No matter our current circumstances, someone always has it worse than we do. For me, it's seeing another Father who has experienced the death of multiple children. Or, one who has experienced the death of his entire family. I just can't even fathom being able to survive that horror.
I'm in awe of how some people seem to be able to get through situations that seem impossible to come back from. Brea and I are no different than the millions of other parents who have experienced the death of a child. Most bereaved parents find a way to lead a normal life again. It's very hard, but our ability to heal is not unique or uncommon.
But, some people never seem to recover from their circumstances. Why is that? I've been thinking a lot lately about what the difference is between those that get up off the ground and those that can't seem to get it together.
I think one of the biggest determining factors in overcoming our circumstances is simply the will and discipline to do so.
Discipline, to me, is the ability to push through discomfort to attain some desired outcome. It's doing the hard thing when you don't feel like doing it. We all wish we had more discipline with things like exercise, diet, and finances. What stops us from exercising more or eating better when we know it's good for us?
There are some environmental factors that could account for one person having more discipline than another. Being exposed to overcoming adversity and obstacles at an early age can help us learn how to have more discipline. This is why I think children should play sports. Through repeated physical activity and discomfort you learn how to push through pain in order to make yourself better and hopefully win. At the same time, you learn how to control your mind and body when put in painful and stressful situations.
Even though it was on a minute scale, going through two-a-days in high school football taught me that pain and suffering wouldn't kill me - even though I thought it might. Additionally, that incredibly uncomfortable environment made me a better athlete and young man.
The suffering brought about good.
Our parents can be another external source of learning discipline. Let me tell you, I hit the jackpot with my mom and dad. My parents, John Kenneth and Gatha Jones taught my sister, brother, and me to always do our best, strive for excellence, and to never give up on anything. Growing up, when things got hard, there were no excuses in our home. The discipline they enforced gave me invaluable tools to use as an adult. It directly affected my ability to force myself to get the help I needed to NOT let Jacob's death destroy my life and family. My parents did an amazing job preparing their children for life and it's struggles. I'm beyond blessed for having been born to these two people.
Well, not all kids play sports or have great parents. Yet, people still find a way to foster discipline in their lives. Where does that come from?
Ultimately, I think the answer is best summed up by Viktor Frankl, author of Mans Search For Meaning. "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose ones own way."
The key to discipline is to just make the choice to do the thing you don't want to do.
This last week I was fortunate to attend a leadership conference led by two former Navy Seals. "Discipline equals freedom" is a mantra they shared which really hit home with me. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, of Echelon Front, explain that by having more discipline in your life you ultimately experience more freedom.
When we are disciplined with our diet, then we have the freedom a healthy body provides. When we are more disciplined with our time and activities, we end up having more time to do meaningful things. When we are disciplined in managing our finances, we experience financial freedom.
How do I get more discipline?
On Jocko's podcast he often gets this question about becoming more disciplined. His answer - "you just do the thing you need to do." Like Frankl, Willink boils it down to you. You make the choice.
If you are someone who wants to get up earlier to go exercise. Then, get up earlier to exercise. Get out of bed and go. If you want to lose weight, then stop eating sugar. If you need to get your finances in order, then stop spending more than you make. If you need to get professional help to overcome depression, then go get it.
As Jocko says - the answer is simple but not easy.
Discipline played a critical role in my healing over the last 5 years. I had to force myself to keep going to therapy when I didn't want to anymore. But, it freed me from the grips of suffocating guilt and overwhelming depression. Although, it was inconvenient and emotionally difficult - I had to keep going to get better for my wife, daughters, and myself.
Still, after this conference I realized I need more discipline in my life. There is always room for improvement. Sometimes I sleep too late. There are times I need to work harder in our business. Some days, I don't push myself hard enough when I work out. I watch too much T.V. I'll eat cookies before I go to bed (milk and Oreo's are evil). I don't want to make myself stop doing these things. But, I need to.
The good news is - we have the power to make the changes we need to. The choice is ours. One decision at a time, we have the power to do what we need to do to be better.
Here's to day 1.