterday at a back to school shopping trip (a last minute one to pick up a few things!)  Linda and her group will visit and help the folks at She Rescue Home, people who are daily sacrificing to meet the needs of people whose poverty I can only begin to imagine. In order to maintain perspective, I must be disciplined and awake to life outside my comfortable experience.

Without discipline, I can lose my fitness for gratitude. Tim Sanders calls gratitude a muscle, one that must be exercised daily. Without daily exercise of the gratitude, I can easily lose my ability to see and appreciate all that I have.  I have to practice, making a thousand small choices a day to cherish the blessings of my life. I can be grateful for the comfortable bed that I slept in last night, for clean, abundant water in my taps, for a safe community in which to raise my daughters, for free public education, for the 2006 dented minivan that reliably carries me anywhere I want to go.

Without discipline, I can lose my fitness for serving othersIt’s far easier to focus on myself than to focus on others. Serving requires disciplined focus on others and their needs. If my wants, needs, and comforts are my primary concern, I will serve myself. If others’ needs are more important to me, I will serve others. Serving others requires, like gratitude, a thousand small choices every day. In the moment, I can choose to serve myself or I can choose to serve others. My choices determine my fitness for future service.

Without discipline, I am not fit to live the life I want to live and run the race I want to run. I must choose to discipline myself, physically and mentally, every day. A thousand small choices every day: perspective, gratitude, service.

photo credit Gemma Styles