Basic Training for the Mind

Many years ago, I submitted my mind and body to the rigors of military basic training.  I remember dealing with the loneliness of being away from home, the fear of screaming cadre, the grueling physical activity and the lack of sleep. Over the next several weeks, I watched a transformation occur that has had effects to this very day – it keeps me healthy, focused and able to run a successful business. It wasn’t getting whipped into shape physically that made the deepest impact, but getting whipped into shape mentally that occurred in forming the habit of discipline.

Discipline is the make or break element in the success of our lives. It’s not enough to be smart, talented or have passion. We see countless examples of those who have this and still struggle. Discipline is the practiced effort of doing what we don’t want to do that gets us to work through pain, fear and doubt and actually use the abilities the Creator gave us!  It spurs us to higher heights, not by delivering a knockout punch or Super Bowl-style victory, but by getting us to rise each morning to do the small, uncelebrated things that lead to a much higher level of success over time.

In our Native traditions, we held the idea of discipline as a virtue to be honored. Our ancestors knew that discipline was a key to survival and success so they not only encouraged it, but did ceremonies and activities that developed it. We learn how Tecumseh had to break a hole in the ice before his morning swims as an adolescent on his way to becoming a great warrior. We learn how Sitting Bull would do vision quests to not only pray for direction but discipline his mind and body to function well despite discomfort, which served him well as a leader. Our warriors had a huge capacity for endurance, resilience, courage and tenacity. Why? Because they trained for it and practiced it every day.

A disciplined mind will win every time. We may not reach every goal we set in this life, but when we conduct ourselves with discipline, even if we fall short of the finish line, we still win by strengthening ourselves for the next one. Disciplining our mind keeps us from reacting out of fear or doubt and making bad short-term decisions that can have long-term consequences. Instead, we’re able to make better choices and make short-term sacrifices for long term gains.

I’m constantly reading about successful people to role model behaviors and patterns. Recently I read a Reader’s Digest article on the multi-talented Will Smith. He knows that being a talented actor and rapper isn’t enough to be successful and said this in one of his songs about discipline, “The key to life is on a treadmill. Because if you say you are going to run three miles and you only run two, I don’t ever have to worry about losing something to you.” He went on to mention that when he sets out to run three miles, he’ll run five – it’s hard to lose with that mentality.

Picture your dreams on a giant flat screen TV. Discipline is the electricity that brings those images to life! It starts with basic training of our minds to think successfully, more positively and in a way that is more action-oriented. That spills out into our actions and our daily practices and habits. From that point forward, we’re able to utilize our ability to create the kind of life and career we want and transport those dreams from that TV into reality – and a buzz cut, combat boots or uniform aren’t required…

© 2016  D.J. Vanas  All rights reserved.



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