Have you ever heard the phrase, “Freedom is not free?” What do people mean when they say that? From my experience, they are typically referring to the freedom we all enjoy living in the greatest country in the world (America) and the price we paid fighting for it. Between World War I and the more recent wars in the Middle East (Afghanistan and Iraq), the U.S. Department of Defense reported that over 620,000 military members have lost their lives in service to the nation. That basically equates to the total number of residents living in Louisville, Kentucky. If you factor all the other sacrifices made, such as hardships on the spouses and children left behind, lack of investment in infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc) during those times and economic opportunities missed due to funding the war efforts, you can easily see how impactful the cause for freedom can be. As a veteran myself, I am all too familiar with the dynamics surrounding life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and encourage you to examine the concept of freedom in your own life.
Are you free in your personal life or business? How much are you willing to pay to live a life of freedom? Everyone will tell you they want to be free, but not everyone is willing to do the ONE thing necessary to achieve it. There is a misconception out there that freedom is about doing what you want, when you want, within the laws of the land. That could be true for some, depending on how you define freedom, but there is more to it. Let’s examine this a little closer. How many people in the U.S. are obese? According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 40 percent of Americans are considered to be overweight. Are those people free? Let’s look at the financial health of people in our country. How many households are financially sound? According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, the average household is carrying around $137,000 worth of debt, which is being driven by the ballooning cost of student loans and healthcare. The future outlook appears grim as the cost of living continues to rise and wages remain relatively stagnant. For people living with large amounts of debt, are they really free? What about people that have gone through a tragedy like, a divorce, death in the family, or have an addiction? For many people, they are never able to release themselves from the grip those things have on them. Are they free? I submit to you that most people in the world today are not and here is why.
What is freedom to you? While you may have the freedom of speech, right to vote or own a gun, are you personally free? Are you financially free? Are you healthy? Do you have balance in your life? Are you free from stress and anxiety? Are you living in peace? Are you living a life of fulfillment and gratification? Are you achieving all the things you dreamed of? How many things on your bucket list have you crossed off? What’s holding you back? Why is it that some people are able to accomplish more and have a life of freedom and others do not? The answer is very simple – DISCIPLINE.
It’s amazing how some of the most basic things in life can be the most powerful. It’s also ironic that you can have more freedom by being more disciplined? By being disciplined, you can have more and do more. For example, one of the top causes of stress in people’s lives is attributed to financial problems. Often you will discover that people are living beyond their means and overextending themselves. The have no emergency funds set aside, no savings accrued, or plan for retirement. Then something unexpected happens, like an automobile accident or a major home repair, and they find themselves deeper in despair. From there, they become more stressed, don’t eat and sleep as well, which affects their health, and end up in a downward spiral that can lead to losing everything. To achieve financial freedom, you need to have discipline to develop and adhere to a budget, pay yourself first, and stick to it over the duration of your life. Financial freedom is a long-term game – chess, not checkers. The same principle holds true in all other aspects of your life as well … relationships, Church, career, fitness, etc.
As a business coach, I see similar things going on in companies all around. Business owners/leaders are frustrated they are not growing or are as efficient as they wish to be. They are stressed because they are working 70 hours a week and are not getting ahead. They are missing their kid’s ball games and other important things within the family. They claim they cannot find “good talent.” They find themselves working “in the business” and not working “on the business.” They are spending their time in a reactive state versus being more proactive. Sound familiar? Happens all the time. Why? Lack of discipline. Below are the Top 3 Things you can do TODAY to have more discipline in your business or life in general:
- What is most important to you? Recommend researching the wheel of life approach … family, friends, work, mental, physical, spiritual, etc. Whatever that is for you, write it down.
- Next, document how much time you need to spend in those areas compared to how much time you are actually dedicating to each area every week. If there is a gap between what it should be and what it actually is, you are not disciplined enough. Adjust until your balance is what it should be for you.
Make a plan
- Be intentional. Create a vision for your life or business. Determine where you want to be in 1-year, 3-years, 20-years, etc. What will your life be like at those points? Again, write it down.
- Develop a schedule that includes your top priorities. Allocate a specific amount of time to each area of your life. If you are a business leader, also do the same for the different areas of the business (leadership, sales, marketing, operations, processes and procedures, growth, efficiencies, communications, etc). Recommend the block scheduling format.
- Implement SMART goals around your top priorities. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Based. SMART goals ensure a greater likelihood of accomplishment. If your intent is to be happier in life, a SMART goal could look something like this:
- S – outline a list of things that drag you down (negativity in the media, emotionally draining friends, your own self-esteem issues, etc).
- M – minimize the number of hours spent on media-related activities from 3-hours per day to 30 minutes. Quantify as much as possible.
- A – dedicate 1-hour a day to reading a self-help book or listening to a podcast of an encouraging speaker. Making incremental adjustments to change the overall outcome.
- R – focus on the one thing that can have the most impact in the shortest amount of time. For example, dedicate 1-hour a day to do something fun that you enjoy. That could be working out, crossword puzzles, or building something in your garage.
- T – lose five pounds per month over the next 3-months. Whatever you prioritize and do, it must have a timeline associated with it. If not, someday will be never.
- Accountability is critical. Successful people are highly accountable. Living a life of continuous improvement takes a lot of discipline. You must review your plan, goals, and results on a periodic basis. There is a reason Nick Saban is one of the greatest college football coaches of all time. He is disciplined in all walks of life and does not compromise his standard of excellence, which is wrapped in accountability. Just watch one of his practices, you’ll see it in action.
To further emphasize the difference discipline can make in your life, allow me to introduce you to a fellow veteran/Navy Seal, author, podcaster, and motivational speaker Jocko Willink. Below is a link to his podcast on the subject. I know you will enjoy it.
Whether you are a stay at home mom or a business owner running a multi-million-dollar company, you can accelerate your performance and achieve your dreams by living a disciplined lifestyle. The strategies I have presented in this article are proven and work in all aspects of life. My hope is that readers are encouraged, enlightened, and motivated to get out of their comfort zone and try it. It will be a life changer. You only get one chance at living life to the fullest. Make it count!