Empty efforts will go nowhere.
The New Year has come and gone, and the same can be said for many of our Resolutions. While nearly 60% of Americans make resolutions every New Year, just 8% of them feel as if they ever achieve their goals for the year. A vast majority of these resolutions pertain to significant life changes, weight loss, diets, working out, finances, getting a new job, and generally being a better person. So why are Americans so obsessed with change, but so bad at implementing it into their lives?
Many people, myself included, find it very easy to accept a mediocre life; I did just that this past fall while on an internship. I found this particular position after selecting a major on a whim, without any real thought. The position was a decent starting point for someone in my academic path, and I saw it as a step toward “success.” After about two weeks I realized that I had made a serious mistake, that this was not a fit for me, and found myself feeling very negative. Afraid that I would be stuck at that desk for the rest of my life, I knew something had to be done, a change needed to be made. So what did I do about it?
I did absolutely nothing to improve my position, or set myself up for something more positive after the semester. Finding it to be much easier to live the status quo I prematurely resigned myself to a miserable life, telling myself that I was wasting my time going to school for a degree I did not care about, would eventually get a job I would not care about, and about 50-60 years later I would die. Feeling lost, I felt myself gliding through my days. Waking up late, not eating, showing up to work and doing what I was told, returning home to eat a poor meal and sit around, usually going to bed very late. Knowing I had failed myself, I stayed totally stagnant, doing nothing to solve my problems.
“I want you to be horrified, I want you to be terrified of sitting on your ass and doing nothing. That is what I want you to be afraid of. Of waking up in six days or six weeks or six years or sixty years and being no closer to your goal, you have made no progress. That is the horror, that is the nightmare. That is what you need to be truly afraid of, being stagnant. So get up and go. Take the risk, take the gamble, take the first step, take action.” – Jocko Willink
For those who don’t know him, Jocko Willink was a Navy SEAL for 20 years. He rose through the ranks to become an Officer, and eventually the Commander of SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser. After an impressive record in the Middle East, he returned to the States to oversee all SEAL training on the West Coast. Upon his retirement from the Military, Willink founded a business consulting firm, Echelon Front, wrote several books, and started the Jocko Podcast.
“Knowing I had failed myself, I stayed totally stagnant, doing nothing to solve my problems.”
Jocko Willink has spent the last several years telling people something very simple, yet incredibly difficult to grasp: Discipline Equals Freedom. Willink believes that discipline is the answer to nearly all problems with seemingly unclear answers. His teachings essentially boil down to this: you know what needs done, so do it. Seems simple, right? I can tell you first hand that this seemingly simple concept can be very difficult to implement into your life. I went 14 weeks, an entire semester, knowing a change needed to be made but did nothing about it. And apparently this is not an uncommon issue, as we saw earlier that 60% of Americans make resolutions — knowing a problem exists and something should be done about it — yet only 8% actually follow through on them.
Wake up early, exercise, eat right, do what needs to be done. That’s all easier said than done. I knew I needed to change my major, to find a new path, and break myself out of my stagnant state in order to be free from the crushing weight of the acceptance of perpetual despair. And on top of that, I knew that I couldn’t just say I wanted to make a change, I had to change my entire paradigm from accepting failure, to being totally and completely terrified of returning to that dark place I was in.
In the final weeks of my internship, with the encouragement of my parents, I started seeking out advisors and mentors to help me make the change I needed. I changed my major and added an exciting minor, a step in the right direction. But I knew this wouldn’t mean anything if I didn’t follow it up with discipline. On the topic of New Year’s Resolutions, Willink has said, “Change doesn’t happen in one day, getting better doesn’t happen with one statement you make once a year. Getting better is a campaign of discipline.” If I were to make my major change and simply revert to old habits, I would quickly find myself in a similar position to where I was last year, a stagnant failure. In order to capitalize on these changes and create a better future for myself, I must enact a “campaign of discipline” to keep me on track and ensure the accomplishment of my goals. This means waking up early, exercising, reading, eating clean, and giving my education all of the time and energy it deserves.
My motivation is simple, fear of failure. I know what failure feels like, and I never want to feel it again. Americans are no strangers to failure in their resolutions, it viciously pursues them from starting on January 1, and most of them are caught by it within weeks, giving up entirely and resigning once more to the status quo. A resolution is an opportunity to escape failure, but only by changing your entire paradigm, by inserting discipline into your life and doing what you know needs to be done every single day will you ever achieve freedom. Jocko Willink is right, Discipline Equals Freedom.
For more information on Jocko Willink, click here.
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