How I’m Growing in Self-Discipline
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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.–
- encountering this family
- writing out these “Resolved”s
- 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.)
- hearing my husband counsel people from this booklet
- 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.
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.
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[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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