When things usually go wrong in life my reaction tends to default to, how can I make it better and fast? It is a method that tends to work, at least for the initial issue that I am dealing with but in the long term, it does not always make me a better person or have the ultimate positive outcome I would have liked. I have taken care of the issue but what was it that got me in that position in the first place? How could I have prevented this from happening? Or what could I have done differently in my decision-making in order to get it right? In my career, I have prided myself on always trying to improve the systems and processes in place. First of all, why wouldn't you constantly want to improve? Second, how could I prevent the issues that have come up in the past from happening again (or at least, how could I diminish their negative impact)? Third, because I get bored of doing the same thing over and over again so let's change it up. I love that part of any job. Now how can I apply this to life in its entirety?
When things go terribly wrong in your life, how can you apply this process to yourself in order to improve? At a time when things have been their worst for me, I have reflected on this a great deal. I look back at what happened, the events leading up to the issue or problem, what I did, and what others did to get to that low low point. I think it is very easy for people to look at the problem at hand and try to come up with a solution. Like I stated before, a quick fix… How can I solve this specific problem or change the outcome of said negative event right now? This way of looking at things can lead to a multitude of solutions. Each problem you face can have a completely different catalyst for improving the outcome. To me, these are small solutions. Not to say they are not good ones, just small. How do I create big change? That is the question that I wanted answered for myself.
At 34 years old, as a father, a son, a friend, and a husband to a very strong and high-character woman who inspires me every day, I am very aware of my shortcomings and areas that I need to improve. The problem is that at 34 those shortfalls are the embedded ones. The ones inherited, the ones that are woven into your personal being, the hardest ones to change. They are the holdouts! Being so aware of them and having such a hard time changing them is a difficult reality to live in. When I started this process of reflection, after an extremely shitty time in my life, my ultimate goal was to improve myself. Take the setback as an opportunity to change. I had a routine, it was comfortable. I was successful, but it wasn't what I actually loved or wanted to do. I had it all in my personal life, but I did not treasure that like the gift that it is. You could say that things were good. There weren't any major issues but it wasn't until it all came crashing down that I realized how fragile it all is and that deep change was needed.
At the time I decided to start tackling the issues. What was my career going to look like going forward? How was I going to achieve the financial goals that I had been working towards? How was I going to improve my personal life? How was I going to support and provide for my beautiful family? I had different solutions for all of these things and I thought this was the way to fix everything. It wasn't… it isn't. I spent every day with a list of things to do for different aspects of my life. The list never stopped growing. It continues to this day. It is overwhelming. I feel like I have a million things to do under each “column” of my life and this is how it continued. I couldn't cope but the funny part is that I did not see that I wasn't coping with it. I just kept trying to check off the boxes. Then, it happened. Just when I thought things had reached the lowest point… I hit Marianas Trench. And while the other issues I was dealing with were not directly my fault (just a series of events that ended very badly for me), Marianas Trench was all my fault. I was crushed. The two issues were not even related to each other, but it took my very very bad situation and added a completely separate, much worse, horrible situation to it. Again, I defaulted. How do I fix this now? I found myself racking my brain for solutions. Everything I came up with was terrible. Not even worth the time it took to think them up. I couldn't function. I was so stressed, anxious, angry at myself that I couldn't eat… I couldn't think… I couldn't… do anything.
I am not sure what happened, or how it happened. Maybe this is what they are talking about when they say “bouncing off the bottom” but at some point, my mindset changed. I decided to go against my personal convention and try a different route. One that I am not used to, one that will take work and personal growth to make happen. Before I started this experiment, I decided to follow through on some of the “small solutions” I was talking about earlier because they were necessary. I had to own up to my shortcomings with people affected by them. I had to apologize. It was healthy. But where the biggest change happened was when I took a look at myself from way, way up high. I got the full view. You can see really clearly from up there. I realized that instead of putting the highest priority on fixing each separate issue directly, I needed to fix the biggest issues I have. I needed to fix a core principle in my life that would have a profound effect on everything else. My hope is that this change would fix my character, my development as a person, my ability to be a good father and husband, my career, the stability in my life, future success and growth as a person and a family… the list goes on and on. So when I looked at my faults and areas of my life that I needed to improve on (you know, the ones you can control) there was one common theme that I kept coming back to. One character trait that needed the most improvement of all and that would have the effect I am desperately seeking in my life… Discipline. True discipline. Self-discipline. My discipline.
I am not a fan of traditional definitions of the word discipline but I am a fan of some of the keywords used in those definitions. Train, learn, self-control, correct, teach, maintain. In my context and in my own definition, discipline means training or learning intended to improve moral and mental character, self-control, and efficiency. If I can find a way to apply discipline to as many aspects of my life as I can, I know that improvement will follow. I don't see how it can’t. Unless my moral compass can’t point North for some reason.
Over the last few days, with this in mind, I have found myself walking around, taking on my day, and when I get to a point where my old self would look at one individual issue, stop, take a shortcut, cut something off, not finish a task, let something go that I shouldn't, make a poor choice, not speak up, or any number of old habits… I can now hear my mind utter the word discipline. I can then stop and rethink how I should proceed. With discipline in mind what is the best result and how do I achieve it? Should I leave this for later or just take care of it now? It takes me from being a reactive person to a proactive person… something that I preach about at work constantly. It teaches me to make the right choice and face an issue or task head-on, even if it is harder, takes more time, is inconvenient, or… and this is a big one for me… is uncomfortable (something I need to learn is only a temporary feeling and will not drag me into the abyss).
I have not been at this for all that long. I cannot tell you that I am a success story yet. I do know that this is something that I want but it is not a perfect system. I still struggle with things. I do a few double takes on minuscule tasks where I find myself spinning in a couple of circles before I decide to just fucking do it right! And now! If I can simply continue to work on it if I can train myself... I can learn to not have to say discipline under my breath. I will just do it. My mental and moral character will improve. I will practice self-control. And I will become efficient.
I think discipline is unique to each task or choice that it is applied. While the overall (big picture) outcome remains constant, each situation you apply it to requires it to be used differently. Sometimes it is a structure thing.. You know… implement a policy for yourself that is repeatable and stick to it… be disciplined about it. For example, I am trying to complete one small task every morning that I don't want to do. Just get it out of the way. (Word of advice… make it small and easy to accomplish) Right now these seem to be things around the house for me. I cleaned the toilets one day, ran the sprinklers in the dead spot in my yard, and I remounted something that I should have remounted months ago after it was torn off! You get the idea. In other applications, discipline can mean just remembering to practice improving on a skill or personality trait that you want to improve on. Another example for me right now is that when I start to tell myself “I don't want to have this conversation right now, it will be uncomfortable”, my disciplined self says, just have the conversation and be honest within that conversation. Don't sugarcoat things to try and get out of it. Don't beat around the bush. Just get it done and move on. Both parties will appreciate it, even if that (temporary) feeling of discomfort is present.
While the list of things and ways I can apply discipline in my life will continue to grow, the last thing that I want to say is that I am trying to be a better person in this mission to rise from my ashes. Not a different person. Changed? Yes. Still who I am? Yes. I will utilize discipline to maintain the aspects of my life that are, always have been, and always will be most important to me… Giving and receiving love, doing crazy awesome shit with my kids (the groms), going on adventures, being a free spirit, arguing about politics, loving on Phoenix and letting her know that she is everything to me, being there for those that I consider family, always being the one to offer help, laughing as much as possible, sarcasm…. I think this list is getting away from me… NOT!!!... eating good food (stop wasting your time with shitty food and quit being picky, life is short), climbing things, crying/tearing up (johnny boy!), talking story, being in the mountains, enjoying beer/wine/cocktails, going to concerts, finding cool/delicious little neighborhood spots… ok now the list is getting away from me, this is just things I like… fuck it… green chili, cooking, Porter, harmlessly making fun of people, getting all dapper for no reason, great TV series (Peaky Blinders for the win!), friends, Winter, Summer, Fall… I guess Spring but you never know with spring. If you know me you know what else would add to this list but I don't even know who is reading this so I guess I can stop now.
TO BE FURTHER PURSUED…