Buffaloes, Marshmallows and Discipline

Be a Buffalo!

I live in CO which is one of the only states that has the privilege of being the home to wild buffaloes and cows. These unique animals are similar in many ways, but behave quite differently when reacting to a storm. With the huge Rocky Mountains to the west and the flat “Kansas Plains” making up the eastern side of the state, storms roll over the mountains and travel from east to west. When a cow sees a storm coming they run away. Cows are not very fast and end up running with the storm and remain in the storm for a long period. Buffaloes, on the other hand, see the storm coming and run towards it. They run through the storm and are only in it for a short time. BE A BUFFALO!

The purpose of this blog post is to highlight how short-term sacrifice can translate into a long-term gain. We often fear the discomfort or effort required to do a task and end up putting ourselves through even greater pain and suffering by trying to avoid it (like the cows). I am currently in “off-season training” which requires a lot of self-discipline since I don’t have a team or practice schedule to hold me accountable. Many times I don’t “feel” like going to the gym. I force myself to do it and never regret it. I always feel good after a tough workout even though I sometimes dread it beforehand. When we lack the self-discipline to do what we ought to do, we will pay for it in dividends later.

“Procrastination and indulgence are nothing more than creditors who charge us interest” – Rory Vaden

We make decisions based on the battle between two parts of our brain: feelings/emotion and reason/logic. Rory Vaden, author of “Take The Stairs” believes that the more you follow the rational side of your brain (what we ought to do verses what we feel like doing), the more successful you will be. What struck me the most from his book was the ONE KEY ELEMENT that he found ALL successful people share. Rory says that every successful person has the ability to do what they don’t want to do (self-discipline). This trait allows us to control our reality. Since no one has a problem doing what they “feel” like doing, if we can learn to also be able to do what we don’t feel like doing, than we have the power to create more favorable circumstances.

I have read a lot of inspirational “self-help” books about success and all the character traits and attributes of successful people. Highlighting the one character trait (self-discipline) as the number one factor really simplifies things and makes sense! It got me to thinking of an earlier blog post about the Stanford Marshmallow experiment and those results.  In these studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward (marshmallow or cookie) provided immediately or two small rewards if they waited for a short period. In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index (BMI), and other life measures. This experiment illustrates the importance of what Rory found after interviewing some of the most successful business people on the planet.

We’ve heard the saying “follow your heart” – I prefer the suggestion to “lead your heart!” Emotions are great; a wonderful and amazing part of the human experience. However, we should control them and not let them control us.

Now, the question for us as parents: how can we instill the all-important virtue of self-discipline in our children? I talk about this in an earlier blog about DISCIPLINE, but hope to add to that here (also see post: How Children Succeed). Setting goals and working towards them is a great way to practice self-discipline since you can learn from the natural consequences of your efforts. Encourage your children to have SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) Goals and help them be held accountable (encouraging them to sometimes do things that they don’t want in order to reach a certain outcome).  Having a schedule, being held accountable,making clear priorities are also good strategies to assist and encourage your children with. Finally, I encourage sports as a great tool to improve discipline. Through sports, it is easy to track results while doing a healthy and enjoyable activity. You can have clear and measurable goals in sports. Most importantly, in order to reach your desired results, you will often have to do things you don’t “feel” like doing. Sports provide a great platform for children to develop character, but this character is not learned unless it is taught. As the first teachers (parents), it is important that you take the opportunities to teach your children about the character lessons they can be learning through their athletic participation.

Abundant Blessings!!!

Luke