How to Build Self Discipline to Do What Matters

I have to start off with some words from the best book, because this is what is often in my head when I’m struggling with how to build self-discipline (a life-long activity it seems)  and frustrated because I’m not getting tasks done that I really want to do.

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. [I’ve got things I want to do with my time, but I’m still spending too much time doing things that don’t move me forward.] Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. . . I want to do what is good, but I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. [Even when I have clearly decided on and planned what things are ideal for me to do to reach my goals, I still find myself doing things that aren’t what I want to do, but are just silly habits of activity.] But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. . . I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. [There is that ‘natural’ part of me that is contradictory to my true self, my spirit, my higher self – God within me – that is always trying to take the lead.]

These are selected verses from Romans 7:15-23 (NIV). I’ve added some emphasis and my thoughts in square brackets to share more about my individual perspective.

mountain top summit - "self-discipline doesn't limit, it gives you freedom"

 

What’s evident in my life is that I’ll always have these nagging thoughts telling me that I want to just relax and watch tv for the night. And there’s nothing wrong with that in moderation. But if I’ve put 15 hours a week (or more) into watching tv for purely entertainment purposes, I have that higher part of myself reminding me that I don’t actually need that much ‘entertainment’ time with the tv. I’m reminded of the goals that I really want to achieve and how I would have been a lot better off by using 10 of those hours working towards achievements instead of being complacent with entertainment.

I’ve got a few other activities that I have this same perspective on, but the point I want to teach here is that you will have competing thoughts telling you to do one thing over another and your ‘wants’ aren’t actually all that clear.

When my boys tell me they don’t want to do something, I usually follow that up with “You don’t do what you want to have a good life, you do what needs to get done.”

I love having a clean and tidy home, but I don’t want to clean. I strive to instill certain values and ethics in my children, but it’s much easier to just let them do the things that make them happy and occupied (which would be non-stop video games and tv watching for my two guys). I want to grow my business, but I feel called to grow it in ways that puts me in situations WAY outside of my comfort zone – a place I don’t really want to be. 

I’ve learned how to build self-discipline in every area of my life and in different ways for different purposes.

Practicing self-discipline comes in all shapes and sizes and we are all practicing it to a degree to get work done, clean our homes, raise our kids and have healthy bodies. Some of it happens more naturally in certain areas of our lives and other parts of life needs some consistent planning and attention to be disciplined enough to do what matters most.

Self-Discipline Comes from Passion and Purpose

Success in any aspect of your life is a result of planning out your goals and getting creative. Whether you are formally writing them out (which you should do – there’s power in writing and speaking what you want) or just have the ideas thought out in your head, success comes from planning and doing what you’ve set out to do. By thinking about and planning your life on purpose you will discover more about who you are and what you really want. 

It could be great if I end that advice there and say “That’s how I do it! I write out my goals and then I just do them – achieving good stuff all day, every day!”.

But the reality is that the self-discipline required doesn’t come easily. And it plays a big role in getting the work done and those goals achieved.

Thankfully….

       I have grown a lot in the area of discipline.

I have set many goals in many different ways. In the process I have learned so much about goal setting, productivity and myself. The most important of which is that we are all quite unique and what works for one won’t necessarily work well for another. You’re not going to find a clear answer on how to build self discipline from this article (or any others) , but you can learn a mindset to discover what can work for you to get done what matters. 

How I get (and stay) motivated to get all those tasks done to grow my business has changed over time and is a bit of a mix of advice from many different people.

One bit of advice that I’ve heard from many different people, is that if you don’t have a personal desire – a passion – for reaching your goals, it will likely be a long hard road.

Life Happens Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Whether you’re working on personal or professional goals, you’re going to be doing stuff that a part of you doesn’t want to do. You’ll experience a degree of doubt that will make you think that you don’t need to do those uncomfortable tasks. While I can’t say what you’d need to do and not do, chances are that if you’ve got a goal and planned out certain tasks to get there, then those are probably the ones you’ll want to stick with. I’ve had a few things that I thought would be good to do to reach certain goals and later decided that I wasn’t going to go that route, but that was only after really looking at the issue and deciding that it wasn’t because it was just uncomfortable that I didn’t feel like doing it.

Sometimes we can think that being disciplined means we are limiting ourselves. At least that’s what my thoughts have tried to tell me. But now I know that when I’m more disciplined with my activities and how I spend my time, I actually get to achieve those big and little goals that are exceptionally fun and exciting! A kind of fun and excitement that I could never feel without the time, effort and persistence I put into it.

God has created you to create. He has put you on this earth to do certain things and reach out to others in special ways. You’re only going to realize all that you’re truly meant to do by being disciplined. It takes time, effort and a bit of trial and error of what works best for you, but there’s lots of opportunity for us all to grow more than we can ask for or imagine. God’s power is working through us all the time and we just need to be disciplined in the right way to let His good work flow through us. (See Galatians 3:20, or better yet read the whole chapters of Galatians 3 & 4.)

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