This is the third in the initial triad of posts. The first was on Clarity – knowing what you want, the second on the Courage to believe your dream is possible, and this post will address how to develop the Discipline to do what it takes to make that vision a reality.
The reason I use the term “discipline” here is because it derives from the word disciple, which means open to growth. And one who is disciplined in mind knows that no matter how well they may be doing at anything, there’s always another more efficient way to be discovered. And that’s encouraging, because we will never be finished with the game of growth. And as humans, we are designed for growth.
In this context, I also use the word “discipline” synonymously with Psychological Strength, or the emotional fortitude to deal masterfully with the unpredictable nature of life.
It takes a disciplined mind to be able to return to the creative state – the state of mind that is necessary to create the life of your dreams. And we must return to it again and again, as we experience the challenges that life brings. In fact, the disciplined mind is not only less vulnerable to such challenges, the disciplined mind is enthusiastic about them. To the disciplined mind, life would be boring without the downs that give meaning to the ups.
And where does such discipline come from? It comes from mindful conditioning, or psychological exercise. Just as you would go to the gym in order to condition your body, you must condition your mind in order to achieve psychological strength – a disciplined mind.
These psychological exercises have been absent from our educational systems, and thus the vast majority of us have never been introduced to them. Consequently, most of us have been poorly conditioned, or even negatively conditioned, and live in a victim state, without even knowing it. We have been taught to believe that we live in a “happening to me” world, as opposed to being taught that each one of us is capable of creating the life of our dreams, regardless of circumstance.
This might explain why 84% of Americans report hating their jobs. We don’t believe that what we want is within reach. If we’d been properly taught, or conditioned, then we would have the mental strength to not only believe in the accessibility of our desires, but also we would have the strength to view challenges as entertainment as opposed to road blocks, or as evidence of imminent failure.
The great news: if you’re reading this, you still have the ability to strengthen your mind.
As is the case in physical conditioning, there are many, many exercises for psychological conditioning. If, however, as a coach, I was only able to teach ONE exercise, it would be this: Emotion Control.
One of our greatest attributes as humans is our creativity. Each of us is infinitely creative. And that creativity can be activated or deactivated, depending upon our emotional state. An undisciplined mind is not capable of managing emotions from moment to moment. Instead, the undisciplined mind is entirely vulnerable to circumstance. The undisciplined mind reacts to challenges with fear (or any of its derivatives, like anger), which deactivates creativity. When creativity is deactivated, we are significantly less capable of manifesting desired outcomes, or getting what we want. And we have to work 10 times harder. On the contrary, a disciplined mind is capable of creating the emotional states that activate creative genius (enthusiasm, confidence, competence, compassion, and energized curiosity, for example), and therefore is significantly more capable of creating success and doing so with much less effort.
So here is the most fundamental Mental Toughness Tool that when practiced will give you the power to activate your creative genius:
CATCH –> OWN –> REPLACE
The first step in this practice is to CATCH yourself whenever you are complaining. About ANYTHING! Complaining is by definition an undisciplined behavior that is the product of an undisciplined thought process which is the product of an undisciplined mind. Complaining is useless. And it instantly deactivates creativity. So the first step is to heighten your awareness to the frequency with which you complain about life throughout your day. Be diligent, and you’re likely to be amazed by how often that is. Catch yourself complaining about traffic, about co-wokers, about your partner, about the weather, about an errant golf shot, about poor customer service (I’m not saying, by the way, that you’re complaint is illegitimate! I’m just saying it deactivates creative genius and problem solving ability!), about the economy, about the government, about yourself even. Each catch is the equivalent of one repetition, and as the reps add up, so does your strength.
The second step is to take enthusiastic ownership of your emotional state. You are NEVER feeling upset about anything because of the thing itself, you are only ever feeling upset because of the way you are choosing to think about it. And you have the ability to change your thinking at any time. To practice taking ownership of your emotional state, simply say to yourself the following sentence:
“I am not feeling this way because of what’s going on here; I’m feeling this way because of how I’m choosing to think about it.”
And finally, the third step in the practice is to change the content of your thinking. Literally change your mind. Change the way you are thinking about the event. Take the example of traffic. If you catch yourself saying or thinking, “This traffic is killing me!”, and then own it, the last step is to replace that thought with something like, “It ain’t bad; it just is.” Moments later you might find yourself thinking, “no, this really is bad. In fact, this totally sucks! I’m going to be late again!” Own it again and replace it again with something else like, “It’s just a bunch of people trying to get where they need to be, I’m one of them, and from now on I’m leaving earlier to give myself more time.” And that’s one more rep. You’re stronger and more disciplined.
Even though in many of these cases you could establish a very convincing argument for why this is a legitimate complaint opportunity, it doesn’t matter. It’s still a useless complaint, and it’s weak because it changes nothing. So utilize each situation as an opportunity for disciplining your mind.
And even though many of these events may seem ultimately inconsequential, each is a very valuable opportunity to further develop your discipline so that one day, when you find yourself in a not so inconsequential situation, you’ll have the psychological strength to activate your creative genius in a critical moment – one that could forever change your life in a magnificent way.
This practice by itself will ultimately result in two things for you:
1. The ability to control your emotional states, and your creativity, so that you are profoundly more likely to create your dream life,
2. Much more peace in the process.
If you’re enjoying these posts, please post a comment of your own or a question, subscribe to the blog and/or forward it on to your friends/colleagues.
Until next time…