We all have times in our lives when we want to achieve or get certain things done and find ourselves unable to follow through with our desires. We then compare ourselves to friends and peers and wonder why we can’t replicate their successful behavior.
While this comparison may be reasonable it is not really fair. This is because our friend’s and peer’s lives are not just like ours even though it may seem as such on the surface. Under the surface all of us have very different circumstances that need to be considered.
We all have a finite amount of emotional stamina. It aids us in two ways: It keeps us resilient to handle life’s demands and gives us the discipline to chase our desires.
Resilience is needed so we do not become incapacitated by:
Discipline is needed so we can grow by:
The emotional energy needed for resilience always takes priority over the energy for discipline. This is a primitive trait instilled in us to ensure our survival. If we have emotional energy left over from maintaining our resilience then we have the option of using it to be disciplined in areas we want to grow in. If all of our emotional energy is used up on resilience we will struggle to be disciplined in anything related to growth. This scenario is almost always never considered when we fail to be disciplined.
Mary found this to be true when she compared herself to her neighbor, Trish. Every morning Mary watched Trish leave her house for a 45 min run. Now and then Mary would beat herself up about how undisciplined she was and vow to start running the next morning. Then the next morning she would wake up early and run. She would stay disciplined for about a week and then return to sleeping in and not running. When Mary would beat herself up she never considered the stress she endured at work as an air traffic controller and that her husband had a bad snoring habit that made getting to sleep very hard. She just thought she should be able to do it because Trish could do it. If she knew more about Trish she would have learned how little stress Trish endured at work as a receptionist and that she went to bed before her husband and got nine hours of sleep a night.
For those who want to have more discipline and growth in their lives, even though they are tapped out on the resilience side of things need to be a little more strategic. Either you can try to be more disciplined and see what sticks or you need to find a way to reduce the amount of energy committed to resilience. This would mean waiting until the stress at work lessens, the grieving from a lost loved one runs its course, or for your bad knee to heal.
Another thing to consider when evaluating our emotional stamina is our capacity. The amount of emotional stamina we have access to varies based on how we use it over time. If we push the limits it grows. If we don’t push the limits it diminishes. For example, those with a lower need for resilience are more susceptible to a reduction in emotional stamina; whereas, those who need all the emotional stamina they can to be resilient, and still take on some discipline, will find their capacity expanding.
That is why in general, young working parents raising kids have much more emotional stamina than singles their own age. Elderly workers have much more than their retired counterparts. Parents with late teen kids, young singles, and retired individuals need to be mindful of their emotional stamina. Because the amount of emotional energy needed for resilience is less in their lives they need to increase the amount of discipline they require of themselves. This will keep their emotional stamina high and ready for when some life event requires more resilience of them.
If you want to be able to stick with things better in the future you need to understand and manage your emotional energy. Don’t be reluctant to give yourself a break when you are in a period of high resilience and push yourself to be more disciplined when you are not. Help others with this too. You will find yourself with less completion and more support when sticking with it.