Deal with life’s difficulties and change

Published 7:30 am Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Parent Involvement Coordinator, Decatur County Schools

In the book The Road Less Traveled, author M. Scott Peck’s first written words are, “Life is difficult.” He goes on to say that the notion that life is difficult is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. He says, “It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult — once we truly understand and accept it — then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

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According to Peck, most of us do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead, one often moans about the enormity of their problems, burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy. He even goes on to say that life is a series of problems. We can either moan about them or solve them.

I agree with Peck when he states, “Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems. Without discipline we can solve nothing.”

When most of us reflect upon the word “discipline,” we think of it in terms of punishment. Examples of stereotypical discipline include: a father disciplining a child or a teacher disciplining a student. From a different perspective, Merriam Webster Dictionary defines discipline as “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.” We will use this definition as the framework to address life’s difficulties and changes.

As you evaluate life and develop perceptions about the circumstances you are facing, problem-solving strategies may be required. Whether you are learning how to change unhealthy eating habits, researching the best exercise routine, or obtaining advice on managing anger episodes, changing any type of behavior requires the same strategy — that is, if you desire permanent changes.

Taking the information you have learned on the behavior you wish to permanently change, regardless of the habit, behavior, or personality tendency, requires the use of four strategies:   1) Hear or take in; 2) Understand; 3) Act ; and 4) Disciplined Action.

The easy part is hearing or taking in the information. It takes more energy and becomes a little more difficult to take in the meaning and understand the teachings. After understanding the information that has been presented, difficulties may often increase, as you are now expected to act upon what you now know. And finally, the most difficult of the four is, of course, disciplined action. Disciplined action requires you to demonstrate consistently disciplined behavior — the result of the change in behavior you desire.

Disciplined action often requires much more of your mental faculties and sometimes one’s moral character, as an attempt is made to change behavior or to achieve an intended goal. Reminders are effective ways to keep the change process on track.

Some examples of ways to incorporate reminders of maintaining disciplined action, while working to obtain a goal, could be the following: post-it notes, send yourself email reminders to do specific behaviors, call your voicemail and leave yourself a message, set the alarm on your phone to sound at specific times, wear a rubber band around your wrist and pop yourself when you do not exhibit disciplined action, or wear a colored bracelet. Be as creative as necessary for you or others to reach a goal with disciplined action.

As you reflect upon life, families, and your perception of the difficulties you are facing, remember that in order for permanent change to take place in the behaviors of yourself or others, disciplined action must be maintained. No matter what difficulties you are experiencing or soon may be facing, remember … if you do not like your harvest, you must first change your seed. I wish you a happy harvest during 2012.