How I’m Growing in Self-Discipline

How I'm Growing in Self-Discipline // jessconnell.com

I’ve never been a particularly disciplined person. People who know me well, saw my room when I was growing up, or who have ever seen the dishes stacked in my kitchen, are probably snickering right now.

In fact, quite the opposite. I typically fly by the seat of my pants, procrastinate, and mostly do what I please.

Even though I was an A student, I was the girl who happily took a D on the end-of-the-year run in 7th grade P.E. Though I was skinny and healthy and played baseball with the boys on my brother’s little league team, I walked the entire P.E. mile rather than running it because I just didn’t want to push past “hard.” (Have trouble understanding that? Me too. The only way I can make sense of it is that I liked baseball and didn’t like running. The end.)

PUSHING PAST “HARD”

When I look back at this last year, I would say the most stark difference in my life is in the area of self-discipline.

Lately, y’all:

  • I’ve been getting up at 6am, regularly. (PSST– this has seriously never happened!)
  • I’m exercising 4-6 times a week. Podcasts changed this for me. I pop in my earbuds and walk and jog all over town in random directions until I come home, and it’s been anywhere from 40-75 minutes. (I’m actually NOT tracking the #s, miles, minutes, calories burned, nothing, because it’s more motivating for me to just do it and enjoy it, rather than to count.) And I’ve found I’m happy to do it because I’m listening and learning all the while.
  • I’ve been regularly writing, and not procrastinating up to the last second, for my freelance Bible study work.
  • Doug & I have had almost-weekly breakfast dates where we go through upcoming events and commitments, and talk through challenges coming up in our lives, and I feel so much more on the ball than I ever have, even though we have more going on than we ever have.
  • I’m actually doing more regular cleaning, KonMari-style decluttering, and and keeping a tidier house than I ever have before.

It’s tempting to think I was just young and lazy and lacking discipline, and I think that’s part of it, but from what I can tell, there are two reasons I’ve not been a super-disciplined person up to this point:

  1. Speaking honestly here– I’m a gal for whom many things came easy, and so I developed an early-in-life penchant for sticking with things I was naturally good at, and not working very hard at things that didn’t come easily.
  2. I also think a large part of it is a result of our 14 moves in our first 14 years of marriage.

When change is constant,

  • getting a solid schedule, or
  • being intentional about a meal plan, or
  • getting up at the same time every day, or
  • developing realistic, doable exercise routines

all are much more difficult, because almost all of my energy was going to surviving. I didn’t realize it at the time, though. I thought I was just random and unpredictable. Sometimes I’d implement a meal plan out of desperation. And sometimes I stuck to them. But for the most part, any form of stable “schedules” or predictability was little-to-none during the first decade and a half of our marriage.

We moved to Washington two years ago, at the end of March 2014. In about a year, this will be the longest we’ve ever lived anywhere. 

Suddenly I’m finding that I have small portions of extra energy that aren’t being used up (like has been the case in our whole marriage) by moving, packing, getting adjusted to new places, finding doctors, finding grocery stores, figuring out where to buy basic things like socks and shoes and clothes for my growing kids, learning new languages, facing culture shock, helping kids get adjusted, facing reverse culture shock, continually building new relationships, etc.

A few things have impacted me in the last year, enough to nudge me out of my old undisciplined M.O.–

  1. encountering this family
  2. writing out these “Resolved”s
  3. reading this book (caution: don’t read if you can’t eat-the-meat-and-spit-out-the-bones. There are a lot of bones in this one.) 
  4. hearing my husband counsel people from this booklet
  5. realizing that I’m 36, and my body is not going to get back in shape on its own.

Here’s the most impactful commitment I made– #5 on my above-mentioned “Resolved” list:

#5- Resolved: To play games and eat celebratory foods/drinks only in community, never in isolation– treating these as occasional, purposeful treats rather than regular, thoughtlessly-consumed rights or treats I’ve earned through a flawed notion of “being good.”

(Basically, I have stopped grabbing treats under a notion that “I deserve it” and I’ve stopped eating treats in isolation from others. Those two new thinking patterns & commitments have made a huge difference in my mindless eating habits.)

WHY I’M NOT SHARING MY STATS AND PROGRESS

One other thing I’ve learned this year is that I am actually MORE motivated to keep going with exercise by NOT sharing it on social media or ticking it off on a box. Instead of having an internal sense of, “I’ve done that. Check,” (which leaves me feeling like I’ve already done it, so why get up and do it again tomorrow?) and instead of training my heart to desire the approval/notice of others, I’m staying motivated to keep exercising for the right reasons– because it’s healthy, and because it’s what I believe is right for me for this season.

This is not to say others are wrong to share these things on social media channels, but rather, that I’ve realized that for me, one component of this is just choosing to live out a quiet obedience. Doing the right, hard thing, because it’s right. Not because I want others to notice. Not because I want the applause at a meeting. Not because I want to see the numbers go up (how long/hard I exercise) or go down (my weight) but because I think it’s right and good, even if it’s hard.

NEW PERSPECTIVE

I’m enjoying this new perspective on life– new practices of self-discipline, an increasing affection for hard things, and stronger will to push through challenges. I think I have more determination and strength to keep going when I hit obstacles, rather than feeling overwhelmed and taking a path of lesser resistance.

 

YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:

How I'm Fighting Mindless Eating & Distractedness // jessconnell.com

 

[Personal update: if you’re wondering about Doug, we are in the hospital, and he’s being observed and tested by neurologists. Pray that they will keep digging and have insight to help find the reason for his symptoms. Thank you!]

IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE:

  • Are you by nature a disciplined person, or more undisciplined?
  • How does stress affect your self-discipline?

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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9 Responses

  1. Laura says:

    What an inspiring post! I feel so encouraged to get off my behind and start doing hard things!

  2. Ben says:

    Wow. That’s cool.

  3. Beth says:

    I am totally with you on this one; as a kid, almost everything came easily to me, so I never learned to push through the hard. I’m learning, and I can say that I’m much more organized, disciplined and able to do hard things now at the age of 37 (and 4 kids). Still have a ways to go, but an ultra-disciplined husband and the desire for our kids to be able to do hard things are both very motivating.

  4. Jessica says:

    I can really identify with this. We just had 3 kids in three years (and an older boy as well) and I am realizing that things aren’t just going to happen. I need to do them and set systems in place that will help me streamline my decision making so each task doesn’t seem monumental.

  5. Rachel says:

    I’m the opposite. I love to “push through hard”. But, it never prepared me for the lack of sleep I’d encounter with allergy babies (which we didn’t know what the problem was at the time, they just cried and cried), a husband and myself with adrenal fatigue, starting out our childbearing years at 30 instead of 20. Now with pregnancy #6 at 40, I’ve reached a new level of tiredness that I’ve still never encountered before (extremely low iron, which I’m diligently raising). The pushing through hard has reached an all time low, once again but in a different form this time. I’m too tired to take a shower, let alone exercise or get up early. I take a nap every.single.day. I used to love solving problems, challenging myself and didn’t understand why more people didn’t have more self-control. But, God’s still working on me, hopefully for the better! Who knows what He’ll teach me in years to come.

  6. Amanda Sundby-Banry says:

    Thank you! I’m going to go through the links and work on applying discipline to myself also. I love pushing through “hard” things, like running marathons, being a female firefighter, or landscaping my entire yard myself, but I’m sinfully lazy in the normal everyday life things that don’t seem as “hard” like routine exercise, healthy eating day in and day out, getting up at the same time each morning, maintains an orderly, organized home with consistent routines, etc. Those are the things that are “hard” for me. Those are the areas I give up in. Why?? Is it because I’m arrogant and think their’s no amazing feat being accomplished in the monotonous routines a Morher and Wife perform day in and day out??? Is it because I’m immature and think it’s too “boring”??? You have me evaluating my heart in this regard today, thank you for that. Sadly, I’m just now really facing that although these are the thing that are most important and produce the greatest rewards, I’ve failed to work as hard at doing these things as I did when I ran a 50K or when I worked hard to get hired as a firefighter or when I pushed myself through grueling fire academies. What does this say about my heart? Sadly I think it says I’ve wasted too many years seeking accomplishments that made me proud of me rather than seeking out the accomplishments that would make God proud of me by serving others. I pray that today I will serve my God, my husband, my children and others, not myself. I ask for God to turn my worship towards Him and to become who HE wants me to be even if that means loosing everything I find my identity in. I will find my identity in Jesus Christ!

  7. Rebecca says:

    Jess,

    Thank you for this post, it sounds very familiar! I would rather do the easy thing most of the time, but want to push myself and grow. What are your favorite podcasts to listen to? Which ones help you when you exercise? I would love a post on resources like that. :)

    Blessings on you and your family!

    • Jess Connell says:

      Al Mohler’s The Briefing is wonderful for politics/news/worldview.

      Smart Passive Income (with Pat Flynn) is great if you’re into business/entrepreneurial ideas.

      Risen Motherhood has become a new favorite– it’s put out by a two sisters-in-law and covers mothering topics with a Gospel-centered perspective.

      I go in spurts with various others, usually taking in my favorite pastors (Alistair Begg, Matt Chandler, John Piper, Randy Alcorn, John MacArthur) in whatever forms I can.

      I like “Ask Pastor John” — they’re pithy & usually helpful.

      A favorite one about camping/hiking is “The First 40 Miles” — really fun & useful info there.

      Russell Moore also has “Signposts” which I’ve just started listening to.

      Hope this gives you some helpful ideas.

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