Basic Training for the Mind (no buzzcut required)
Many years ago, I went through basic training when I entered the U.S. Air Force Academy. I remember dealing with the loneliness of being away from home, fear of screaming cadre, grueling physical activity, constant stress, and lack of sleep. I also remember the shock of looking like a squirrel monkey with my new buzzcut. Over the next several weeks, I felt a transformation occur that impacts me to this very day. It wasn’t getting whipped into shape physically that made the deepest impact but getting whipped into shape mentally and forming the habit of discipline.
Our success requires more than smarts, talent, or passion. It requires the make-or-break element of discipline, the thing we can control in a chaotic world. Discipline is the practiced effort of doing what we need to do, when we need to do it…even when we don’t feel like it. It pulls us to work through pain, fear and doubt and use the abilities the Creator gave us. It spurs us to higher heights, not by delivering a knockout punch or Super Bowl-style victory, but by getting us to rise each morning to do the small, uncelebrated things that lead to a stellar level of success over time.
In our Native tribes, warriors practiced discipline as a necessary virtue. They knew it gave them the edge in survival, success in battle and defense of their people. Discipline was encouraged and we did ceremonies and activities that developed it. Tecumseh had to break a hole in the ice before his morning swims as an adolescent on his way to becoming a great warrior. Sitting Bull did vision quests not only to pray for direction but discipline his mind and body to stay sharp despite deprivation and discomfort, which served him well as a leader. Our warriors had a huge capacity for endurance, resilience, courage and tenacity. Why? Because they trained for it and practiced it every day!
A disciplined mind will win every time. We may not reach every goal we set in this life, but with discipline, even if we fall short of the finish line, we still win by strengthening ourselves for the next one. Discipline keeps us from reacting out of fear or doubt and making bad short-term decisions that can have long term consequences. Instead, we’re able to make better choices and make short term sacrifices for long term gains.
Years ago, I read an article on the mega-successful Will Smith. He knows that talent isn’t enough to succeed and said this about discipline in a song, “The key to life is on a treadmill. Because if you say you are going to run three miles and you only run two, I don’t ever have to worry about losing something to you.” He went on to say that when he sets out to run three miles, he’ll run five – it’s hard to lose with that mentality.
Picture your goals on a giant movie screen. Discipline is the electricity that brings those images to life. Basic training for our minds develops patterns of thought that are clear, positive and action oriented. That spills out into our actions, daily habits, enables us to tap our ability and create the kind of life and career we want. We transport those goals from screen to reality – and a buzzcut, combat boots or uniform aren’t required…