I have recently written a couple of articles for Prayer Igniters International’s website http://www.prayerideas.org/. A portion of this post first appeared on their site. And, as you can see, I just figured out how to do hyperlinks. I hope I’ve done them correctly & you can see what I’ve referenced for yourself if you choose.
A Bible verse I found when writing my Weight Loss Prayer is: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12: 11. This really resonated with me. It reminded me of the discipline I found when I quit smoking then a few years later quit drinking and what I am trying to tap back into to lose weight.
What is self-discipline? Oxford Dictionary defines it as: “the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.” You can almost use the words self-discipline and self-control interchangeably. Self-discipline takes a lot of self-control stringed together. Self-control is “the ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires, especially in difficult situations.”
I googled “How to develop self-discipline” and two articles by Forbes were the first to pop up. In the first one by Jennifer Cohen titled “5 Proven Methods for Gaining Self Discipline” Cohen wrote, “There are many important qualities that can contribute to a person’s achievements and happiness, but there is only one that begets sustainable, long term success in all aspects of life – self-discipline. Whether in terms of your diet, fitness, work ethic, or relationships, self-discipline is the number one trait needed to accomplish goals, lead a healthy lifestyle, and ultimately, to be happy.” I believe that she is on to something.
Her five methods are: “remove temptations; eat regularly and healthily; don’t wait for it to “feel right”; schedule breaks, treats, and rewards for yourself; and forgive yourself and move forward.”
In the second Forbes article, “6 Ways To Develop The Self-Discipline Necessary To Reach Your Goals” Amy Morin lists her six strategies as “acknowledge your weaknesses; establish a clear plan; remove the temptations when necessary; practice tolerating emotional discomfort; visualize the long-term rewards; and recover from mistakes effectively.”
In an article I found by Z. Hereford, he calls self-discipline “The Foundation for Success”. In the opening paragraph of their article on the subject much like the Forbes articles, it states, “No personal success, achievement, or goal, can be realized without self-discipline. It is singularly the most important attribute needed to achieve any type of personal excellence, athletic excellence, virtuosity in the arts, or otherwise outstanding performance.” The article lists the ways to develop self-discipline as “start with baby steps; learn what motivates you and what your bad triggers are; make certain behaviors a routine; practice self-denial; engage in sports or activities; get inspiration from those you admire; and visualize the rewards.” The benefits this article lists (paraphrased by me) are building self-confidence,: being able to accomplish more and maintain a higher tolerance for frustration; conquering obstacles and handling negative emotions; obtaining better health and finances; developing a good work ethic; and finally, being able to reach your most difficult goals more efficiently and having life become easier for you.
So all this sounds good, but is self-discipline really the one most important thing we need to be successful? I would argue that the most important thing we need is God. We need his love, forgiveness, strength, encouragement, grace, mercy, example of sacrifice, and His disciplining us so that we can learn to discipline ourselves. God is the fountain we should be drawing from to help us so that we can obtain self-discipline so that we may then succeed with our goals and aspirations, find God’s best for us, reach our full potential, and thrive.
I have been reading “Your Great Name: Discovering Power for Your Life in the Awesome Names of God” by Michael Neale as part of my morning devotional. One of the names listed for God is Jehovah Ez-Lami which means The Lord is My Strength. The scripture that accompanies this chapter is Psalm 28: 7,9: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him… Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.” Neale also quotes Mother Teresa, “I don’t think there is anyone who needs God’s help and grace as much as I do. Sometimes I feel so helpless and weak. I think that is why God uses me. Because I cannot depend on my own strength, I rely on Him twenty-four hours a day.”
Isn’t that how we all should be??? But, if you are like me, I often rely on my own devices and strength rather than seeking assistance from God who can help me do what I cannot do on my own. Because I do not ask Him for help, when left to my own devices, I often fail when attempting to exercise self-control and use self-discipline.
One of my favorite Bible verses is, “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:2-4 Perseverance requires self-discipline and it can often feel like suffering. It seems ironic to actually rejoice in suffering, but we can rejoice that it is only for a short time and that one day we will see the benefits which include building our character and giving us hope (not only for our remaining time here on earth but for the promise that all Christians have of paradise and an eternal life through Jesus’ love and sacrifice).
I found another translation of Romans 5:3-5: “Let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.” (The Amplified Bible) I think it is interesting how different translations and reading just before and after a verse to get the context bring new meaning to scripture.
The Forbes thought of the day where I got some of the information I listed earlier, is a quote by John Quincy Adams: “Courage & perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.” I don’t know what talisman he refers to, but I’d like to think of it as the cross. The former President was a devout Christian and for many years was a member of the American Bible Society.
One area of my life that I have been (for the most part) faithful and successful in is giving up something for lent. (But, not so much adding something.) When you put it in terms of Jesus denying himself things for 40 days in the desert despite being tempted by Satan to my small temptations, it’s easy to deprive myself for a little while usually of some type of food or beverage such as Coca-Cola, or chocolate, or this year jelly beans and French fries, or one year pizza. Sometimes I continue well beyond lent, but sometimes the last days before Easter I’m chomping at the bit to taste whatever I have given up. I wish that I could harness that strength and self-discipline every day and always think of it in terms of Jesus. But in reality, that is much easier said than done. It is something I will have to practice.
I guess if you look at it as something you’re doing now, then create a habit and get momentum and build on your successes, then maybe your chances of success are greater. I quit smoking numerous times, even for one year and nine months once, but would always pick it back up. Until, finally, when I was 29, I thought to myself, “I’m about to really be an adult. I need to quit this childish stuff.” I smoked the last 5 cigarettes in the pack in a row and got a nice little buzz. Then I thought I’ll just see how long I can go without one. It has now been 12 years that I have “stayed quit” as I call it. Do I still think about it? Yes, occasionally when I’m stressed out or have had a big meal and want something to top it off, but it’s not something I seriously want to act on or go back to.
I’m not an alcoholic, but have definitely abused alcohol in the past and finally realized drinking was something I shouldn’t do. I do sometimes want one, but luckily, God has provided things such as smoothies, fruit drinks, and non-alcoholic beer which let me have the taste I like and would miss, without having the unwanted alcohol too. That makes me happy. I’ve learned that a lot of times when we sacrifice something, God provides us with something just as good or even better to replace it.
I often make lists of what I need to do and then find satisfaction in checking things off as I complete them. It may take a long time to get to things. Sometimes I have to create a second list for more long term items or I keep making new lists and the same things wind up on the new ones. Making lists helps me prioritize what needs to be done first and is most important from things that can wait. It also helps me group like tasks together so that I can maximize my time and am not running back and forth across town. It helps me develop a strategy and plan to get things done.
Often times, for me, just getting started (like doing work at home, or studying, or chores, or especially mowing the lawn) is the hardest part. Most of the time once I’m doing it, I end up enjoying what I thought would be unpleasant or seemed to be too large of a job. Once I actually get started I can spend hours happily doing the task and it is not as bad as I envisioned. Procrastination and inactivity only makes the dread worse and builds up the anxiety and makes it seem more daunting than it really is.
In the past coming up with a schedule for working out and sticking to it was what helped me be the most successful. I try to do that now, but all too often life seems to get in the way of my plans. Sometimes it is other obligations, but more often I think I’m too tired to exercise. However, when I push myself to do it anyway, although I’m still tired afterward, it’s different. I feel invigorated and energized and healthier. When I string several days together at the gym I feel better and begin to really see the difference.
I think and have read that self-discipline is doing things we know we should do even when we don’t want to or feel like it. It’s also self-deprivation which is not fun but necessary. It doesn’t have to mean you can’t be nice to yourself by moderation or finding other rewards, but sometimes moderation is not possible because we can’t handle it and will backslide and sabotage ourselves because yes, we are just that weak.
But self-discipline is not just about changing bad habits. It is also necessary to accomplish the goals we set for ourselves such as finishing a degree or getting a certain job, saving for a car, paying off debt, or any number of things which make our life better or are dreams we have which may have seemed unlikely in the past. With hard work, determination, and self-discipline, we can do most things we set our mind to if they are part of God’s plan for us.
Well, this is getting pretty long, so I’ll post the prayer and the Bible verses that go along with this in my next blog.