I’ll call her tomorrow, I’ll study tomorrow, I’ll finish the proposal tomorrow, not snooze tomorrow, set up the meeting next week, start working out next month. And then tomorrow becomes …. You guessed it, tomorrow. Which never really comes. I loved reading sayings and proverbs in school – usually in preparation for creative writing. If you were in the 8-4-4 system you must remember how it was important to write compositions and we got more points for using similes, analogies and weaving in some sayings (in Kiswahili we’d write “Wahenga walinena”). I digress. One proverb that still rings in my head is that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Intentions even when they’re grand are just that: intentions. Intentions don’t get things done, actions do. But you and I know that. Yet we find ourselves frequently stuck in the cycle of intending to though never quite getting around to it and so we shift goal posts as we change our deadlines and goals by a day or even 5 years. And still we don’t get it done. The diagnosis is a lack of self-discipline.
The all trusted Wikipedia defines a disciplined person as one that has established a goal and is willing to achieve that goal at the expense of his or her immediate comfort. There is that word again: goal. When you think about it, in order to relinquish our current or desired comforts there needs to be something in it for us. Without that motivation of something worth it we’d grow roots on the couch and some of us may never go to work let alone the gym. Discipline is about that. Forfeiting our immediate or current pleasure for the satisfaction we know we can get later. A more meaningful satisfaction. I’m a culprit of “let me just chill for a little longer and relax (it’s been a tough week, I deserve it) before I get cracking on that project”. I am writing this at midnight for that reason.
We can all think of someone we admire and think “When I grow up I want to be like xxx” or maybe you’ve told someone you really admire something they do but could probably never do it yourself. I remember when I was in high school I met an older lady who just blew me away. She used to wake up at about 5am (or earlier), spend some time studying the the Bible and praying, then she ‘d prepare breakfast for her husband and son and make sure they were up and out in time for work and school. She’d clean up the house and then on some days she’d go and help her husband at his business. In the evening she would have dinner ready by 8 and have ironed hubby’s clothes for the next day. If you’re a man you’re probably smiling right now as some women cringe because it all sounds so 19th century (14th century even). She came to mentor us at school every Friday evening. Her hair was always perfectly done and she would be dressed impeccably. When she told me she was in her late forties I couldn’t believe it. She was in good shape – from simply walking a couple of kilometers every day. A few years later she got a job and went back to college for a masters. She still continued with her routines.
I remember thinking she was superwoman. How could she possibly get all that done? I came to understand that it doesn’t require any super powers. All it takes is self-discipline. She knew what kind of person she wanted to be, the kind of wife, mother and friend she wanted to be and then she started to develop HABITS that became a part of her lifestyle and years later it was part of her nature and didn’t require much effort.
Self-discipline doesn’t build in a day. It takes months, I dare say years to develop. When I think of my goal to lose 10kilos (I keep coming back to weight because I know many of us struggle with it or have struggled with it in the past) it’s not just about losing weight this year. I love the feeling of being healthy and fit and I know that in order to live out my life purpose and achieve all my other goals I’ve got to take care of my health. My family medical history also screams diabetes, hypertension and other inherited conditions so staying healthy decreases my chances of battling with those life conditions. I’d like to run around with my kids when we do get some and I’d love to live an active life even in old age. So as you can see there’s a bigger goal than just to lose weight. Without those bigger goals, once I lose the 10kilos then what? Gain them back and press repeat.
Vision should encourage us to think backwards. When you see yourself a year from now, 5, 10, 30, what would you like your life to be like? When your obituary is written and your eulogy read out, what would you like to be remembered for? Come back to this moment, what habit do you need to start to develop now to make that happen? Remember you ‘ll need to make some sacrifices on immediate comforts or pleasures. Cut out (or cut back on) some distractions like TV, time spent on social media or sleeping in, hang outs with the boys or girls. If you have been a student while working or started a new business you know this reality of sacrifice all to well.
There’s an exercise I did in one of my start up business classes by PassionProfit (check out her wonderful programs on http://www.passiontoprofit.co) that I found really useful. Write your eulogy. Think of what you’d like your kids, spouse, siblings, co-workers, employees and friends to say about you and fit it into one typed A4 page. I encourage you to do this exercise. It’ll help clarify where your priorities and passions are. After you do it start to live everyday in order to become that person.