There is a famous a Cherokee legendabout the battle between two wolves. An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”[i]
No one is without sin. We are all capable of doing great and terrible things. Inside each of us is a battle between these two wolves. What separates the virtuous person from the evil person is their decisions; thoughts married to actions.Nothing is inconsequential. Every action is taking us in one direction or another. People often wish they were more disciplined so they could take more disciplined action, but life doesn’t work that way. We must make more disciplined decisions to become more disciplined. Courage comes from overcoming fear, not wishing you were braver or wishing the fear was less intense.
We don’t have to start big, in fact, it’s recommended we start by taking small steps. The important thing is to start. Virtue requires deliberate effort. Start small, and build-up the virtue gradually. If you are scared of heights and want to overcome your fear, you might start by jumping into the water from a high of 10 feet before gradually building the courage to jump from a 10-meter platform.
Discipline is at the root of all good virtues. Discipline requires strength of character. You could boil down the story of two wolves to the struggle between strength and weakness. At the root of all vile actions is a weakness of character. Life is a battle of inches. We are either gaining or losing territory each day, each hour, each minute. Everything matters. We are either feeding virtue, or we are feeding vice. We are either becoming more disciplined or less disciplined. Every decision, every action, is either feeding the strong wolf or the weak one. The one we feed the most will form our character.
It has been my observation that people that will lie about seemingly small, inconsequential matters will lie about other matters. It should come as no surprise when a man, who cheats on his wife, also embezzles money from his company. You might think these things are unrelated, but they aren’t. They all come down to the man’s character. Everything is connected.
Some employers want to know a job candidate’s credit score. Why do you think that is? Why should they want to know that information? How could that information possibly affect the candidate’s ability to perform their duties and responsibilities? The hiring company wants to know if the person is responsible. A person that doesn’t exercise responsibility for their personal finances is unlikely to exercise responsibility at work. I made a peculiar observation as a young man. I noticed that the guys that didn’t wear seatbelts were also the ones that said they didn’t always have safe sex. The reasons in both instances were the same. It isn’t comfortable. It doesn’t feel good. They chose feeling good over being safe and responsible.
When we think something we do is an isolated event, we are lying to ourselves. It matters. Everything matters. Everything is feeding one wolf or the other. One is becoming stronger with each decision. We can change the trajectory of our life by constantly asking ourselves before making each decision, which wolf am I going to be feeding; the strong wolf or the weak wolf? It’s an easy question to answer. If we are doing what feels good vs. what our instincts are telling us to do, we are feeding the weak wolf.
I challenge you to make the little decisions that will nourish your strong wolf. These actions are often easy to do, but of course what is easy to do, is even easier to neglect. Neglect is an infection that we need to inoculate ourselves from by feeding our strong wolf. These small wins will lead to bigger wins. Habitually overcoming weakness will become a positive addiction.
Get excited about crushing these weak feelings. Get excited about feeding your strong wolf and developing your discipline. Discipline is like a muscle. It becomes stronger through repetition and effort. Anticipate the feeling of triumph overcoming weakness will provide. Every early morning workout will make you feel like a winner. Every pound lost, will make you feel like a winner. It will make you feel more in control of your emotions, more in control of your body, more in control of your LIFE!
When we feed the weak wolf, we are losing control of our life.Discipline helps us take back control. We will not win every battle, but if we don’t fight we’ll lose every battle, and we will fall into depression. Action is the cure for depression. Depression is caused by a feeling of powerlessness over our life. Taking ownership of your problems and the solutions to those problems is very empowering. It leads to the positive actions that help us escape depression. It’s a simple formula, but it is difficult for people that have developed the habit of feeding their weak wolf by giving into their feelings of hopelessness.
Progress makes us happy because we feel in control of our lives. As Tony Robin often says, “Progress equals happiness.Progress is the game.” Progress affirms our belief in ourselves and our ability to take control of our results. It reaffirms our belief that we are in control of our life. When we become more disciplined, we no longer feel like a victim of circumstances out of our control. We shouldn’t wish for better circumstances, we should wish we were better.
Waiting for better circumstances or opportunities to just show up and ring the doorbell is naive at best. Hope isn’t a method. Instead of wishing for fewer problems, wish you had more solutions. Instead of wishing for a more favorable economy, wish you had more skills. Instead of wishing for a more favorable wind, wish you had a better sail. Bruce Lee said, “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” Life challenges everyone. You can rip January from the calendar, but winter will come just the same. Instead of wishing winter away, prepare for winter.
Complaining about life’s realities and wishing they were different is a waste of time and makes you life’s victim. Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you. Instead of wasting your time and energy wishing your life was better, spend your time becoming more than you are. Focus on becoming stronger, smarter, more skilled, friendlier, BETTER.
We all fail and come up short, but the surest way to win is to always try one more time. Every single day, we start again. Every day you’ll have multiple opportunities to feed either the strong wolf or the weak one. Whichever one you most consistently feed is going to shape your character and determine your life’s direction. I challenge you will great love and respect to, FEED THE STRONG WOLF! Get excited about forging a new body; one molded by the cauldron of your iron will and sculpted with the chisel of self-discipline.
Change your habits, change your life!
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[i] The First People, Native American Legends Two Wolves, http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/TwoWolves-Cherokee.html.