It comes down to the issue of self-mastery. Self-mastery means being able to regulate one's choices, behaviors, words, thoughts, and feelings. Another word for self-mastery is self-discipline. Although the word discipline somehow has gotten a bad rap and often conjures up images of Catholic nuns smacking you with a ruler, self-discipline is critical to our moving forward in life.
We need a change of perspective on the word discipline. How about we replace the word "discipline" with the word "mastery". Self-mastery. Doesn't that have a better ring to it? Think of it as a tool in your arsenal to help you achieve your goals in life: lose weight, get out of debt, enjoy an exercise routine and even develop a spiritual practice.
We need discipline in many areas of life: at work, at home, in public, and with ourselves. I hear people say all the time things like: "I am so undisciplined" or "I am so lazy". Stop saying things like that because our words become a self-fulfilling prophesy. I'm willing to bet you are holding down a steady job of some sort. If so, you have already developed discipline. You get up everyday to go to work. You pack your lunch, get dressed and endure a possibly grueling commute to get to work on time. This takes discipline. Not everybody can manage to do that. Give yourself a pat on the back. Now think about this.
If you have mastery in one area of your life, it means you have already developed the skill to some extent. Now all you need to do is to apply this skill to another area of your life. For example, I have some friends who are constantly trying to lose weight. Weight loss is no easy feat. I know because I used to be several pounds overweight myself and I still battle the bulge. They tell me they are going to start a diet, an exercise program, join Weight Watchers, etc. They ask me to hold them accountable. Then what happens? Nothing. After a few weeks, I bravely get up the courage to ask how the diet is going and then I hear something to this effect: "I just can't seem to stick to it" or "I don't have time to get to the gym", basically, an excuse.
The real reason they are not able to lose the weight is a matter of not applying the skill of discipline in this area. Weight loss is another opportunity to practice discipline. The same thought processes you use to get yourself to go to work everyday can be applied to any goal. How do you get yourself to work? Do you say "I'm too busy" or "I can't get up in time"? No, we make ourselves do it because we want the paycheck. In the same way, if we really and truly want to be thinner, we will make ourselves do the necessary steps. For example, a goal might be: lose 5 pounds by Easter. The action steps might be 1) walk briskly for 30 minutes 3 - 4 times a week and 2) cut back on portion sizes. These are realistic and achievable for anyone. Any goal can be broken down into simple yet doable steps.
Today the day to pick an area of your life where you want to make changes. Establish a realistic and reasonable time-oriented goal and then create a short list of action items. Post this list somewhere you will see it every day. Writing down our goals and having them in front of us keeps us focused.
Now that I have discussed the practical side of discipline, let's talk about the spiritual component.
We need to have faith in ourselves that we CAN achieve our goals. I think a major reason people fail to change is that they lack the faith in themselves to accomplish their goals. Faith is the fuel that fires up our engines. Without faith, we can achieve nothing. If we say to ourselves "I'll never lose this weight" or "I'll never get out of debt" again we are setting ourselves up for failure. We must believe we have the power and the discipline to make the changes we want to see in our lives. How else are we going to live "the abundant life"?
So, what one area of your life do you want to change? Next, define 3 - 5 action steps you can take to make progress on this goal. Above all, reprogram your thinking. Start telling yourself "I can ......". One of my favorite verses says "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil 4:13). As a Christian, if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we have the power within us to move mountains, not just lose those 5 pounds.
Until next time, I hope this post has inspired and motivated you to make that change. You CAN do it! Write me and let me know how it's going.
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