This is What Discipline Looks Like

I used to play the drums when I was in high school.  Although it was fun to sit at my drum set and play, I was never very good.  What held me back was my unwillingness to put in the disciplined practice to master the fundamentals and hone my skills.  Eventually, I gave up the  drums to pursue other interests.  Looking back, I wish I would have stuck with it and been disciplined in my practice.

Since I’m familiar with drumming, I’m always interested in watching really good drummers perform.  Earlier this week, I came across a video of a performance by Neal Peart, the drummer for the band Rush.

This guy is awesome!  When I first saw the video, I was amazed at how easy Neal made playing the drums look.    As I continued watching, it became apparent that he has also spent thousands of hours mastering his craft.  He was obviously both willing and disciplined to pay the price to achieve mastery. His performance was a striking example of what the results of discipline look like.

Is there a craft or skill that you want to master or hone?  If so, realize that it will take time and effort.  However, most important, if it’s something you really want, commit yourself to its disciplined pursuit.  Be willing to put in the time required.  Neal Peat didn’t become an excellent drummer in a single day.  Neither will you achieve mastery of your craft in a single day either.  Like most things that are worthwhile, it will take time.

Be willing to put in the time.

Why Not Today

What’s that “next step” you need to take that would move you one step closer toward your goal or dream?

What’s keeping you from doing that step today?

Don’t Pursue Happiness

We should never pursue happiness.  That sounds weird to read, and write, but I believe it’s true.  I don’t think we should pursue being happy as our primary goal.

I’ve heard people say that they just “want to be happy”, but when questioned, they often lack a plan or any idea how to achieve the happiness they seek.

I think our efforts would be better spent focusing on doing the things that bring happiness.  “But wait!” you might be saying.  “Isn’t that the same thing as pursuing happiness?”  Not really.  Here’s why.

Being happy is a byproduct of doing something else.  The feeling of being happy follows an action.  You don’t just “be happy”.  Something comes first; some initial action sparks happiness.  The action is the cause, happiness is the effect.

Here’s what this looks like in the real world.  If you want to be happy, determine the things that make you happy, and do those things.  (The premise I’m working from is that the things that make you happy are good, moral, legal, and will build you up and those around you.)  Perhaps being in good physical condition or serving others makes you happy.  Maybe something in your career or spending time with family friends or a community you belong to.  It might even be using a gift or talent you possess.  Most likely there are multiple things you can do that make you happy.  Whatever those things are, do them.  Don’t avoid them or diminish their importance.

Instead of continuing pursue happiness alone, begin stoking the fire of happiness by taking the actions that cause happiness to follow.  When you do, you’ll find that happiness is waiting on the other side.

Be Curious

A couple of weeks ago I went to listen to a lecture by Brent McGregor, a photographer and ice cave explorer who has done significant work on Oregon’s Mt. Hood.  I expected to learn a lot about ice caves on Mt. Hood, which I did, but I was surprised by what, for me, was the biggest take-away from his talk.

His lecture was extremely interesting, and the pictures and video he presented were breathtaking.  What was most interesting to me however was that Brent came to ice-caving later in life, and has been able to have significant impact on ice cave research and exploration in such relatively short time.

This encourages me, because I’m reminded that no matter our age, we still have the capacity to be curious and interested in new things.  We also have the ability, and privilege, to pursue those things that interest us.

Fortunately, there is no age where we are no longer allowed to be curious or interested.  The only limits to our curiosity are the ones we place upon ourselves.

Go out and be curious.

Getting from Here to There

From the perspective of achieving your goals, getting from where you are to where you want to be can often feel overwhelming.  Especially if we’re unsure about the steps we need to take to get there.  The following visual exercise can be very helpful in gaining clarity on what we need to do to start moving forward.

First, make a write in where you are, and where you want to be, as shown below.

Step 1

Second, on the left side of the page, fill in what you currently have in the way of resources and things to work with and overcome.  This gives you a starting point.  On the right side of the page, note what you will have once you achieve your goal.  This will help provide motivation, clarity, and direction.

Step 2

Next, think of all the major tasks you need to take to get from where you are to where you want to be.  The list doesn’t even have to be in order, or 100% complete.  Just start thinking of all the tasks that you need to do and list them in the gap on the page between where you are and where you want to be.

Step 3

At this point we know where we are, where we want to be, and a bunch of tasks that need to be done to get there.  The next step is to number the tasks in the order we need to complete them.  This is where our action plan gets created.  When you’re done with this step, you should have a plan to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

Step 4

Now, we come to the most important step in the process:  TAKE ACTION!  The best plan is useless until we take action toward implementing it.

Step5

If you’ve got a goal you’d like to achieve, but need a plan on how to achieve, try this simple exercise.  It will give you clarity on what needs to be done, and motivation to see what you’re moving toward.

Just remember that the most important thing you can do, once you’ve completed the plan, is take action.  Your goals are waiting.  Start today.

Does it Really Matter

Does it really matter if today you:

  • Exercise or go to the gym
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Zone out in front of the TV all night instead of doing something more productive
  • Hold a grudge
  • Spend time improving yourself through reading and study
  • Neglect the most important relationships in your life
  • Complain about things that aren’t going well in your life

My response is, no.  In the big scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter if you did one or all of those things today.  In fact, I would even argue that it likely wouldn’t matter much if you did or didn’t do all of those things for a whole week.

But eventually, it will matter.

Suppose you want lose a few pounds and be healthier, so today to start eating better and exercising.  At the end of today, after you’ve eaten well and exercised, are you going to notice a significant difference?  Will you be healthier and at your desired weight?  No, you won’t.   You’ll look the same as you did the day before.  It’s likely you won’t even notice much of a difference after a week.  This is a point where people become frustrated, and often give up on a long term goal; when significant results don’t immediately follow effort.

However, if you stick with your plan to eat well and exercise every day, after 365 days, you’re going to notice a big difference.  At the end of the year you will undoubtedly look and feel much different, and better, than you did 365 days ago.

Now suppose at the end of 365 days of sticking with your plan I was to ask you, “So which day out of the last 365 days caused you to achieve the results you’re enjoying today?”  You might say it was the day you decided to take action, to which I would absolutely agree.  But if I pressed, to know which specific day’s effort made all the difference, your answer would be:  they all did.

Likewise, suppose you’re in good shape and living a healthy lifestyle, but you decide to skip working out today and also to eat foods that aren’t the healthiest.  Will this day totally ruin your health?  No.  If you return to your healthy lifestyle tomorrow, will this one day’s activity even make a dent in the big picture of your health?  No, it won’t.  But, if you continue this habit for 365 days, you’ll also see significant results in the deterioration of your health.

It’s the compounding effect of our consistent actions that yield results in our life, both positive and negative.  This compounding is at play shaping all areas of our lives:  health, relationships, career, personal development, finances, and attitude.

Is there any area in your life where you’d like the compounding effect to work for your benefit to achieve results you’re looking for?  If so, begin by following this simple checklist:

  1. Think about the change you’d like to make, and what your life looks like as a result of this change.
  2. Determine the actions you need to take today to achieve your desired result.
  3. Take those actions.
  4. Go through all 4 steps in this checklist again tomorrow.

We’re all building something with our lives, and the compounding effect is a significant principle that will yield powerful results, both positive and negative.

So decide today to put the compounding effect to work for you by providing consistent actions that will yield the results you’re after.  And if you mess up or miss a day, don’t be too hard on yourself, and certainly don’t give up as a result.  Just recommit the next day, and get back to providing the consistent effort that will be rewarded by the compounding effect; because it really does matter.

The Secret Ingredient

I believe there is a not-so-secret ingredient to achieving results in any area of your life.  Before I share this not-so-secret ingredient, let’s first review the other necessary ingredients in the proven formula for achieving results:

Vision + Knowledge + ? = Results

The first 2 components of the formula make sense, right?  Without a vision of the result you want, it would be challenging to even know where to begin.  We must first know where we’re going (know the result we seek) before we can move toward its achievement.

Likewise, we must also possess the knowledge required to achieve the results we want.  A vision will only prove frustrating if we lack the requisite knowledge for its attainment.

So, you’re probably wondering, “What is the secret ingredient you say I need in order to achieve results?”  The complete formula for achieving results is:

Vision + Knowledge + ACTION = Results

Does that secret ingredient leave you feeling dissatisfied?  Were you perhaps expecting something more exciting and grand?  The truth is, any results or success we seek only come through the disciplined and consistent application of action.  We’re not talking about action that fills our time and causes us to appear busy, but rather specific actions that move us closer to our desired results.

Very often, this is the step that trips people up.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we usually know the necessary action we should be taking to achieve the results we want.  We simply need to be courageous enough to take the action we already know we should.  We need to cause something to happen.

What results are you trying to achieve that could use a healthy dose of necessary action?  You probably already know what action you need to take.  So… when will you take it?  Today would be a good day to start.

Don’t delay.  Results await!