The Secret to Effective and Joyful Self-Discipline

Self Discipline

A friend of mine is an avid runner.

She’s so dedicated that some would say she’s addicted.

She feels uneasy if she hasn’t run in a few days and has confessed that, in the past, it was a battle for her to do other things (such as read her Bible) instead of run in the morning.

She’s extremely disciplined.

But she loves it.

Her feelings towards running always intrigued me, because I’m the type of person who would probably rather go to the dentist than run in the morning.

What can I learn from her about loving to exercise?

The Love of Different Things

As I thought about it, I realized there are areas where I love to do things that other people hate – such as my interest in time management.

I enjoy setting goals, reviewing my priorities, and constantly thinking about better ways to be more effective. But there are some people whose eyes glaze over when they think about productivity.

Why do some love running while others can’t stand it? Why do many enjoy time management while thinking about these concepts bores other people to tears?

Some people, like my running friend, not only exert a high level of self-discipline – but they do so joyfully.

How can we unlock the secret to their discipline? How could I teach others to love time management or teach myself to love running?

The Answer

There’s a pattern in those who are joyfully disciplined.

For those who love to exercise, their self-discipline normally starts with a strong desire to be physically attractive, to be healthy and live long, to excel in sports, etc.

Those who love time management usually start their journey with a strong desire to accomplish, achieve success, have peace of mind, etc.

They start with the end in mind. They long for the benefits of disciplined effort. It’s an intense craving.

The Important Link

That sounds pretty obvious – but they take it one step further. And here’s the key. Here’s what separates the undisciplined from those who are joyously disciplined.

This is the secret to effective and joyful self-discipline:

You must connect the activity of discipline with the benefits of discipline.

Allow me to explain this with a story.

Discipline without Direction Is Drudgery

In the first chapter of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney opens with the insightful statement:

Discipline without direction is drudgery.

Then Whitney relates the illustration of a young guitar player, Kevin, bored with his practice. Kevin is given a chance to see himself in the future as a guitar virtuoso – but only if he practices.

Do you think his attitude toward practice will be different now? As long as he remembers what he’s going to become, Kevin’s discipline will have a direction, a goal that will pull him into the future. Yes, effort will be involved but you can hardly call it drudgery.

Joy Depends on Seeing the Choices Now

When we see exercising as the gateway to health – and when we see this while our feet are pounding the pavement – the more self-disciplined we’ll be.

Now, our exercise isn’t toil – it’s a joyous pursuit of a future we long for.

Really wanting to be debt-free helps you have the discipline to budget. Viewing each trip to the store as a decision to choose a debt-free future is when the discipline is cemented.

Longing to manage your time well ignites a spark of discipline. The flame of self-discipline burns brightly when you view each second as a choice moving you one step closer towards your goals.

Towards not wasting your life.
Towards loving others.
Towards glorifying God.
Towards hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant.

Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon (Creative Commons)

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