What my time in the military taught me about discipline

I spent 7 years in the military and became intimately familiar with the kind of rigid, structured discipline that David Goggins and Jocko Willink promote. I really wanted to become that kind of man - one who decides what he's going to do and then does it, through pain, against odds and with relentless drive, as if a master sergeant was yelling at me the entire time.
But while I was able to achieve some things, I ultimately found that it made me miserable and disconnected from my heart and from the people around me, which wasn't what I wanted.
For a long time after that I tried to follow my heart, do what was right for me in every moment and dismiss any ideas of discipline. And it kinda worked, for a while. I met a girl, got married and started a business that was really connected to my deepest passion, but then things started to get off track.
The bussiness (a community for emotional support) took too much time to get off the ground. I burned through a ton of savings without a budget or a plan, and then we got pregnant. When my first kid was born I was faced with an unpleasant reality. A 2-month old baby and his healing mom require attention, attention I didn't always want to give, but that I had to. I needed discipline, but I needed a soft form of that that wouldn't disconnect me from them.
Over time and through many iterations I found a combination of "soft discipline" techniques that work for me to this day. I'm hoping this can be helpful to some of you here too.
1) Figure out what kind of life you want to live
It may take a while, but if you're here, you may already know what kind of person you'd like to be, what kind of life you'd like to lead, who you want to be surrounded with and how you would like to make a living. All those things might seem completely unattainable right now, but it is nonetheless important that you have that vision of your future life in front of you.
2) Identify the mental obstacles to achieving that life
We often think we need to push ourselves to get things done to improve our situation, but I hold a different opinion. I believe that if you know where you want to get you already have all the inner energy you need to get you there. However, that energy is pushing against all the self-doubt, shame, inadequacy and limiting beliefs you've accumulated througout your life.
It's as if you are pushing the gas pedal to the max, while at the same time holding on to the breaks for dear life. No wonder the whole thing is shaking, smoke is coming out of your ears and you feel like you're about to explode.
The standard approach to motivation is to push on the gas pedal even more. I'm saying you need to ease off both the gas pedal and the breaks. Be gentle. Get things moving. Focus on steering in the right direction and increase speed gradually.
3) Remove the obstacles
We all have layers and layers of stagnant emotions building up from when we were kids. Someone told you you'd never be good at this, or that work means pain or that there's no such thing as actual connection between people, only transactional give and take. Parents may have neglected you, girls may have rejected you, you may have been fired from jobs and your businesses may have failed.
All that accumulated past of rejection, failure and inability to believe in yourself are your breaks. And while these feelings are rooted in the past, they exist in your mind now, in the present, which means you can do something about it.
And doing something entails asking yourself a few simple questions:
  • Can I allow myself to feel those feelings?
  • Do I still need to learn something from them?
  • Can I let them go?
If there's something to learn, sit down with pen and paper and write until you figure out what it is you need to learn.
And if there's nothing more to learn, it's time to feel them fully and then let them go.
4) Build soft discipline
Now we're at a point where you can start adding some discipline into your life. You can start building habits, getting up earlier, eating well, exercising. With the vision clear and the obstacles removed you won't meet as much resistance and won't need quite as much willpower. James Clear and his book Atomic Habits are going to be your friends here.
You'll also be able to remain flexible, listen to your body, take breaks and reorient your habits for a truly sustainable and fulfilling life.
You've got this!

Originally posted on reddit.com/r/getdisciplined.
Eli Finer

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Eli Finer