Courage From Journaling

What are you doing to own your faults? What are you doing to fix them? Benjamin Franklin says there are few that have the courage to do this. How true this is, but what if there was a simple daily habit that would assist you with this courageous feat?

When I left the Army, I knew writing was going to play a large part in my future. I imagined being a novelist. I thought I had these great ideas, but the act of getting those ideas onto paper turned out to be more difficult than I had imagined. Not only was I struggling with writing, I was also struggling with my transition to civilian life. It turns out that my life and my writing were very similar. I drifted along aimlessly in a murky fog.

Dear Diary…

In my darkest times, I would grab a piece of paper and begin to write. Essentially, these were letters to myself. They began with a question or a statement about the problems I was facing. As I kept writing and thinking, potential solutions would come to the forefront. I became a motivational writer for myself. It was on those pages I would tell myself, “I could make it. I could survive.”

In the last few years, my journaling has become a regular practice, both in good times and in bad. In order to advance in my practice, I have incorporated some practical tips from Tim Ferriss, Jim Rohn, and even from some ancient Stoic Philosophers. So what tip am I working on now? It comes from one of Seneca’s daily habits. Seneca would take time at the end of each day and examine what he had done and said. In my personal quest to live a more virtuous life, this idea of examining my day seems to be the most beneficial. Doing so gives me the opportunity to look at and address areas needing improvement. Did I make the most of the day? Did I live up to my own expectations in doing what is right? Did I practice the things I love to preach?

Using a journal as a daily habit to identify and fix your faults doesn’t seem courageous. But the practice will make you more aware of your day-to-day activities. When you stray from the path, you might be quicker to correct your course and get back on. When you err, you will have the courage to own it and correct it.

How few there are who have courage enough to own their own faults, or resolution enough to mend them. –Benjamin Franklin

Stop the Complaining

Don’t like your situation? Does it give you pain, either mental or physical?

You have two choices before you:

  1. If you can change it, then do it. Make the change and remove the pain from your life. Be done with it and experience a new found freedom.
  2. Endure it. Whether there is no change available to you or the pain isn’t worth the effort to fix it, endure it.

Those are really the only two options available to you. But if you are stuck with number 2, and you have to endure it, don’t complain about it. Your friends and family may sympathize with you for a time. But after that, you will eventually alienate them if you continue to persist in your complaining.

Courage. It takes courage to endure. Your loved ones see your suffering. They know what you are going through and are hopefully there for you. If you are enduring, then be strong and be courageous. Endure, but don’t push away those who are willing to endure it with you.

If it’s endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining. –Marcus Aurelius

What Are You Standing For?

Ever have a song pop in your head that you have not heard in ages? Recently, “You’ve Got to Stand for Something” did just that to me. It was recorded 28 years ago by Aaron Tippin and the chorus is still etched permanently into my brain:

You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything

You’ve got to be your own man, not a puppet on a string

Never compromise what’s right, and uphold your family name

You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything

What is it that you value? Is it worth standing up for? If not, then take a moment and reconsider what is important, what is worth fighting for.

We have it within us to raise the bar. We can choose to create an incredibly high standard and in doing so separate ourselves from mediocrity. We can have the courage to always do the right thing. This is how we obtain the name that is held in reverence by others. That when they see the name Smith or Winley, they say there goes an honorable person worthy of trust. Those are the ones that are left standing when the final bell rings and all the other have fallen down.

Those who stand for nothing fall for anything. –Alexander Hamilton

Break It Down, Build It Up

Through exercise we break down the body. Our hope is that the micro tears in the muscles will heal. Once they heal, they become stronger. For those interested in fitness, this is a continual process. Break down the muscles, allow them to recover, become stronger. Repeat. We do this intentionally to our bodies. We welcome the physical trials knowing the benefits are worth it.

Are we as quick to welcome the mental and emotional trials of life? Do we intentionally seek opportunities to strengthen our souls? A bodybuilder with weak legs can either ignore it or do the hard work necessary to strengthen them. To do the hard work takes heart. We have to have the courage to put ourselves into situations that will help us overcome our weaknesses. How can we get better at anything if we do not expose ourselves to the thing we desire?

Water takes the path of least resistance for one reason. It is easier. Often, we choose to take the same path. But if we go through life always avoiding the obstacles, we will soon find that external elements are dictating the direction we should go. Would it not be better to pick our destinations and then proceed down the path of our own choosing?

Overcoming the obstacles in our lives makes us stronger. Like gold in the fire, the process refines us into a better version of ourselves. It takes courage to choose to go through the obstacle rather than avoid it. It is not the easier way. But going through it, rather than around it, will ensure that you stay on your path toward your goals.

Resistance to Fear

The little girl on the stage standing in the bright lights waiting for the recital to begin.

The boy on the wrestling mat facing an unknown opponent.

The adult at the podium addressing the audience.

Stepping on the stage, in the ring, or in front of others can cause butterflies, nervousness, or make you outright scared.  But in these situations designed to test your abilities, your enemy is not the people watching. It is not even the opponent standing opposite you.

Who is the enemy? It is the fear within you. In order to succeed when the pressure is on, you must become resistant to that fear. The big stage is an examination of your preparation and training. The work has already been done. Now it is time to show your mastery.

Fear can be healthy. It would be fool hardy to jump with reckless abandon. Therefore, we train in advance and gradually increase our level of testing. Trust your training and learn to master your fear.

Meditation: On Pride

I know I need to meditate more. Yesterday was day one. Ten minutes in the morning before leaving for the gym to meet a client. 10 minutes again sitting in the car before walking into work. Later that evening, I lost my focus and subsequently lost my temper. Now I am on the second day, and it needs to be better than the first.

I set the timer for 15 minutes. It is dark outside as I sit in my car in the parking lot. 15 minutes to meditate and then 5 minutes to walk into work. I close my eyes and sit. I try to center myself, but something is missing. Oh yes, my breath. In. Out. Why did I get angry last night? I should have known better. I should not have fell into the trap. In. Out. Pride. It was my pride. My pride was injured. It wanted to retaliate. My pride is me. Not some separate embodiment acting of its volition. My pride. My ego. I own it. No one else is to blame. Blaming others is the easy path. The wrong path.

My thoughts begin to drift. I think about work, about the things I need to do today. Something is not right. My breath. Focus on my breath. In. Out. Back to pride. Back to anger. How do I eliminate it? How do I become stronger? This pride, my pride, is a weakness. When it is in control, I am more prone to anger. Anger is bad. It leads me down the wrong path. It leads to stupid and rash decisions. It leads to thoughtlessness. Chaos.

What will I do this weekend? What will I read? Write? This is not the time to let the mind wander. Concentrate on the breath. Breathe in. Take in the oxygen, the life. Exhale the breath. Expel the pride. Like the Om, expel the pride. When the anger comes, the walls crumble. My defenses are weakened. A city unprotected. My walls are my strength. My protection.

In. Out. Courage. It takes courage to be strong. It takes courage to overlook a perceived offense. It takes courage to not retaliate. Courage, not pride. With courage is strength. Pride is weakness. Anger is weakness.

In. Out. The timer goes off. My mind is now focused on courage. My prayer is to have the strength to be courageous. The strength to put away pride and anger. One last breath in and then exhale. It is time to walk to work.

A city breached and left defenseless are those who do not control their temper. –Proverbs 25:28