Friday, January 28, 2011

The Big "D" --Without this we flounder

So, January is pretty much over and 2011 is now well underway.  As I reflect on my life so far this year and the changes I am trying to make I find myself just about every day asking:

  • How is it going? 
  • Are you on track?
  • Is this going be your year?
  • Are we there yet?
  • Why is change so hard?
  • Is it really worth it?
  • Why don't I have more discipline?

I have always had a strong desire to achieve greatness in all the roles I play in life: husband, father, professional, entrepreneur, athlete, and child of God.  I was born with this desire and sometimes I worry that it is a curse because when I don't feel like I have reached greatness in any of these roles I get impatient and restless and wonder what the heck is taking so long!  And if I am not careful I find myself questioning either the merit of becoming great or whether greatness is even possible.  I realize that it is at these very times I run the risk of quitting--or stopping my daily pursuit of greatness--and I become aware that if I don't reverse this line of thinking I may only ever fully achieve...mediocrity!

Maybe you are like me and feel similar feelings from time to time, or maybe all the time.   I have discovered something really useful in overcoming this human tendency to flounder or give up on the difficult path to greatness.  (By the way, few people get past this point of difficulty and that's what gives greatness its true value.)


Stephen Covey captured what I am talking about when he wrote: "When we find purposes we truly wish to pursue, half-hearted commitments are not enough.  Successful quests come only through steady, paced, every day efforts--practice after practice, night after night, step after step."

The good, no great, news is that if you go boldly enough in your quest to become your best you will feel a fire start to burn in your heart that will keep you focused and steady in the inevitably difficult road ahead.  That fire of boldness will be your best weapon to conquer distraction and fear and display the necessary discipline to stay on course.

If you want to be great--define it as you like but I define it as consistently exerting effort and getting results in line with what I know to be my real potential--then you probably regularly set goals for yourself that will get you closer to your vision, or dream, of what you want to become.  On any given day we actually work on making that vision a reality.  But how many cotton-pickin' times do we feel the tug or resistance of life pull us back to the launching pad??!!

If happiness is knowing that we are getting closer to realizing our vision for ourselves--by actually doing the daily work required and overcoming obstacles then we owe it to ourselves to be disciplined.  Conversely, if a lack of discipline distracts and derails us (and it will!) then we will find ourselves fading back to the launching pad, or never lifting off at all, and we ultimately will accomplish less than we know we could.  This results in regret and sadness.

Before you (or I) feel overwhelmed at the prospect of living a constrained, no-fun, boring life of nothing but discipline remember that if you find that bold dream and commit to it you will very likely find the passion you need to overcome whatever difficult things await you on the path to achieving your greatness.
One brief but important personal example.  My wife, Wendy, has always loved to sleep.  Her body has been through the ringer over the years and she has often needed more sleep than others, like me.  However, she has always wanted to serve people in the healthcare profession.  Six months ago she became a certified phlebotomist and promptly was hired at the local hospital on an on-call basis.  This means that she now regularly gets up at 3:30AM to start her morning rounds at 4:30AM! Every morning when she wakes me up (unintentionally I'm sure ;-) with the lights or the blow dryer I am still amazed and proud that she has been able to make this hard change she needed to realize her dream of helping people.  In the context of choosing more sleep or boldly living her vision to reach her full potential the choice seems obvious but how many of us have connected with that bold vision? 

What gets you out of bed in the morning?  What convinces you to turn off the TV and get to work--whatever that work may be?  Is your vision for yourself bold enough to enable you to find the discipline needed to stay focused, to work hard and make it a reality?

Dream boldly enough and the discipline will come.  When discipline is present in our lives greatness follows!

Go be great! One disciplined day at a time.

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