You know how you always wish for a windfall? Something like a promotion, winning the lottery, or accidentally rubbing shoulders with an angel investor that suddenly sees fit to pour in two million dollars into your business?
These manifestations of luck sound sweet and all, but are you really ready for them?
Are you good enough at your job to handle the added expectations from an investor? Can you handle the extra digits in your bank account if you’re currently struggling with your personal budget?
What about your personality? Do you think you’ll be able to lead a team just because you got that swanky new promotion?
If I’ve managed to get you to think about said questions, perhaps you’ll let me take you one step further and furnish you with an unsoliciated metaphor.
Let’s say you have a dog, and you let it do whatever it wants which, for the sake of this story, barks all day long. You do this for years, and suddenly, someone you want to impress decides to stop by.
Now you want your dog to be quiet, so you yell for it to shut up, but it won’t. Then you break out the treats, but that doesn’t help either. Finally, you brandish the cane and swish it a couple of times for effect. What do you think will happen?
I’ll give you a hint: nothing. That means more barks and an unimpressed guest.
What’s the moral of the story here? It’s that your mind is like a dog.
Did you really think you’d get it to stop barking just because you said so, especially after all those years of neglect? Similarly, do you think you’ll be able to perform as you should once an opportunity presents itself?
Or let’s put it another way. Will you be able to live up to your level-ups? Regardless of your answer, there’s only one way to make sure you do, and that’s by tapping into the power of discipline.
Discipline equals freedom
You know that salad you picked over a Happy Meal? The two hundred dollars you put into your savings account instead of on the bar tab? That time you picked exercise over sleeping in?
Turns out, those actions aren’t just good for their direct benefits—such as a thicker wallet or a thinner waistline—but they’re also ways of telling yourself that you can handle the unknown. And guess what that could lead to? A life that’s fortified against the curveballs that life can throw at you.
We often see discipline as something only reserved for the squares among us. It’s boring. It’s tedious. It’s unnecessary. But what we fail to see is that discipline is freedom.
The discomfort zone
Discipline is uncomfortable, and this is why the popular adage ‘get out of your comfort zone’ rings true till today.
It’s not because you’re conquering your fear of cockroaches or public speaking. It’s because you’re telling yourself that you have the chops to face your fears head on.
I don’t know how it feels to live a life free of my fears, but I am very familiar with how it feels to shrink away from my challenges. Didn’t dare confront someone who cut in line? Not willing to negotiate better working conditions for myself? Can’t tell the neighbour that their loud music isn’t welcome past midnight?
By avoiding these pains, I’m telling myself that I can’t handle life, and life is a very scary place to be when I can’t even handle what’s in front of me, let alone the scarier challenges lurking around the corner.
How to start
But life doesn’t need to always be so unpredictable. There is a way you can train your dog-mind, and as it turns out, there are some pretty simple techniques you can start doing today
And do note that by simple, I don’t mean easy (I know because I routinely fail too).
But if you’re interested in taking back control in your life, you can start by:
Waking up early
It takes a tremendous amount of willpower to leave your bed when it’s dark and a cold out. Add another factor like having your significant other beside you and the snooze button will look mighty tempting.
But we all know how badass we feel whenever we forgo the comforts of a warm blanket and wake up to face the day, because we’ve all done it before, right? The challenge is just doing it consistently.
Move that body
Next, you’ll want to find a way to get the blood flowing. After all, exercise is touted as the panacea to health for a reason. The trick is to find something that you enjoy.
My personal example would be finding the right equipment. For years I’ve used burpees as my form of cardio, and for years I’ve hated a particular part of my living room because that’s where I did said burpees.
That all changed once I got myself a kettlebell. I realised that I enjoyed moving weight around and having the option to do different exercises with just one piece of equipment. That’s changed my home-exercise life and now I don’t dread it so much when it comes time to break a sweat.
You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Well that’s because these three habits alone have the power to make you feel better about yourself, especially when done together.
Besides, eating healthy doesn’t mean starving yourself. You could still have delicious oven-baked chicken thighs and broccoli and still feel as satiated as downing a cheeseburger and some fries.
Work on yourself
You know what’s great about these habits? It’s that you can do them every day, which means that you have ample opportunities to improve yourself.
Do that enough and you might just gain the belief to take on harder challenges, like learning something new, or saving more money.
There’s just one caveat though, and that’s not having the guarantee that all your training will amount to anything.
You could, after all, go through your entire life having eaten nothing but organic whole foods, and still get diagnosed with cancer in the end.
But in the end, it’s all about making sure you’re ready for all things—bad and good—in life. And ultimately, the only person you should impress in life is yourself, and that’s worth pushing yourself for, isn’t it?