It’s the beginning of 2018, and, with each new year, the gym will be full of new-year-resolutioners who are determined to get in shape for the summer. They’ll be equipped with new work-out gear, fancy water bottles, and a gung-ho spirit. And that motivation will get them straight through the week, maybe even two. But somewhere around week three, when they haven’t quite witnessed the results they’d hoped for, you’ll start to see them less and less and less. Of course, not losing 50 pounds in three weeks can be disheartening, so, they take a break from the gym for a while. Over the next few weeks, doing the video becomes harder and harder. Next comes the excuses; work is too stressful, the kids are too demanding, their spouse is feeling neglected. So many reasons not to workout, but the goal remains the same, to shed unwanted pounds. I know this is how the story goes, because this is what I did for so many years. I made excuse after excuse. And if I didn’t see a dramatic difference in a short period of time, I would throw in the towel, vowing to try something different on Monday.
Now I would love to say that I’m not one of those people who set new year resolutions, but I am one of those people. In fact, every year, I make a list of all the things I want to accomplish in the new year, from the momentous to the mundane. Everything from buy a new house to get new tattoo. There’s normally about 50 items on my list. And I review them all-year-long to see where my progress lies. But get this, there are some goals that I put on my list every single year, and still have not accomplished. Things that have been my goal since the early 2000’s. One of them, to lose 50 pounds. Another, to create a career that I enjoy.
So as the new year approached, I looked at the lists that I had written, as far back as 2010. And I have achieved a lot of great things. But I realized that the two areas of my life that have caused me the most daily suffering, I was no closer to achieving now than I was then.
In 2017 I got close to the long-term goal I have of being financially free. I finally paid off all my student loans, my car note, and some medical bills, which in total, was over $35,000 of debt. And believe me, I feel amazing about that. But, as I look back over 2017, I realized that we were able to achieve that feat in one year, because we sacrificed, and we were disciplined. We finally got to a point where we wanted to be financially free, more than we wanted to try new restaurants, or buy new shoes. We saw a way to finally rid ourselves of the lingering debt payments, saving us over $1000 a month.
But as far as the other goals, losing weight and building a new career, I haven’t had much luck. I still need to lose 50 pounds and I still deeply desire a new and rewarding career. So, I thought about what I did to pay off our debts and two words came to mind. Sacrifice and discipline. Notice I didn’t say motivation, because motivation is fleeting. We won’t always be motivated to work out or eat right, we must go deeper within ourselves to remember why we started this journey in the first place. Sticking to the journey even when we don’t feel like doing so, is called sacrifice and discipline. And that’s what I need to accomplish these big goals I’ve set for my life.
Sacrifice is about being willing to let go of the things that are hindering your goal. In trying to pay off our debt, we decided to turn off our cable television, and just stick to our Netflix and Hulu. We also opted for cheap dates, where we sometimes would share an appetizer and an entree. Sometimes, we had our dates at home. We sacrificed some of our luxuries to achieve a lifelong goal. I need to apply this same logic to my health and my career.
I recognize that setting a goal is important. It’s the backbone of why you do what you do. We can set goal after goal until the end of time, but making daily actionable steps is how we will achieve the goal.
But there’s a time-period, between when we set the goal until we achieve the goal, and this is the hardest part. This is the part where we seem to lose sight and patience, and motivation. This period between setting the goal and achieving the goal, is why so many of us fail to design the life we want for ourselves. Some like to call this time-period the journey.
The journey is where we must continue taking actionable steps; step after step after step. One day at a time, one hour at a time, and sometimes one minute at a time. But each little step will bring you closer and closer to your goal. But the thing is, you can’t quit taking the steps. When your motivation is low, when the kids are demanding, and when your spouse is feeling neglected, you must find a way to continue taking those steps, day after day. This is called discipline.
People who are successful, all have one major thing in common. They are disciplined. They do what’s necessary even when they don’t feel like doing it. This might be easy when your life depends on your 9 to 5 to pay your bills. But what about when it comes to your personal life? Will you wake up early before work to exercise? Will you mind being the only one at the office party to pass on the birthday cake? Will you stay up late and work on the business idea you have? Will you continuously pass by nice outfits in the mall until you’ve reached your goal of being debt free?
There is no doubt in my mind, that I have been avoiding the journey. Those day after day habits and disciplines are much more difficult to do than simply writing the goal out in my journal. But how many years have I let pass me by because of shear lack of discipline; preferring, instead to pull an excuse out of the excuse box located in the frontal portion of my temporal lobe, hence the reason why I’m still 50 pounds overweight.
But unlike previous years in which I wrote a long list of goals, that were both relevant and irrelevant to the happiness of my life, this year, I have only one goal. And that is to increase my self-discipline. And out of all the lists I have ever made, this is the scariest one yet.
I have been disciplined before. I used to do regular juice fasts, the longest being 56 days. I also have refrained from eating meat for almost 2 years. But still, I find it difficult to be consistent long enough and strong enough to reach some of my biggest goals. So, this year, I won’t be focusing on my goals per se. They’ll still be there in the back of my mind. But my goal is discipline through consistency. I believe this is how I can improve many areas of my life at once, achieve my goals, and strengthen my resolve for any future goals I choose to set.
Usually I focus solely on weight loss and career, and my goal becomes tainted because my only focus is on the end-result. Discipline is about focusing on the journey itself; it’s about choosing every day to show up to your own life. It teaches us that we aren’t just gliding through life, but that life is about choosing. Life is by design. When we choose to become active participants in our lives, we can start to see that design take shape. Discipline allows us to fully experience our own masterpiece.
Discipline is not a typical new year resolution. They’re will be no immediate tangible outcome of one specific kind. For example, if you have the goal to buy a house or run a marathon. With a house, you’ll eventually be able to physically move in; and with a marathon, you’ll be able to physically cross the finish line. However, with any long-term goal that you hope to achieve, discipline will be what gets you there. Discipline is what turns a thought into reality. So, my goal this year, will be to increase this muscle, to build it up in a way, that transforms my life.
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV
Achieving the goals that we set for ourselves is great, but goals don’t make us great people. The transformation that takes place in our hearts and minds whilst on the journey is what makes us great. And learning to build our discipline, will help us not only achieve one great goal, but will help us achieve many goals throughout our lifetime.
Until Next Time, Happy New Year!