Riding shotgun with fear

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Photo courtesy of Stephen Wolfe

Photo courtesy of Stephen Wolfe

Fear is not a good driver, and riding shotgun with him is pretty scary. He drives really fast, and screeches around curves on two wheels, slams on the brakes and then floors it to start off again.

Fear encourages me to do things I shouldn’t – focus on the wrong tasks, drink too much coffee, stay up too late, get caught up in the now instead of dreaming and planning for the future. He insists I say yes to too much and feel guilty when I say no.

I’d rather ride with Discipline. He is a great driver, slow and steady. With him, I practice good judgment, make better decisions, and take care of myself mentally and physically. He encourages me to say no to things that keep me from following my dream and mission.

When fear is in charge, life seems unpredictable and overwhelming. I end up scrambling to finish everything and always feel on edge and jittery. Being with fear is like trying to carry too much and then you start dropping things.

Fear is the conductor who is keeping a different beat for every section of the orchestra. Cacophony results.

Discipline is a calming presence. When he’s around, things just go more smoothly. There’s no rushing around, no guilt, no panic. It’s like having your list perfectly in order from task to task, the load is easy to manage and nothing gets dropped.

The orchestra plays flawlessly when Discipline directs.

Who is driving in your life?

Listening to the voice of discipline

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Photo courtesy of crypto (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of crypto (Creative Commons)

I was talking to a fellow runner the other day and we were commiserating at how hard it is to stay motivated in the winter – in warm weather, I happily suit up to run every day, no second thoughts (well, only occasionally). But when the weather is cold, windy and nasty, it gets harder to keep running every day. I just want to curl up with more coffee under a blanket and stay in!

That’s when I have to listen to the right voice. That’s when the voice of discipline needs to be louder.

If left to my own devices, then I would not run. I would let that voice of comfort talk me into staying in every day. “It’s too cold to even go to the gym,” it would say. “You are going to FREEZE out there, maybe today should be a rest day.” “One day off won’t hurt.” “One MORE day off won’t hurt.”

But you know how it is, one unplanned rest day leads to more rest days and before I know it, I’m lazy and putting on weight and losing the fitness I have worked so hard for. Not to mention the whole negative mindset that giving in to that voice sets up.

Instead, I listen to the voice of discipline – that’s the one that says, “Yes it’s cold, but you can bundle up and you will feel so much better when you are finished.”

That’s the voice I need to listen to in order to reach my goals. I want to hear it loud and clear as I start a new year, as I make my plans, as I set my goals.

What voice are you listening to?

Mental tug of war

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Photo courtesy of Tom Blackwell (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Tom Blackwell (Creative Commons)

Decision-making can be like tug of war sometimes – the opposing voices in your head are deafening.

Go. Stay.

Do it. Don’t do it.

Be brave. I’m afraid.

The longer you let those forces pull that imaginary rope in your head, the more confused you can get and the fewer actions you actually take.

There are times when it’s important to take the appropriate time to review and analyze all your options, especially when the decision is a big, life changing one. But most of the decisions you and I make on a regular basis come down to discipline and a focus on your mission. I have discovered that decisions almost make themselves when I keep those two things front of mind. A lot of the confusion falls away when I am focused on those things that will move me closer to my mission, and that help me be a better person.

When it’s cold and nasty outside, running is the last thing I want to do, but discipline kicks in and I suit up and head out. I know the bad feeling both physically and mentally if I skip a planned workout, and want to avoid that. Some days I make a choice to head to the gym instead of outside, but I still get in that workout.

Same thing when I am choosing what to eat (or not eat). I’ve had people tell me I’m not fun to eat with because I don’t have many sweets or decadent desserts, but I know how I feel afterwards, and I would rather be disciplined and say no thank you.

In terms of what I accomplish during the day and getting sidetracked by interruptions, I keep my focus on whether I’m at least moving toward my mission. I may not fully accomplish the goals I set for myself that day or even that week, but if I am headed in the right direction, then I’m on track.

Letting discipline take a larger role in my decisions has helped relieve a lot of the anxiety and wasted energy over my choices. It frees up mental energy to really concentrate on what will make me a stronger, better person, and isn’t that what we all want anyway?

What tug of war is going on in your mind, and how can discipline relieve it for you?

Crashing my comfort zone

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Photo courtesy of Jeanette Goodrich (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Jeanette Goodrich (Creative Commons)

I love the expression “crashing my comfort zone” that I heard in a song by Hunter Hayes the other day.

As nice as it is to settle into a routine and not explore things that make me uncomfortable, I am not growing and learning if I am not crashing those zones.

Just putting my toe in the water is not enough – I want to dive in and feel the exhilaration. That’s why I am learning to face my fears and not shrink back when confronted with challenges. And sometimes I’m seeking those challenges out.

Exploring ways to improve and become stronger physically and mentally means doing things like taking online courses that force me to think through daunting topics like identifying my mission, looking at my habits, and finding more productive ways to do everything.

It means pushing myself physically to run harder, lift weights, eat better and become healthier. Another way is by reading books that expand my thinking about being positive and disciplined (I seem to be finding incredible books by former Navy SEALS lately).

I am not gently pushing through or asking permission. Instead, I am blasting through that “comfort zone” barrier. Can’t wait to see what I find on the other side!

How are you crashing your comfort zones to improve?

Discipline or drudgery?

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Photo courtesy of Bonnie Roalsen (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Bonnie Roalsen (Creative Commons)

I was tempted to just hit the snooze button one more time – after all it felt so good under the covers.

But I knew that it would mean I spent the day making excuses for why I didn’t get the things done I had planned, so I got up.

We do the same thing with food. How often have you said, “I shouldn’t be eating this” or “I’ll start my diet tomorrow”? Another one is, “I’m going to be bad and skip my workout today.” Then the excuses start for why your clothes don’t fit, or you don’t like the way you look – or even worse, why you are experiencing health issues.

It is so easy to get up later and later and get less done, or to gain weight because you are indulging in more treats than healthy meals and talking yourself out of exercising altogether. Or you get caught up watching some silly show on TV or reading crazy comments on Facebook and suddenly the evening has passed and you’ve got nothing to show for it.

No goals met. No dream followed. Cue negative self talk.

People often talk about discipline as if it were a bad thing – like it’s punishment or drudgery. What I have found is that a certain amount of discipline can lead to a much more positive and healthy life, and helps me reach goals and accomplish greater things than if I am not disciplined. It helps me get the things done that I want to and be able to spend time following my dream.

Plus, if I am disciplined most of the time, then the few times I do indulge won’t be detrimental.

For instance, I get up early each morning and spend time with my devotions, writing and running. And yes, some days it is difficult to drag myself out of bed, but what I find is that it helps my state of mind later in the day to know that I started my day right by accomplishing these things that are important to me. And on some days off or weekends, then I can make a conscious decision to sleep in and know it’s ok every once in a while.

As I focus on spending more time on my mission, discipline plays a key role in shaping my decisions. If I am careful in limiting the non-productive uses of my time, then I end up happier because I have more time to devote to the things I am passionate about.

Less mental energy spent on berating myself for not doing the things I intended to means more mental capacity to focus on doing the things that bring the most satisfaction. Following my dream and working toward my mission takes some self-control but the end result will be so worth it.

What areas of your life would benefit from more discipline?

The joys of domesticity

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Photo courtesy of Rooey202 (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Rooey202 (Creative Commons)

I’m a domestic goddess – at least I was over the weekend. After a week of mental gymnastics, planning, strategizing, figuring out new challenges, dealing with emotional and physical highs and lows, I was spent.

I got up Saturday morning, thinking I’d spend the day laying low – reading, snuggling, perhaps napping – basically recharging myself.

I began the morning with a long run, which started off feeling like I wanted to stop and crawl home, but ended up energizing me. When I got home, I decided to do a few of the “chores” that had been hanging over me on my list forever, just to be able to check something off and then relax.

I got out the ironing board (ironing is one of my least favorite household chores), thinking I’d do it for a little while and stop when I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I put on some music, and got busy. My brain unhooked. Suddenly I realized that I was almost finished with a pretty large stack, and it felt good. My closet was more organized with all that mess put back in its proper place.

Then I tackled my dresser – another tidying nightmare that had been on my list forever. Again, I realized it had not taken long, and it felt great. I was on a roll! Laundry and a little cleaning done and then I felt satisfied.

I guess the lesson I learned is that when I let things go at home, I complicate my life in other ways too. While it seems like all the other obligations, tasks and responsibilities are so much more important, I’m doing myself a disservice if I don’t have the discipline to take care of me too.

I need to respect myself enough to pay attention to even simple things like not letting dishes pile up and making sure the clutter is kept at bay. The sense of dread I get when walking into a mess just sucks out my energy, but what a pleasure it is to walk into my apartment after a long day and be greeted by order – it is re-energizing. And it makes for a better attitude with everything I do.

What domestic chores are you letting slide? How could taking care of those improve your attitude?

Wait for it

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Photo courtesy of mat_n (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of mat_n (Creative Commons)

I am not a patient person.

I often create more work for myself because I don’t wait on the computer to process, and start clicking things and get ahead of it – you do it too, don’t you? Before you know it, you’ve ended up on the wrong screen because you clicked before the mouse was in the right spot and poof, it took you away from where you wanted to be and you have to navigate back to the correct screen.

Last year, I pulled a hamstring running, and it took months to heal because I wasn’t patient enough to stay off of it. Instead, I kept attempting to run and ended up making it worse.

Relationships benefit from time. How many couples have you heard of that met and married within a few weeks, and before long, they are separated. It takes time to get to know someone at a deeper level. You need to be able to share experiences, see each other in different situations, and learn about the other person’s dreams. That doesn’t happen quickly.

On projects and plans, my inclination is to rush forward with it and get it done – that’s the name of the game – finish! But what I’m learning is that things need time to simmer.

I have been working out details this weekend on a new plan for the committee on which I serve at church, and my initial reaction was to get it all down on paper and send it out. But something held me back. Then I had a few more ideas, and realized a couple of other things made more sense a different way. By not rushing it, I think I will have a better proposal to present to the others tomorrow, and it will be easier to get their input and feedback.

But I had to wait for it to come together.

The discipline of waiting is not coming naturally, but I am making myself more conscious of the need to pause and reflect before racing in.

What areas of your life would benefit from a deliberate wait?

Don’t rush it

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Photo courtesy of Greg Gladman (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Greg Gladman (Creative Commons)

I am impatient. I am all about getting things done and checking them off the list.

I get frustrated when a task takes too long, and will look for shortcuts and ways to streamline.

When we talk, I want you to cut to the chase, and I’ll lose focus if you tell a long winding story.

But there are some things that should not be rushed. Many times, a process takes time because strength is being developed.

In an exercise routine, it is important to move the muscles slowly and deliberately. Lift weights too fast, and you can suffer a strain or end up using the wrong muscle. By slowing it down and focusing on proper form, you can strengthen that muscle over time.

Learning a new skill takes time as well. When I was in college, I took guitar lessons. But I was never very good because I did not like to practice. My teacher was an accomplished classical guitarist, and he would play pieces beautifully, with skillful fingers and just the right sound from the strings. My playing was clumsy and awkward, with sour notes all over the place. He kept reminding me that I needed to practice every day. Not only would the daily repetition train my fingers to move in the right ways, but it would build up callouses I needed to be able to hold the chords without pain. I just wanted to be able to play like he did and got frustrated that I couldn’t. I ended up giving it up.

Probably one of the most important things to spend time developing is a new discipline – in my case mindfulness. Because I am so scattered and impatient, mindfulness is truly a challenge for me, but one worth learning.

For me, mindfulness means seeking ways to slow down and savor things; taking the time to create a daily writing focus; spending time practicing yoga. I am learning to focus on my breathing when I run, so that my mind lets go. I should not be processing my day in my head rather than enjoying the beautiful sunrise or the scenery I am running past.

I’m often less than successful at mindfulness, but my goal is to keep practicing. Instead of telling myself I’m not good at this and giving up, I just keep working at it. Each attempt brings some satisfaction, even if it’s not completely fruitful.

What I find is that when I am successful, the rest of my day is more pleasant and productive. That is a reward right there and worth continued practice. Slow it down. Let it go. Stick with it.

What discipline do you struggle to master?

The sanity of routine

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Photo courtesy of whologwhy (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of whologwhy (Creative Commons)

What makes you feel more normal in the midst of change or extreme busyness?

In spite of huge waves of change and turmoil in my life this month, I have discovered that the simple act of showing up each morning for my devotions and writing time start my day with clarity. Following that quiet time with a run on my regular route helps my body maintain a rhythm that keeps me energized no matter what else the day brings.

Both of these actions are habits I’ve had for nearly a year now, so I don’t even have to think much about it. In fact, I suspect the ingrained nature contributes to the comfort of these disciplines.

Your habits might involve a nightly routine, perhaps with your family. One of my friends spends time reading to her children each night, before tucking them in. She considers that the most important part of her day, and even if it is only a short amount of time, she carves out time for that priority. No matter what else happens in her day, that special time keeps her grounded.

Even when your world is turned upside down, it is the little things that keep you grounded. If you have identified and protected those habits, they will kick in and keep you on track regardless of what else is going on in your world.

What keeps you sane when your world is insane?

How do you hold yourself accountable?

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1000 wordsNearly a year ago, I began the discipline of rising early to carve out time for writing. My mind is clearest in the morning, when it’s quiet and peaceful, with a cup of steaming coffee beside me, and maybe even a candle burning brightly beside my computer.

But I have discovered that carving out the time, and creating the results are not quite the same. It’s not enough to just schedule the time on my calendar. There needs to be a result attached to that in order for me to be the most productive.

Just telling myself that I needed to write that day’s post or start one for the next week was not enough of goal. On the days when it came easy and only took a little while, what do you think I ended up doing instead of writing more? You guessed it, whittling away the time reading Facebook or email or something else besides writing. Not good.

I kept telling myself that I was disciplined because after all, look what time I get up and sit there at the computer? Who was I kidding?

Recently, I read a post by a classmate of mine in the Blog Topics Master Class course (affiliate link) that I took last year. Grant Webster (click here for his article) writes about his decision at the first of the year to develop the discipline of writing 1,000 words day. As I was reading, I was thinking that it sounded like a lot of words, and how could that possibly be done, etc. But then he shares his results. Backlog of posts ready to go, increased blog traffic, less stress about writing. Maybe there’s something to this discipline after all.

I realize that this kind of specific goal doesn’t work for everyone. For some, having a word goal would stymie their creativity. But there is definitely value in having more defined goals than just allowing time for an activity.

Several days ago, I decided to try out this word goal. I told myself that I would aim for writing 500 words a day. That’s not such an overwhelming goal. And in just a little while, I had 500 words. Wow.

That’s when I made the commitment to myself that I, too, will aim for 1,000 words per day. Granted, I realize that not all will be worthy of being published.  Sometimes, just the journal-like ramblings jog loose some really good ideas.

In just a few days, this seems to be getting me back on the right track of writing and not frittering away my precious time in the mornings. I am gaining back some of my focus. And who knows what other benefits will result?

So what about you? Are there some disciplines that you have developed that need to be reviewed? Are there some areas where an extra layer of accountability would make you more productive?