The One Thing that Can Change Your Life

     If there was one thing that could change your life for the better, just one factor that could impact everything, would you work hard to develop it?  Really?

     There IS one thing – discipline.  Self-control.  I know, I say it like it’s easy. But I think we have allowed the importance of discipline to erode over the years.  We talk too much of stress reduction and life balance and living for the moment.  We make sure all the kids get a trophy, not just the ones who work hard.  We give service awards, not performance awards.  We celebrate mediocrity.

     I heard Jim Collins (author of Good to Great) speak recently and he said greatness is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.  Not luck, not circumstance – choice and discipline.  In other words, we could all achieve greatness if we decided what we wanted and took disciplined action to get there.  There really are no excuses.

     Let’s think of some common desires – lose weight, get fit, be debt free, get rich, have a great relationship, raise good kids, be successful.  Many of us want to do these things.  Few of us are willing to be disciplined enough to accomplish them.  We do the easy thing over and over and wonder why we aren’t getting what we want out of life.  Want to start getting what you want?  Ready to get crazy and try a little self-control and discipline?  (Feel free to pass this article on to your kids, free loading relatives and anyone else you think needs a swift kick in the direction of their dreams.) 

 1.)    Figure out exactly what you want.  To lose 5 pounds, to run a marathon, to pay off your mortgage. Just pick one goal to start with.  We don’t need your whole bucket list here.  Deciding what you are not going to do is as important as deciding what you are going to do. 

 2.)    Decide what you are going to do consistently to achieve your goal.  I think you already know what you need to do.  To lose weight you need to eat fewer calories and exercise more.  But that’s too vague.  You have to be specific.  Example – I’m going to eat 1500 calories a day and walk a mile.  Then you do this – EVERY day.  Not when you feel like it, not when the weather is perfect, not tomorrow.  EVERY day.  The key here is to stretch yourself, but be realistic.  I walk 5 miles 5 times a week.  Inevitably I have to travel or something happens and I just can’t get it done 7 days a week.  So you may say you’re going to exercise three times a week.  But you do this EVERY week.  I walk when it rains, I walk when my hip hurts, I walk when it’s 105 degrees outside.  Maybe for you it’s not exercise – maybe it’s putting 10% of every paycheck toward your credit card debt.  The key is doing it EVERY time.  Not sometimes, not even most of the time.  EVERY time.  That’s discipline.

 3.)    Make it automatic or enjoyable.  I listen to mysteries on my I Pod when I walk.  I can’t wait to get out there!  It’s also an exercise I enjoy.  Have the 10% automatically deducted from your paycheck.  Prepare your meals for tomorrow when you are full today.  Be creative.

 4.)    Get over (and please get your kids over) the idea that life is like a video game.  You just get the cheat codes or hit the reset button and you’re back on easy street.  The real world doesn’t work that way.  If you gain 50 pounds, you can’t just get a new skinnier avatar.  You can’t expect all that debt you knowingly racked up to be magically forgiven.  Discipline means you live within your means.  Discipline means you work hard until you learn a business and then you advance.  Discipline means as your pants gets tighter you exercise more.  Discipline means you are ready when life throws you a curve ball.  We seem to have forgotten that hard work leads to success – it is NOT for suckers.  Suckers expect someone else to do all the hard work for them.  Or they expect to land their own reality TV series and never have to work again.

 5.)    Avoid situations and people that weaken your discipline.  If you are trying to pay down debt, DO NOT go to the mall.  Don’t put yourself in situations where you have to resist temptation.  Studies show the more temptation you have to resist during the course of a day, the harder and harder it gets.  Friends who have goals similar to yours will be a boost to your discipline.  Friends who have goals counter to yours will destroy your efforts.

 6.)    Realize that practicing discipline is what builds self-esteem.  The only way to build true self esteem is by setting a goal and achieving it. And the only way to do that is through discipline.  If you want to feel better about yourself – this is it!

 7.)    Before you weaken, ask yourself – is this who I am?  Before you skip the gym, eat the cookie, spend the $50 on shoes instead of the mortgage, smoke the cigarette, blow off the sales call……ask yourself, “Is this who I am?”  That question alone might change your actions.  Just make the right decision at that moment – don’t eat the cookie or spend the money.  Do the right thing, the disciplined thing.  That’s not who you are anymore.  That’s how you choose greatness – one good decision at a time. 

 8.)    Realize that the more disciplined you are, the more freedom you have.  If you are debt-free, you are owned by no one.  If you are healthy, you can physically do the things you want to do.  When bad things happen, the disciplined have the self-esteem to deal with them – they do not fall apart, they are not slaves to their emotions.  The disciplined know they have the greatest impact on their destiny, not others.  If someone else has to do something to change your life, you are enslaved to them.  

    Being disciplined isn’t easy (Lord knows there are days I fall right off the discipline wagon and into the sugar gutter!).  But taking consistent action in the direction of your dreams is the only thing that will get you there.  Discipline is the one thing that will change your life. 

 

 

 



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