What a year!  It is moving along, despite all the challenges and changes to our lives.  And inevitably, there is an enormous impact on our daily routines, both for adults, as well as children. 

“Regret Weighs Tons.  Discipline Weighs Ounces.”

With this, an unavoidable momentum begins to build.  Why?  Because life accumulates.  The results of our choices and actions inevitably add up to create a life that will either bring beautiful rewards or bring us painful consequences. It is useful to look ahead and anticipate the outcome in advance, of course, because then…and only then… can we alter the course!  

The Pain of Regret

Many of us suffer, in some form or another, from the pain of regret.  We set up goals, and we fail to accomplish them.  We put on weight and can’t seem to lose it. We keep yelling at the kids and promise not to do it again, and yet we do.  We hate paying fees for credit cards, yet we keep overspending. We get frustrated with everyone having their face in their phone all day, and yet we find ourselves doing this repeatedly.

If we continue to fail at our goals, we beat ourselves up a bit more each time.  The tendency of the mind is to then have some form of regret.  Regret that we didn’t sustain, or regret that we weren’t strong enough.  

With enough time and failure, we can feel so heavy that we can’t bear the thought of trying one more time and then failing.  So rather than ‘go for it’ we simply ignore what we know to be healthy or better for us, and immerse ourselves in eating a full bag of chips.  For many, the pain of regret contributes to a growing sense of sadness about life, and dramatically impacts our capacity to enjoy life.  We can try to hide, but often the world sees it when we think they do not. 

In our children, we can often see this happen as the consequences of poor choices begin to accumulate.  In order to feel better about themselves, they will often blame parents or peers, judging others harshly while excusing their own choices.  After doing so repeatedly, they often tend to isolate, appear unmotivated and seem not to care.  However, they are often in denial about what has happened, and perhaps lack insight into how their choices have created such lethargy.  This can be frustrating as a parent, as nothing seems to motivate them to become inspired and interested in growth and learning.  They do not see the real source of the problem (as do many adults), but still, the consequences of life are accumulating.  

Inevitably, there will be the pain of regret.  You see it…even if they can’t.  Again, life accumulates.  

The Pain of Discipline

The pain of discipline is quite different than the pain of regret. This is the daily, consistent price paid for committing our time and resources toward a goal or outcome. Yes, it can be tiring. Yes, something else will likely need to go. Yes, any change can be stressful.  And yes, it will not go perfectly. So yes,  you will likely make many adjustments along the way. We all know this. That’s okay, as these are all the small prices you will pay for the rewards of discipline. These are the prices you pay.

Yet, with every disciplined effort comes reward. In fact, if we are paying close attention, we can begin to find the rewards flowing immediately upon putting our attention on our disciplined effort. This is the first place we can begin to feel the rewards of discipline. 

The beauty, of course, is that these rewards now begin to accumulate.  Each day these rewards add up, and we begin to feel better and better about our efforts…even before the goals are accomplished.  

Of course, with time supporting our accumulated efforts, the rewards grow stronger, and measurable objective outcomes unfold in our lives.  At this point, the small daily pain of discipline has often completely disappeared, as the practice of the daily discipline is met with a sweet embrace and acceptance.  

Regret gets heavier and heavier.  Discipline gets lighter and lighter.

Thus, as this unusual year unfolds, consider ways to implement the small price of discipline so you can more readily enjoy the accumulated rewards that come with that discipline.  If looking at your children, develop parenting strategies that are disciplined in your attention to daily actions and daily accountability.  Imagine ahead, without a disciplined approach at home, the unhealthy lessons your children will learn.  Make the imagined regret HUGE!.  Then, bring this future regret into the present, so you become motivated to take disciplined, daily activities with your parenting plan.  This can really work well. 

For your own life, recognize that it will only be those daily disciplines that bring the deeper, more meaningful rewards you seek.  Too often, we wait for a moment of massive inspiration, and this never seems to come.  This approach will cheat you out of life’s greatest rewards.  

Instead, simply accept the initial pain of small daily disciplines, and smile patiently as the rewards begin to accumulate.  Likewise, with children, we must expect complaints and upsets when disciplined action is required.  But again, the initial pain will dissipate, with consistent follow-through on your part.  Then, over time, the sweetness of the rewards begin to accumulate, and life will get lighter.