When it comes to discipline and direction, I’ve spent most of my life unaware that I had control over a majority of my experience each day. This mentality bled into my vision of the future, negatively. I was reactive, instead of proactive. A major turning point in my life was when I realized that at the end of the day, the only person who had real control over my life was me. Despite every outside force that weighed on me throughout the day, I had the power to change what my life looked like.

I wasn’t miserable before, per-se. In fact, I found life a little more difficult once I decided to take control. Despite this, the value I found in habits and routines is on par with every spiritual practice and life lesson I’ve been taught. Don’t get me wrong, this still isn’t easy for me, and I still fail myself often. But that isn’t the point. What is?

Why?

Before you undertake anything in life, you need to know why. Having a reason for your actions makes it easier to grit your teeth and pull out results when you’re feeling low. That’s what separates guiding principles from simple wants and desires!

I found my “why” when I noticed the contrast between the version of me who did whatever he felt like and the version of me who did what he needed to do. The carefree and unhinged version of me would always find himself dragged down by a victim mentality, low confidence, and less purpose. The latter version of me was inspired, happy, and able to give his energy to others.

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I need to feel in control and on track in life to be fulfilled and, frankly, mentally sane! When I gave myself responsibilities, I stepped up to the plate and found power in that.

What?

In short, what I really lacked was responsibility. When I was obligated to do something, I would always accomplish it. This was great and all, but in the real world, you don’t start off with many obligations. I could coast through my life just showing up to work every day so I could pay my rent, but where else would that take me? People can thrive with a little extra responsibility, but sometimes we have to be the ones to place it upon ourselves!

A routine is a system that allows you to funnel your energy into dreams and goals. You can be passionate and determined, but you need to be efficient as well. Building your day on top of a routine will bring you to new places both mentally and physically over time that you never thought you would visit. This isn’t sacrificing a dynamic life, it’s allowing you one.

A habit is one action that we can repeatedly take to progress each day or week. A routine is built from the ground up by these habits that enable us to think less and do more. Habits function like small goals; checking those boxes each day will empower your perception of yourself today and going forward. This turns into a snowball effect, where you believe in yourself more as you take on more, allowing you to accomplish more and become an even better version of yourself!

How?

Okay, so it sounds logical but how can you get started when it’s difficult and painful to start the grind? Make it easy! The point is to be able to achieve steady progress, but that leaves a lot of wiggle room for how much progress you’re managing each day. There’s a sweet spot where your habits aren’t overwhelming, but still keep you moving. Finding this is a personal journey for each of us, but it’s certainly doable.

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Knowing this, accept that it won’t always be easy. My easiest habits can be incredibly tough some days when the problem isn’t the work, but my mindset. It’s a mental battle each day to stick to your guns and do what you know you need to do. It’s not easy for anyone, but it’s easier when you’ve buckled down before and still got it done. Prove to yourself how bad you want it, and see the changes almost immediately.

Conclusion

I just wrote this up and I honestly am getting a little imposter syndrome. This mindset has changed my life, but humans are fickle! I’m no exception, and I have seasons in my life where I fold under my own pressure. Treat yourself like anyone that you would root for. Be critical and push yourself to achieve your full potential, but at the end of the day, you need to have love for yourself at the very least. If you don’t care about where you’re going, I promise you’ll never get there. If you don’t love yourself, you won’t see any reason to stay on track when it gets hard.

Design the life you’ve dreamed of and get the most out of life you can. Take the first step to a better future for yourself and keep the momentum going!

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Tyler Cowan