Before you start reading about life’s greatest challenges I want you to throw any thoughts about making money into the trash. I know that money, and making lots of it, is a big f*cking challenge for a lot of people. Life is so much more than spending every waking moment on accumulating a 6 or 7-digit number in your bank account before you die.
Let me solve your money challenge quickly. All over the world, you can find minimum wage jobs or take a monthly cheque from welfare. If you do the math, you’ll be able to make:
- CA$ 805,168 working minimum wage in Canada at CA$ 11.06 per hour for 40 hours a week over 35 years
- US$ 116,000 from welfare in the United States at US$ 486 per month over 20 years
- Rp. 481,552,200 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia on a monthly salary of Rp. 1,337,645 over 30 years (that’s about CA$ 45,056 or US$ 33,215)
Whether or not that amount of money can satisfy your financial needs depends on your spending habits, cost of living, ability to save, greed, and so on.
The real challenges of life have nothing to do with work or money. Instead, it has everything to do with mastery of ourselves. To put this another way, self-control is the key to successful living. Having the ability to control your thoughts, feelings, and desires, as well as their expression through actions and behaviors, is powerful.
Too generic for you? I agree, so give me a minute to explain with an example from a popular research experiment.
The Marshmallow Experiment
Children were sitting in a room and told to wait until the experimenter to return. In front of the child was a fresh, yummy marshmallow. The rules were simple:
- If the child waited for the experimenter to return, the child would receive a second marshmallow
- However, if the child ate the marshmallow while the experimenter was away, there would not be a second marshmallow
The experimenter left the room for more than 45 minutes. Some kids couldn’t control themselves and ate the marshmallow within minutes. Other kids sat patiently and were rewarded with a second marshmallow.
The Marshmallow Experiment provided insights into a child’s ability to delay gratification or indulge in impulse. However, it wasn’t until years later that the true discoveries of this study came to light.
40 Years Later
In a few follow-up studies, the children in the Marshmallow Experiment were monitored and tracked to see their progress in certain areas (take careful note of what these experimenters discovered).
The children who were willing to wait (delay gratification) to receive a second marshmallow ended up having:
- Higher SAT scores
- Lower levels of substance abuse
- Lower likelihood of obesity
- Better response to stress
- Better social skills
There were other areas that measured quality of life which also had better scores than those who snatch the marshmallow of the table. (You can read about the follow-up studies here and here)
How to Conquer Life’s Challenges
Unlike those kids in the Marshmallow Experiment, life has far more temptations that can impact and interfere with our pursuit of personal success.
As difficult as this may be, only you
(You can click on any of those links, and it’ll take you straight to that section. Perhaps your only challenge is one of the three. So, why waste time when you can focus on what you need to improve right here, right now.)
I can guarantee if you can master mindfulness, self-awareness, and discipline, you’ll be able to conquer any life challenges which may include making significantly more money than ever before.
He who controls others may be powerful but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.Lao Tzu
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment. It discards all memories of the past and ignores any goals for the future.
The idea of being present is free of distractions or judgment. Even when thoughts and feelings begin to emerge, mastering mindfulness can give you complete control over impulses and desires.
Mindfulness doesn’t eliminate stress or other challenges. Instead, when unwanted or discomforting thoughts and emotions arise, you have a better chance of reacting calmly and empathetically. Essentially, mindfulness is a tool that gives us a better choice for handling difficult situations.
If you can incorporate mindfulness into your daily lives, you’ll enjoy higher levels of happiness, patience, acceptance, and compassion. You’ll also be able to lower the impact of stress, frustration, and sadness.
There’s plenty of research, too, that confirms the benefits of mindfulness. For example, researchers at Northeastern University found mindfulness can:
Now that you know how important mindfulness is, how can you use it to conquer any of life’s challenges?
Mindfulness vs. Meditation
You might be wondering, “what’s the difference between meditation and mindfulness?”
Think of them like this. Meditation is the training ground for learning and strengthening mindfulness. Whereas mindfulness itself is a way of living that allows you to return to the present moment in any situation.
Meditation aims to balance the mind and body by bringing it back to the present moment. It helps you to be in tune with your thoughts and feelings. Practicing regularly can be a great way to manage stress, boost compassion, improve focus, feel energized, maintain patience, and, ultimately, increase happiness.
TRY THIS SIMPLE MINDFULNESS MEDITATION TECHNIQUE
- Sit in a relaxed or comfortable position
- Close your eyes and calm your breathing
- Focus on breathing slowly, without controlling its natural rhythm
- Focus your attention on your breathing and how your body moves during each inhalation and exhalation. Observe any thoughts and feelings as they emerge. Its normal for your mind to wander, simply return your focus back on your breathing.
The ability to calm the mind and clear it of unnecessary thoughts can help you focus on the present moment.
If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.Daniel Goleman
Self-awareness is the ability to understand yourself clearly and objectively through introspection and reflection. You see everything you believe to be real is a biased perception of your reality. What you see, what you hear, what you think, and what you feel are only known and understood by you.
In a sense, the world revolves around you.
Self-awareness is complex. There’s a lot of philosophical debate as to what it is and what it means. To keep it simple, self-awareness is your ability to understand:
- your actions in the moment
- attitudes about your actions in the moment
- your emotions in the moment
- how you want others to perceive you
- your appearance
- your inner conflict (e.g., between your actions and beliefs)
- your beliefs and values
- other people’s attitudes, beliefs, etc.
Developing self-awareness allows you to make changes to the way you think and interpret situations in the world. You can be a step ahead of yourself by knowing how your emotions react to a situation and taking controlled actions toward a better outcome.
Daniel Goleman describes self-awareness as “knowing what we’re feeling and why. They are the basis for good intuition and decision making.”
He goes on to explain that there are three self-awareness skills to focus on:
- Emotional self-awareness – Recognizing one’s emotions and their effects
- Accurate self-assessment – Knowing one’s strengths and limits
- Self-confidence – Having a strong sense of one’s self-worth and capabilities
These three skills are critical for understanding yourself clearly and confidently. It’s a rare quality to have and very difficult to master
TRY THESE SELF-AWARENESS TECHNIQUES
- Ask for feedback – Sometimes we are unaware of our strengths and weaknesses. Asking others helps us know which areas to improve, but also where we already excel
- Write, track, and analyze your goals – As you pursue goals and reach milestones, it’s important to have a track record to document your progress. This allows you to gain insights on what drives you or stalls you to help accelerate growth and overcome obstacles
- Start a journal – Get a blank book and document your daily activities. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes every morning or before bed to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Every month, review what you wrote to learn more about your thoughts, beliefs, and perspectives on how you handle life’s challenges.
Having a clear understanding of your thought and behavior patterns helps you to understand yourself and your relationships with other people. With self-awareness, you have the ability to make decisions more confidently.
One thousand days of lessons for discipline; ten thousand days of lessons for masteryMiyamoto Musashi
Discipline is the ability to concentrate thoughts and actions into a consistent pattern of behavior that results in the desired outcome.
More formal definitions of discipline include:
- the practice of training yourself to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.
- the ability to control behavior through mental and physical training
- a system of rules to follow, but, if you fail to follow, you must stick a baby knife in your gut for a hara-kiri death (just kidding!!)
Discipline is often a stubborn word associated with the military. If you have ever seen a column of soldiers march in formation, you can see discipline in action.
Fortunately, discipline does not have to be that extreme. You don’t have to run 56 km, do 1000 burpees, or practice waterboarding survival techniques to become a disciplined person.
Instead, having discipline is a fail-proof way to add stability to your character and personality. It’s the practice of training yourself to follow specific behaviors to create consistent patterns that increase your ability to achieve goals.
- If you want to gain muscle, you have to go to the gym regularly and gradually increase the weight and intensity of your program
- If you want to start a business, you have to dedicate hours into creating money-making systems with guidelines to train staff, acquire customers, and organize accounts
- If you want to be like Elon Musk, well, there’s no amount of discipline that will help you achieve that (that guy is an alien!!)
You won’t find a time management app or a day planner that’s going to help you become more disciplined overnight. Since discipline is a state of mind, it’s going to take a lot of hard work and concentration to create new habits that replace old ones.
The best way to develop a more disciplined life is to make small steps. Focus on one thing at a time, then start to compile them all together. Let’s say you want to wake up earlier because you sleep all day and party all night. The first would be to stop partying. Maybe all that alcohol consumption is keeping your brain active all night long. Then, focus on getting to bed earlier. Once you can start waking up earlier, set a time you prefer to wake up and add new routines to your morning.
Perhaps the most rewarding behavior you need is to stop checking your phone so much. According to this study, most people spend more than 5 hours a day checking their phone. That’s a lot of time wasted.
If you want to empower your life, put your phone away, and focus on skills that improve your overall growth and long-term wealth.
To help you regulate your behavior and improve discipline, remember to:
- Take small steps – New habits are difficult to make and old habits feel impossible to break. Think small and don’t feel ashamed when you fail. For example, reduce the amount of time on your smartphone by 1 hour a day and you’ll have an extra hour to work, read, or play.
- Eliminate distractions and temptations – Whether you’re trying to lose weight or stop hooking up with an ex-lover, the best thing to do is eliminate those temptations from your life. Put the cookies in the garbage, block your exes on every app, and move forward knowing that nothing can get in your way.
- Train your brain like a muscle – Remember that your brain is like a muscle. If you’ve never trained it before, you’re going to fail at lifting a 200 lb bar over your head. Focus on your goals each day. Understand the habits you need to achieve them. And take the time to grow at your own pace, because the only thing you’re racing against is death.
If you don’t have discipline, you would always do whatever you wanted and make mistakes without considering the impact on the world around you. Discipline promotes resilient behaviors that allow you to concentrate your efforts to achieve goals, build healthy relationships, make the world an enjoyable place for everyone.
STEPS TO MASTER DISCIPLINE
- Know your strengths and weaknesses
- Remove all temptations from your environment
- Establish realistic goals with a defined execution plan
- Stick to your plan religiously, and if you fail, restart at day 1
- Eat healthily, drink water, and get sleep (its important to maintain a balanced lifestyle)
- Celebrate every milestone, even the smallest steps are a sign of success
Discipline focuses your energy on a pattern of behavior that’s intended to achieve goals. It uses consistency and determination to push through life’s greatest challenges, allowing you to conquer unbelievable things.