The demands of discipline

April 14, 2008 — Leave a comment

I increasingly appreciate a good work-out — you know, the kind that results in burning muscles and lots of sweat. I try to get in some cardio and strength training several times each week. With my metabolism now beginning to slow, exercise is not the only thing needed to keep me fitting in my favorite clothes. I also must be diligent to eat healthy.

Discipline in this area is not always easy for me because I LOVE food — especially sweets. A family friend many years ago explained her philosophy of staying trim and fit: “I eat to live; I don’t live to eat.” Well, that pretty well sums it up, doesn’t it?

Still, in a day and age of crazy schedules, fast-food fare has become a staple for many families. And, no matter what their latest green or grilled offering may be, there’s just a real sense in which it can’t be as good for you as something prepared at home.

Whether getting proper rest, exercise, or nutrition, discipline is a major factor in achieving the desired results.

Hebrews 12:11 reminds us of the reality of discipline:

For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness — in conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God]. (Amplified Bible)

With every counseling client I see, one of my first observations is in this area of discipline. When I find a client that demonstrates discipline in many areas of life, then I automatically know that he or she will be more likely than others to work hard toward the goals in therapy. Does this mean that person will achieve everything he sets out to accomplish? Certainly not. But it does give me a reason to think the person might actually do the homework and assignments necessary for progress.

It is easy to be distracted or even lazy in life. So many things compete for our time and attention on a regular basis. Being disciplined requires commitment and a long-term perspective. Think about it. Discipline connotes consistency. I often hear people say things like, “Well, at least I was disciplined for a little while.” That’s really not possible. If you’re disciplined in something, that means you’re being consistent over a long period of time.

Consider these definitions of discipline:

1. activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill;
2. Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement.

What if an olympic athlete demonstrated discipline to her training routine only a couple times a month? What if a scientist demonstrated discipline to study only a few times per year? These things seem silly, don’t they? That’s because we know that long-term goals cannot be achieved without a measure of discipline.

While I enjoy working out physically, I must admit that there are those days that I really don’t look forward to heading to the gym. I am frequently tempted to hide behind a whole host of excuses: “I’m too tired”; “My head hurts”; “It’s too cold.” All those things become hurdles that I must learn to anticipate and prepare for. After all, discipline is not easy for most people. As the Bible verse above clearly states, discipline is often painful. But it produces results that last a lifetime.

The right attitude is absolutely key to maintaining discipline. Attitude is what keeps us pushing through the pain.

So, how is your attitude today? What parts of your life could use a little more discipline? What little change can you make today to help you reach your long-term goals?

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