One is to begin with small things…to begin with small things. Learn to discipline yourself in the little things of life because it is the little things of life that make for the big successes. You must begin with the small things. Every little issue of life has to carry weight and importance, not because, listen carefully to this, not because in itself it’s important, but your integrity, your credibility, your word is important even in little things. And learning to train yourself in those little things is absolutely essential.
Another principle, and I’m not elucidating these but just kind of suggesting them as food for thought, another one is clean your environment. What do I mean by that? Get rid of all that stuff, clean your desk, your room, your house, your garage, there’s a thought. Just become discontent with a mess in general. Get yourself to the place where orderliness matters. Some people need a lot of help in this area. But learn how to get rid of the excess, learn how to trim down, learn how to keep your environment clean and clear so that you can function without a myriad of distractions and so that you’ve made decisions and selections about what matters, what doesn’t, what’s important, what isn’t.
Make a schedule, that’s a third one. I’m not necessarily suggesting that you have a daytimer book and you write down every breath you’re going to take through the day, or that you put up some big calendar in your house. But I am saying make a schedule and learn to conform to it, whether it’s an absolute hard and fast schedule which appeals to the engineer type sort of accountant type folks, or whether it’s a little more fluid, but nonetheless you can anticipate things and you can establish time frames in which they need to be done and learn to train yourself to keep that schedule.
Another principle of developing self-discipline is to wean yourself off of being entertained so that entertainment becomes for you really something that’s arbitrary…you can take it or leave it. Get yourself to the place where you if you have excess time do things that are productive rather than sit and be entertained. Entertainment, makes a very, very small contribution to your well being and to your success. Wean yourself off of being entertained. Another alternative, how about this, read or take a walk with somebody, or have a conversation, or plant flowers or something.
Another principle that I learned long ago and is very important to me is to be on time…be on time. That means you can order your little universe so you can get where you need to get when you’re supposed to be there, clothed and in your right mind. Learn to be on time. Even in small things, even in insignificant things because it says an awful lot about how your life is ordered and how you’ve preplanned all the stops between here and where you need to be at that moment. It’s very important, and it says volumes to the people are supposed to meet you there about how important it is for you to be with them.
Keep your word, that’s another one, even in the littlest things…keep your word. If you say you’re going to do it, do it and do it when you’re going to do it and do it the way you said you’d do it because your word is so important. Don’t make promises you don’t keep. Make commitments and see them through. That calls for discipline. That calls for discipline before you make the commitment because you have to look and evaluate the time, your talent and the capability that you have circumstantially to pull it off. Once you’ve made your commitment, keep your word in the littlest thing. It might be the smallest thing, learn to keep your word and you’ll begin to keep your word in big things.
Another thing that has really helped me through the years is to do the hardest task first. Always do the hardest task first. Whatever is most difficult, that’s what you want to begin with. And save the very easiest thing for last. Most people work on the reverse. And when they run out of time, and they’ve run out of energy, then they have an excuse not to do what they should have done first because it was most difficult and probably most important.
Another principle of self-discipline is to finish what you start…finish what you start. Some people’s lives are just a long litany of unfinished stuff. If you start it, finish it. That is a tremendously important principle of self-discipline, finish what you start.
Here’s another one. Practice self-denial…practice self-denial just for the sake of self-denial. Just say no so you can say to yourself, “Self, you can say no when you want to.” I mean, it might be something you would like to do, might be something that’s fine to do, just say no so you can remind yourself you’re still in charge and you’re not completely at the whim of your impulse. I’ve suggested even that next time you have the opportunity to eat a triple decker, super-big banana split, topped with chocolate and all of that, you might just say no, just so you can say to your stomach, “See, I’m still in charge.” It’s good to practice self-denial.
And then another thing that I think is really good for self-discipline is to volunteer, is to just volunteer for tasks. That means you’ve got to leave a little space in your life, you’ve got to have your life ordered well enough to say, “Hey, I’d like to try that, I’d like to step into that, I want to help over there.” And to subject yourself to something that really isn’t a part of your own agenda, but it’s necessary and it calls for some order in your life.
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
1 Corinthians 9:27