To a great degree, discipline is a set of habits that can be cultivated.
I read that quote in a blog post last week and was arrested by the thought. We behave as though we are either disciplined people or we aren't. As if it is some sort of cosmic choice out of our control. It's not. We all learn discipline; we aren't born with it.
There are some habits that I am so grateful to have. They are part of my life and I don't really think about whether or not to do them. Reading my Bible every day, cleaning up the kitchen after each meal, planning out our work, brushing my teeth multiple times a days are all things I do without debating when or if to do them. That is so helpful for my life. I started to consider some thoughts about this personal discipline.
-One habit won't make you a disciplined person but it will make you a more disciplined person. We can start one habit at a time and build our personal discipline. We can start reading our Bible, even just for five minutes, every single day. We can start working out, even just for five minutes, every single day. We can start doing, to some small degree, whatever it is that we want to be a part of our lives. Maybe you want a cleaner house. Clean, every day, for five minutes. Make a list and do something from it every single day. Pick one thing and start small. Once you do that daily (or pretty close to it) add another habit. You'd be surprised at how quickly life can change this way.
-It requires work. The habits have to be cultivated. You have to make yourself do the work even when you don't feel like it. It will require attention and effort on your part to make these habits part of your life. Think about raising your children. It requires attention and effort to make sure your children learn to brush their teeth on a regular basis. But once it's part of their lives you don't really have to worry about it after that. Give yourself the same gift and cultivate some discipline for yourself. It's not a punishment; it's a blessing.
You would be surprised at what you can accomplish in one day if you simply keep working. Don't stop to check facebook or read your emails (unless it's time to do those things). And I'm not talking about being busy; we live in a culture that glorifies being busy. I'm talking about doing God's work for your day. That may include sitting on the couch with your kids reading, spending some time on your writing/painting/crafting, cuddling your baby and enjoying his baby grins, taking a nap so that you can be gracious with your family all evening. I'm not suggesting that we use discipline as an excuse to be so busy that we have no time for the important people (or tasks) in our lives. Sometimes the most important things can feel the least productive. But if you want to learn to do God's work for you well, you will need some discipline about yourself.
Know what it's time to do and do it. Don't do anything else. Of course when you are raising small children you have the training of your children as the trump card. It might be time to clean the bathroom or conduct circle time but that may need to stop so you can deal with a discipline issue or an attitude problem. Don't be frustrated; that is your overall mission. Deal with the interruption and then go back to the task at hand. But don't stop for things that don't matter. Let the phone ring if it's not important. Leave the internet alone. Don't sit and watch tv. Be about your work.
How do you form new habits? What are the habits that have been most beneficial for your life?