Jocko Willink is a former Lieutenant commander of the U.S. Navy Seals, author of multiple books including Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, and host of the Jocko Podcast. It’s safe to say he has accomplished a lot in his life up to this point.
He is one of the people that comes to the forefront of my mind when I think of accomplishing my goals and maintaining important strategies. Today, I find myself reflecting on a motto of his that I’ve come to appreciate the value of time after time.
As one of his books is titled:
Discipline equals freedom.
It’s a simple, yet powerful phrase. One that I believe forms the foundation upon which success can stand. To get his views on discipline, I encourage you to check out this video or the Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual.
As I mentioned, I’ve seen the power of discipline in my own life. Here are a few small ways that, when followed through on, discipline makes me better each day:
Doing Things on Time
Living a good life requires us to do things on time. There are two categories when it comes to doing things on time. One category consists of finishing things by the time others expect them. This is where most work and school projects lie.
We’re given a deadline and we have to be done by the deadline. I think most people are good at getting these things done on time, and I would include myself as one of them.
The other category that fits under this situation includes all the things we know we should do, but there is no one else to hold us accountable for them.
This is where I struggle sometimes. I might postpone cleaning my room or I’ll let myself use my phone when I want to be writing. No one else will know when these things happen, but I will. When I don’t do any writing during the day, I end up regretting it later on.
These are things I find important, things that I signed up for knowing there would be difficult days, but I let myself falter.
When I force myself to do my writing or homework, the story is completely different. Sure, it’s sometimes awful for a half hour or an hour, but I know I’ll be happier for the rest of the day. I know I’ll be able to accept more opportunities tomorrow if I do the work I need to do today.
Giving time today to do important things moves me closer to the life I hope to live tomorrow.
Freedom from Stress
While discipline might appear to be a source of stress at first, it’s often what protects us from further stress.
Stress commonly arises when we aren’t proactive in dealing with problems as they arise. While it can be slightly stressful to start a project early, it is a far better alternative than having to rush to meet a deadline.
Discipline in our actions and preparations allows us to handle problems as they arise and move on. When we are disciplined from one day to the next, we can handle mistakes without panicking. We trust that we will be able to figure out a solution because we have done things to prepare ourselves mentally and physically.
I’ve been on both sides of this equation numerous times. I’ve procrastinated and postponed problems, causing me to fear starting at all and experience immense stress when I finally begin a project.
I’ve also experienced the joy and relief of finishing a project early. It feels amazing to do things ahead of schedule.
Good discipline is a positive force in my life. It stops negative snowballs that start to build and reinforces the positive snowballs that are building.
Discipline Shows Me What I’m Capable Of
All the major accomplishments in my life have come from months and years of hard work. It was consistency and discipline that got me there. Without discipline, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking running a marathon or writing a book are things born of natural talent.
It’s hard to achieve a big goal. Reaching that mountaintop might be the hardest thing you ever do. Your journey will require discipline to be there on most days.
I have set some big goals for my future, including growing my writing practice, finishing a marathon, and connecting more with people around me. Each of these goals will require discipline. I’m going to have to do things when I decide I should, even if there is part of me that doesn’t want to go through with it.
I just went on a 5-mile run. I wasn’t excited to run like I am on most days, but not going might have been the difference between running that marathon above or below my standards.
If I’d let myself relax today, it would have been harder to go tomorrow. That is how it always works. Every time I miss the gym, it takes extra motivation to go the next day.
To reach my goal I have to keep the momentum working in my favour. There may be a day or two when I don’t go for a run. It isn’t the end of the world, but it does make going for a run the following day my top priority.
The discipline I give toward my goals now will provide me with freedom further down the road. It could be the freedom of running a quicker marathon because I’ve prepared well. It could be the freedom of having more readers on an article because I’ve been writing consistently and improving as I go. The freedom I earn could be an amazing night with new people that I forced myself to talk to even though it was scary.
In any case, discipline is the bridge that moves us from the security we feel in our current life to the amazing experiences that exist in our ideal future.
When I was younger, I thought of freedom as a result of a lack of responsibilities. Freedom came from not having to work and being able to do whatever I wanted without regard for those around me.
Today, I view freedom as a result of fully accepting and performing the responsibilities I have for myself. Freedom is something earned through sacrifices and consistency. Freedom emerges when I eat well and take care of myself. Freedom appears when I challenge myself. Freedom only shows itself when I stop looking for it and focus on what I need to do right now.
In my mind, freedom is not the gift of living an easy life. It’s the reward for following through on a challenging one.
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