Self-disciplined people are learners. They rise to the challenges of life, and leap into its uncertainties. Self-discipline requires the letting go of security to take a chance and invest time and effort on something. People like our idols are people who surrender their security at one time or another in their lives. For some, security must be surrendered many times. This surrender of security is not always a comfortable way of living, but it is most often the way to reach beyond one's own temporary boundaries.
When we let go of security, we actively reconstruct the filters. We let in information that was inconsistent with who we were before. For instance, if you are a student who plays high school basketball, you know that you are not a professional basketball player. You have neither the skills nor the knowledge to play the game professionally. You know yourself quite well don't you? But, would you say that you know your possibilities quite well? Just because you are not playing pro basketball right now does not mean that you cannot do it. The difference is this: the present is "known", the future "unknown". Many of us fear what we do not know or understand, yet to grow we must act on the world as if we know it and understand it even when we really don't. Doing so involves risk.
Each of us has a life to live, but we don't all rise to life's challenges. We are not all self-disciplined. The challenges of life, though they are different for each of us, can include struggle, pain, happiness, contentment, suffering, hatred, friendship, love, belonging, or just about anything else. Life means different things to different people. Life can also mean different things to each of us at different times in our lives. I'm sure that you are not concerned with the same aspects of life as when you were five years old. This change in meaning as we grow, this learning, can show us some of the keys to success.
The ability to learn offers us the experience of others before we have gone through the realities ourselves. If you don't believe me, answer the following question. What would you do with your life if you had more money than you could spend? That is a possibility that doesn't exist for most of us, yet we can sit here and think about it and come up with some very interesting answers! What would you do if you had an academic average an entire grade or two higher than you have now? This second question represents a realistic goal for many students if they only learn the skills necessary to be more effective students. For some the grade increases can be even more dramatic. If challenged to think of possibilities, we can imagine circumstances and realities beyond the one we are in now. Our ability to learn and our ability to imagine give us an open door to possibilities.
Imagine how you could become better than you are now. What would you have to learn to become better? What, do you imagine, would you be like? Does anything come to mind?
Life is full of challenges. Any and every conceivable situation we face in life carries this potential for challenge. The challenge always falls into the questions, 'where should I go?' and 'how should I get there?' The world changes, and each change brings challenges and choices with it.
When we make important decisions that are relevant to our lives, we are living up to our expectations. When we make relatively unimportant decisions, we are living down to our expectations.
Accepting responsibility means making the decisions, it means answering the questions we are challenged with, it means facing change. The next generation includes you and me. Changes and challenges are what our life is all about, and the rate of change is increasing.
Whether we realize it or not we are always moving toward something, sometimes toward those things we want in life and at other times toward the things we don't want. The interesting thing however, is, we never face the option of not going. Not going is not an option; time will not wait. Because of time we have only two options. First, we can sit by, thinking that we don't want to change, and that time will wait for us, thinking that our lives will last forever, thinking that there will always be enough time when we need it. Or, second, we can realize that time isn't something that we can take whenever we want, that time is not like money in a bank account that we can save or use when we want, that time is something that flows. If we try to remain as we are, unchanged, we are destined to fail. The world doesn't cease its rotation for anyone.
Seconds tick away, minutes pass, hours flow by, and days appear and disappear never to be witnessed again. Days flow into weeks, weeks into months, months to years, and finally to lifetimes. No one can stop the flow of time. We can't build reservoirs of time like we build reservoirs of water. Concrete and wood can hold back entire seas, while absolutely nothing can hold back the flow of time. We can't save time, trade it for something else, ask for and get more of it, slow it down, speed it up, stop it or in any way alter its flow. The flow of the river of time is much too strong. Time flows, and it carries us along with it. We can only use our time as it flows. That means making choices.
To make good choices, you need to know your needs, your desires, your goals. There is no one else in the world who understands you, and your view of the world, better than you do. No one can better judge your thinking than you can. Though some people think that because they are specialists in their field, they can judge your situation, assess your ability and forecast your future, no one can better find out what meaning you should choose for your lives than you yourself can.
Whether you choose to be engaged with life, or you choose not to choose, you have chosen. Sometimes our lives become filled with the choices of others. These choices are made for us by parents, teachers, advertisers, friends and relatives. These people can never understand the total complicated person that you are. That doesn't mean, though, that you are always right and that others are always wrong. Right or wrong are not the issues here. You only see through your own eyes (because of your own filters), and sometimes others have experienced things that you haven't. In the same way, you may have experiences in your life that other people may never even understand. To broaden your experience, you can share in the knowledge that other people have experienced.
Notice I have written "you can share in the knowledge." It means that you are still responsible for getting actively involved with the sharing. By sharing in the knowledge, you don't just sit there and let other people pour knowledge into your head, you have to actively share it. If you choose not to take responsibility by allowing others to do the learning for you, they will also make your choices for you. Sometimes this happens in school settings. The choices for many things are made for the students without their input into the matter. Controlling people does not have to be a bad thing, but we have to look at this carefully. Schools exist to ensure that students grow up to become educated, responsible and respectable people; people that are willing to stand up for what they believe. This is very different from standing up for what someone else thinks you should believe.
As other people make many decisions for us, they can spend our time. If we are not careful, the decisions that others make for us will largely dictate whether we have a good time or a lousy one. We can be a person to which things are always happening, like the kind of person who got stuck with the crummy teacher, and who has lousy parents and a useless boy/girl friend. The person to whom things are always happening is the person who (for whatever reason) will not make decisions for him/herself. Other people make the decisions and control the direction, and by virtue of this, our entire reality is focused in ways that seem arbitrary and unplanned. Sometimes the effects are good. Sometimes they are not, and when they are not, we feel like a billiard ball being smacked around the pool table by a whole bunch of other balls until we finally fall into a hole.
If we allow other people to make choices for us without taking responsibility, we have resigned the responsibility for our future and left our accomplishments as rewards for others. Our potential rewards remain obscured, sunken like treasure at the bottom of the flowing river, while we pass by them oblivious to their existence. Once we pass, we can't paddle back against the flow to get them. We sometimes can't even slow down long enough to have a better look at what we could have done with our lives. We are washed away from the treasures of life helplessly, forever. Sometimes we see people demonstrating this when they say 'if only I knew then what I know now' and 'if I was 10 years younger, I'd...'
Conversely, we can be the kind of person who makes things happen. For example, you can be the kind of person who asks special someone out and who works harder when the teacher doesn't give as much help as we need. You can be the kind of person who lets your parents know that there must be a way for everyone in the family to get along without someone feeling left out. You can become the kind of person who, through knowing your needs, desires and goals, is able to make choices that direct you where you want to go.
When we accomplish something chosen for us by someone else, we often are not able to truly accept the rewards for it. We may get some rewards, sure, but we might end up feeling sort of artificial about the whole thing. This feeling of artificiality comes from the realization that we are capable people, perhaps capable of doing great things, but we haven't chosen any.
Maybe you are one of those people who had well-meaning parents who told you that they would buy you something nice if you got better grades. So, what did you do? Most of the time the next report card showed improved grades didn't it? Then you get your prize. Wasn't that feeling great? Sure, you felt great for a while, because you got your prize, but what happened to your grades soon after? Chances are, your grades fell again until report card time was looming when you remembered your parents’ promise of a gift.
The encouraging thing about situations like this is we realize that we can act on our world and accomplish things. We recognize that we have something that psychology call self-efficacy, that is, coping skills. We can change, grow and adapt. We can learn. Such situations become discouraging when you realize that the actions you took were not on your own behalf; they were for someone else. We didn't get better grades because we wanted better grades. Our parents were the one's who wanted us to have better grades. We did it because we wanted the prize. We did it for them, not out of concern for them, but rather because we were not willing to make our own choices. Even if their choice was out of concern for our own well being and interest, it was still not our choice. When other people choose goals for us that we would rather not strive for, all that we end up owning is the effort and time, nothing more. Others receive the satisfaction for our accomplishment because it is something that they wanted, not something that we wanted.
If we choose to make our own choices rather than have these choices made for us, we can then begin to enjoy all of the happiness that our goals (and therefore our lives) have to offer. This is because all of our actions will be in line with our values, loves and desires. We will begin to feel the on-top-of -the -world feeling when we accomplish something. We would begin to control and own ourselves. Others may help us in our journey, but we set its course.
If we begin on a journey that we want to travel, and someone wants to join us, it doesn't automatically become their journey. Our journey remains ours. Their journey remains theirs. It is simply a matter that most people enjoy journeys that are quite similar. That's why we have heroes, idols and mentors. We enjoy watching people who are doing things that are similar to what we want to do. We should always remember that our life remains ours. The person on the journey with us simply becomes part of a shared journey as a fellow traveler. On this journey through life, the thing that will make a difference to us in the future is the quality and quantity of information we understand, use and share. This knowledge and information could prove useful to us if our journey was a quest.
If your life became a quest, that would mean that you would have some purpose to your journey. You would have some reason to be engaged with action. You would have a reason to try. You would have a reason to live. You would have an incredibly powerful answer to the question "Why Should I?" The answer will define your quest.
All of us are alive, but few of us have thought about it long enough to come up with our own reason for living. That is not to say that we don't have a reason, but we may not have our own reason. Can you imagine what reasons your heroes and idols might have for engaging in action? How might they have come up with this reason? Though your reason for doing something may be different, how you come up with the reason will be very similar. You might look to others for guidance. Ultimately, you look inside yourself. What will you find?
Chances are, you will find you’re a results-oriented person. You are probably the kind of person that looks to discover new things. If you really are this kind of person, you are practically guaranteed to find the new things that you are searching for. This is the kind of person I would like to be too. I like to get good results when I do things. I like to find new and better ways of doing things. But, if we want to find things, we have to be searching. If we choose to make our life a quest, then we become empowered to learn everything that may somehow lead us to the goal of our quest.
Learning has not been, is not, and never will be limited to classroom activity. Yet this is what many students see learning as. Learning is life itself. Every new experience that life offers us is in some way different from any other experience we have ever had. These differences, however subtle, allow us to learn. Learning is an ongoing process that isn't always under conscious control. We can't simply sit and think "I will learn now," like we try to the night before an exam.
Sometimes we learn whether we wish to or not! I think of it this way: from the day that we come into this world, we change. There is no way that this can be denied. Our bodies are constantly changing and growing older. We know that our thoughts are a direct result of the neuro-chemical activity occurring in our brains, and our brains are part of our bodies. If our bodies change, the brains that control our bodies must correspondingly change. If our brains change, our thinking must change. If our thoughts change we change. If we change, we experience the world differently than we have in the past. This is learning. We truly engage our quest when we begin to direct our change and our learning. In other words, we begin our quest when we begin to learn on purpose.
Understanding that change is inevitable leaves us wanting to learn. It is only through learning that we can be effective in our lives. Through learning, we cause our lives to go the way we want them to go. Learning offers us power. Learning gives us the power to control our own lives. Learning comes packed with the power to choose. Children are very accepting of this idea. We are amazed that children find everything interesting! They want to look at, listen to, touch, taste and feel everything. Successful adults are like children in this way.
Unfortunately, children very quickly learn that some things are not to be looked at, listened to, touched, tasted or felt. Much of this is taught to them by their parents, often for the child's own protection so they can live long enough to become adults. Society also teaches us not to experience certain things because we think of them as bad. It seems that many of us are more often shown how not to be curious and willing to learn, than how to be like our natural state as learners. Anyone who doubts this can look at some of the data on the change in creativity that occurs between the ages of five (when we begin school) and early adulthood.
We are naturally curious! We become distressed when we are not allowed to be curious and inquisitive about whatever we wish to be. The only way this changes is if it is forced out of us. Sometimes it was forced out of us long before we realized that we even had a choice. In other words we had our choices used up by those who had the power and the authority to choose. But, the good news is that we can take back the ownership of our life and choose to be as nature intended us to be. We can again become curious, inquisitive learners. We can stare out at the wonder of this huge thing that we call our world, and even beyond, and engage in the curiosity and wisdom of others, and their experience in it.
All your life is available to you for learning. How you are going to spend your life is completely up to you, but if you wish to accomplish anything in life, you must learn. If we make the choice to learn, we can do anything we set our minds to.
But how small a portion of learning 'the education system' really is. Learning in life is much more than what schooling has to offer. Without basic skills taught to us in the education system, life would be much harder, but usually schooling provides us with the most basic skills necessary for life. There is so much more that we must add to this if we are to achieve the goal of our quest. The skills presented to us in school are only a scratch on the surface of the sphere of knowledge. So how can we spend time to invest in ourselves through learning?
The beginning for change as I wanted it began with learning. Learning is the key to all successful change in life. It is the engine of our mind that frees us from the cycle of being presented with a situation and reacting to it. Instead, we respond. Responding is different than reacting because responding requires thought. This is where the word responsibility comes from; consider the words response able. We are responsible for what we do, because we can think about the consequences of our actions. It is the tool that allows us to build the future that we want to have. Doing better in school is just the beginning.
Learning is the key to success in anything. Since success means different things to different people, its definition is as individual as our personalities. I would like you to use a specific definition of success that will fit for anyone. Success is not the attainment of a goal that you have set for yourself. Success encompasses planning, acting, assessing, and accommodating for changes. This means that success is your activity in any aspect of goal attainment. In other words, you are successful as long as you are learning about and working on your goals. Success only stops when we stop working on our goals or when we fail to make the adjustments necessary to reach our goals.
When we fail at something, we should not give up. Most children know this naturally. If they really want to do something, they will keep on doing it until it works. They try until they can walk, until they can talk, until they can throw a ball, sew a perfect stitch, shoot the perfect basket, or even build the perfect secret fort. Children do not give up as easily as adults. Why? Because they have not learned to say 'no' to themselves. Children do not put so much worth in what cynics think of them. Children don’t accept when people say, "don't do that, it's too hard," or "don't do that it isn't worth it." Children decide what they want and they keep trying for it until they’ve reached it.
If we try something and it does not work out the first time, we may easily give up if we come across a cynic. These people are tremendous fuel drainers. They are able to siphon the fuel right out of us and cause us to 'run out of gas'. This can happen long before our temporary failures have taught us the lessons necessary for the accomplishment of our goals. Cynics will gladly make our decisions for us if we will not make them for ourselves.
You can make the decision to try again, and again, and again, and again, and again. If you never give up, it is inevitable that you will become successful. There is nothing shameful in trying again. The only shame is not learning from our trials. It means that every apparent failure contains within it a lesson that allows us to grow, to learn something. That acquired knowledge allows us to be successful later.
Jeff C. Palmer is a teacher, success coach, trainer, Certified Master of Web Copywriting and founder of https://Ebookschoice.com. Jeff is a prolific writer, Senior Research Associate and Infopreneur having written many eBooks, articles and special reports.