A female eating an apple
SOME PEOPLE seem to be endowed with superhuman willpower, while others seem to lack it to a great degree. I’m one of those last. But it doesn’t mean that I’m relegated to the back seat when it comes to cultivating self discipline. Self-discipline is not in your genes; it is a learned behavior. And if I can master it (to some degree), so can you. Here are the things that work for me.

  1. Admit that you struggle. Many people simply refuse to admit that they have a problem, but like in most things, admitting the problem is the first step to overcoming it. Don’t harbor the thought, “I could stop if I wanted to,” just to avoid recognizing that there is a problem to fix.
  2. Make a plan. You need a strategy to develop self discipline. No one just wakes up one day with it. Whether you need to focus on developing good habits—like reading the Bible everyday—or getting rid of bad habits—like gossiping with the neighbors—you need to plan some action steps to make the change.
  3. Get rid of temptations. The Bible says, “Walk away from evil and do good.” Don’t leave temptations where they are easily accessed. That’s just asking for failure. If you can’t resist cookies between meals, don’t buy cookies. It only takes one minute of weakness to give into temptation.
  4. Get used to discomfort. Practice makes perfect, so they say. No one likes being uncomfortable, but self discipline is necessary to overcome the negative emotions that flood in when we are. Practice letting uncomfortable situations make you stronger, whether it’s boredom, frustrations, sadness or loneliness. You can tolerate more than you realize.
  5. Keep the long-term rewards in mind. It may really be tempting to give in, just this once, and tomorrow you’ll get back on track, but that’s defeatist thinking. Keeping a vision of the end goal in mind can help you stay on track. Visualize what the final result will be, and focus on it when temptation raises its ugly head.
  6. Don’t let mistakes sideline you. Somedays are just easier than others. Stress can cause you to lose your focus for a time. Just don’t let it replace all the hard work you’ve already done. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back on the horse. Remember the long term goal and refocus.

You can do this. I can do this. There is no one who cannot benefit from cultivating self discipline, and anyone can do it. Just remember: the greatest journey began with a single step.

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