A practical guide for Millennials on achieving the life you want.
It’s becoming a cliche to hear that Millennials are whiny, lazy, Twitter-fiends with no ambition and no discipline. I hate hearing that. I find the more I get older that I dislike sweeping generalizations of any kind. They’re often half-truths that supplant the intricacies of an entire population with observable negative attributes of a much smaller subset.
In short, I’m not a lazy, whiny, twitter-fiend with no ambition. I work hard, I do music on the side and I’m crazy about chasing my dreams and passions.
I think a lot of Millennials coming out of college are trying to find their place in the world. I think a lot of men are, too. Music and art may not be how they determine purpose in their lives, but everybody wants to feel purpose of some kind. Everybody has a dream or desire of some kind. That’s not a generalization, that’s just the basics of being human.
The problem is, I’m not good with discipline. I don’t know if that’s a Millennial thing or not, but I have a hard time with organization, with sticking to a schedule, and with keeping myself following a routine once I’ve started it. It’s weird: I enjoy the foresight a schedule provides, get stressed without it, and have noticed that even the cyclical patterns exhibited in nature are like divine schedules of their own; yet I still struggle.
It got me thinking. About a lot of things actually, about why people need discipline, about how I can introduce more discipline into my own life, and I’ve found out a surprising amount about myself. I crave self-discipline in three main areas—the three F’s, actually: food, finances, and fitness.
Food: Cook It Yourself
Being more disciplined in what I eat has become very important to me. After watching the Netflix documentary series Cooked, I realized that I have a bad diet and it’s mainly because I haven’t been disciplined enough to do anything about it. A couple of simple rules have made me not only more healthy, but have kept me frugal too.
I started eating only foods that I had to prepare, meaning nothing processed or packaged in boxes of some kind. The occasional snack or meal out has been fine, but I’ve actually found that by eating healthier, I’m hungry less often not to mention less stressed. While it does mean I have to plan my meals a little more, I’ve realized that the time I spend planning my meals offsets the time I used to spend wandering around in the grocery store aimlessly.
When I do plan, it’s much easier to make healthier and smarter choices. One trick I’ve found has been switching over to naturally leavened bread. It’s not always easy to find, but it’s possible (and cheap!) to create your own starter and get yourself baking natural sourdough in no time. Bread is filling, and the nutrients that come from the slow-fermentation process really make a difference in how I feel day to day. Knowing that I’m feeding myself the best without breaking the bank is extremely rewarding.
Finances: Staying Frugal
I’ve been meaning to start budgeting for awhile now, and about two-thirds of Americans can relate with me on that. After creating a quick spreadsheet to calculate income vs. expenses, I realized that all I really needed to do was condition myself to new financial habits. That’s all discipline really is right? Setting new habits that work in your favor instead of succumbing to the ones that derail you? So I started saving more money and paying off more of my student loan per month.
It isn’t easy, but doubling the payments on my student loans is helping me pay them off a hell of a lot faster. Conventional wisdom might say two times as fast, but it’s actually faster than that if you have compounding interest. By setting two dates per month to make payments that coincide with my paycheck, making the decision to click “submit payment” is so much easier.
Traditionally I’ve been resistant to the idea because I want to be able to fund my music career, not throw all my money at bills every month … but the truth is, putting more into paying off my debt now is going to help me in the pursuit of my passions later—unless I became one of the lucky few hip-hop artists to sign a record deal, but even then I’d still probably use it to pay off my student loans like this guy.
Another difficult, but beneficial decision I’ve made is to simply move 10% of my paycheck every month into savings (the oft-advised 20% is a bit much for me). This basically means that I can’t eat fast food anymore, but after starting to eat right that’s not as big of a deal to me anymore. While the amount of money I’m saving isn’t much, over time, the steady growth of this account may ride me through my retirement.
Fitness: No Excuses
I was surprised to learn that a routine involving physical fitness is considered by many to be one of the discernable traits of successful businesspeople and is linked to sound mental health. It makes sense. I began jogging at least once a week and quickly bumped it up to two times a week. It also helps to remember that starting something new is much harder than continuing something you’ve been doing. Getting into a running schedule was much harder in the beginning. I now run on average three to five times a week, and it’s hard to think of a better way to clear my mind. I got into the habit by asking myself one simple question:
“What excuse do you have not to (insert activity here)”?
If I can look myself in the mirror, ask myself that question, and honestly say that I don’t have anything better to do, then I know that I will feel dumb for not just getting out and doing it. In fact, that key-phrase was essential to my finding self-discipline in the first place. What excuse do you have not to eat healthy? What excuse do you have not to be fiscally intelligent?
Now ask yourself: what is it that you want to accomplish? What do you want to become more disciplined at?
Let’s say you want to start running. What excuse do you have not to go running?
Well, maybe you don’t have any running shoes. So what’s stopping you from running sprint sets barefoot in a field? Or buying a pair of shoes?
The point is that there’s always an excuse, but not necessarily always a good one. Self-discipline is found when you don’t give in to those excuses, but push through them, putting aside today’s wants for tomorrow’s needs.
How have you handled self-discipline? What tricks have you come up with to keep yourself on track? Comment below.
Photo:D. Sinclair Terrasidius
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