Several weeks ago, Cathy and I attended a memorial service for our daughter-in-law’s 95-year-old grandfather, Warren Mugler. We listened as his grandchildren and others honored him.
They described a man who was dedicated to his family and disciplined in his daily approach to life; who was truly compassionate, generous and kind to everyone he met. They described a deeply spiritual man who served his family and others with humor, a positive attitude, and an always present, welcoming smile. His generosity and compassion included taking adventure road trips with his grandkids, and paying medical bills for family and church members in need.
Dedication, discipline, compassion, generosity, kindness, service, humor—for 95 years he lived his life according to these traits. He was a happy man, and others were always happy to be in his presence.
Since Warren’s service, I’ve been pondering the traits of happy people and what they contribute to the people in their lives. Well, actually, I’ve been pondering what happiness-supportive traits I may have in common with him and where I may need to refocus.
The two traits that seem to be baseline requirements for a happy life are dedication and discipline. Discover a life path that you want to follow, and do so with dedicated discipline.
Warren was very disciplined in his daily habits. Being a pilot in WWII and for United Airlines required discipline to keep him and others safe. To support his family and raise his children with a loving, spiritual grounding required dedication and discipline.
And then there’s me. Some days, it seems that my most deep-seated dedication is to the absolute avoidance of self-discipline. On those days, my mantra seems to be “I don’t want to. I don’t have to,” whenever I attempt to exert a little self-discipline over my contrary mind.
This is not a new challenge for me. At various times in my life, I have rebelled against authority, over-indulged in unhealthy activities, and allowed my willpower to lie fallow. I called it being a free spirit. Results were mixed.
At age 70, my nature is a little less rebellious. My willpower has allowed me to give up some old, destructive habits. And yet, I break promises to myself every day. “I will do 10,000 steps tomorrow.” (I’m tired; someone called; it’s too hot; 5,000 is enough today.) “I will write a blog every week.” (I’m behind about 50 weeks now.) I have a couple of others, but you get the idea.
The thing is, I like being happy. If being undisciplined made me happy, I wouldn’t be writing this; I would be writing the book—How to be Undisciplined and Live a Happy Life. (It could be a best seller.) Breaking the promises to myself and not exercising the discipline to do the things that make me feel better—physically, mentally and spiritually—does not make me happy.
My work in the coming weeks is to refocus on what I know will bring more healthy discipline back into my daily life—more meditation, more movement, more expressions of gratitude for all that I have, more study of other thought leaders, more acknowledgment of what I actually do accomplish, and more writing about it all.
Will Power Ascending,