I have a dirty secret to share: I hate discipline. No, I’m not talking about getting paddled or disciplining someone else. (I don’t particularly like those either, but that’s beside the point.) In fact, I’m not talking punitive discipline at all. I’m talking about structure, routine, focus.
And I hate it.
Well, okay, that’s not true. I admire it. For some people like my wife, self-discipline seems to come naturally. She sets reasonable goals and meets them in reasonable time. She rather quickly gives in to this internal need to be productive. She has to be convinced to waste time and money. She follows through on anything she sets her mind to.
I don’t suffer in these ways.
So far I’ve made it okay. I’ve been able to fake it based on at least two of my own talents: an interest in learning about almost anything and a desire to please people, especially authority figures. This is how undisciplined people make it through things like seminary. But I know this isn’t enough.
If I want to do anything great with my life, I need some measure of discipline. I don’t want to be forced to do what I should because of deadlines and punishments. I want to be internally motivated to accomplish the things I already want to do.
Confusing? It has been for me. I’ve always been a person of big dreams (maybe debilitating big at times) and I’m really hard on myself when I fail. I want to know the Bible inside and out. I want to have a firm grasp of history and be well-read in major works of theology, philosophy, and religion. I want to master the languages I’ve begun to learn and continue to learn new ones. It’s possible! It’s within my grasp! But I haven’t been able to structure my life in such a way as to follow through… at least not without external forces.
While this has turned out to be somewhat confessional, I actually had something more productive in mind. I have a question for you, and I really want to hear your advice. I’m stuck. I need to learn self-discipline for a whole host of reasons; those mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg. But where do I start?
Disciplined people of the world, come to my aid! How do you force yourself to do what you know you should when other forces conspire to intervene? How do you wake up, read, accomplish, diet, exercise, or do whatever it is you do based on principle alone? Rigid schedules drive me crazy. I can barely last a week before I’m ready to beat my head against the wall. I love my freedom. And it’s killing me.
This doesn’t come naturally. I can’t “just do it.” (And enlisting in the military isn’t an option either.) So what can I do? How could I start exercising self-control and self-discipline tomorrow? What’s worked for you? Have you been where I am or is it totally a foreign concept to you? Is there any hope? Any advice you can give is most appreciated!
[Editor’s note: Proverbs says to discipline yourself. So I guess that’s on me. I’ve decided I need to first believe it’s possible, and second… just do it. Wish me luck!]