Looking Back and Looking Forward
One year has come to an end and another has begun. As I summarize 2016 I can quite easily look back at this blog and see the thoughts, hobbies, and ideas that permeated in my mind and heart over the last year. After eight months of having this site, I’ve learned a lot. One thing, quite obvious, is that consistently taking the time to write is very consuming.
Another lesson, however, has resonated with me in 2016 and I hope to carry it into the new year to become a better me, and, if you are reading this, I hope it will help you become a better you too.
Over the last eight months on itsmechris.com, I have written about various topics with some major themes relating to discipline, planning, priorities, organization, and other similar topics that would make the laziest of peoples’ stomachs churn. My writing has revealed [to myself] that I have a passion for managing and attempting to dictate my life so that I can control the outcomes. This opposed to instead letting life merely happen to me, which runs the dangerous risk of leaving me possibly lazy, broke, unhealthy, alone, or unhappy.
I have attempted to dictate outcomes through detailed goal setting, controlled consumption and fasting, rigorous plans for my finances, career, and fitness, and other ways. I have even gone as far as to map out my life with a mind-mapping software called SimpleMind, and had the idea that I could follow a specific life plan for myself for the next five, ten, and fifty years.
Through this blog this year you have seen my passion for this attempt at life control, and maybe you have even tried some of it for yourself, possibly being as crazy as to take a cold shower, go on a social media fast, or rigorously plan each day with systematic routine, like I have. If you tried any of it then bravo! if you didn’t, but even if you valued anything I had to say, you will still understand this idea of being deliberate about creating systems and controls that propel you towards growing as a professional, a friend, and simply, a human being.
What I’ve learned:
This year I have read voraciously. I have planned and scheduled and prioritized. I have journaled ad nauseam. I have held a disciplined diet. I have stuck to my budget and saved my pennies. I have been intentionally uncomfortable. And all of these things, these systems and controls, have brought great value to my life, but at a cost.
What I’ve learned is that sticking to my workout regiment means less time spent with my family and friends. Committing to my budget means missing memorable shows, fun concerts, extravagant food, and more. Media fasts mean being less aware. Social media fasts mean being less connected. Time learning a new skill means less time at work or less time relaxing. You get the picture. Every aspect of discipline comes with a cost. And while I love the idea of discipline, I have to remember that its purpose is to bring freedom.
My Realization: Discipline Equals Freedom
Over the holidays the cookies were pouring into my lap and the egg nog was flowing. Time was spent lying around the TV with family instead of getting after it in the gym. In addition, I spent more than the budget allowed and I took time off of work and jiu jitsu. It would seem that from December 24 to January 1, I had no discipline, no systems, and no dictating my own life. I have been jolly and plump and lazy. And that’s a good thing.
Jocko Willink, one of my favorite authors and podcasters, says often that “discipline equals freedom.” I didn’t realize what he meant until recently. Then I realized, as my wife was encouraging on our date night to “try the key lime pie” that everything I had done up until now was for this moment. Every time I refused cake and stuck to my “healthy habits” made this time possible. I stuffed my face and never looked back, enjoying more the moment with her than the cake itself.
I realized that the discipline I have had allows me to have the freedom to be undisciplined when I choose to.
I realized that if I save rigorously, then I get to spend frivolously on the things that matter to me. I realized this in October as I shared an expensive (but memorable) nine-course meal at Madrid’s wonderful Gaytan Restaurant. I realized this as I stuffed my face with three scoops of creme brulee flavored ice cream at San Francisco’s Bi-Rite Creamery (pictures below). I realized this as I Netflix-binged on the couch with my wife instead of reading or going to the gym.
Furthermore, I realized:
- I do not serve my to-do list, but rather, my to-do list serves me.
- My schedule does not dictate my day, I dictate my schedule.
- I do not follow helplessly through a diet or training regiment, but rather, I get to decide (by listening to my body) how healthy I feel, and I adjust accordingly.
Most importantly, I realized:
- I am not a failure if I did not accomplish my goals. Those goals were there to make me better, and they served their purpose, whether I fell short or I exceeded expectations.
- Time spent being disciplined has payoff, but time spent with loved ones pays off so much more.
- Life planning is a model for thought and reflection, but life living is what I am on earth to do, so I will enjoy it.
I realized that all of the systems for improving and controlling the outcomes in life are extremely valuable and they help us to level up and become better versions of ourselves, but that these controls bring freedom to live above where we started, but yes, to live. The lesson I learned in my end-of-year reflection is simple: the systems exist to serve me, I do not exist to serve the systems. Apply this to your own life and you will certainly enjoy your freedom and live life to the fullest. I know I will.
Happy New Year.