Two Perspectives – Self Discipline 2


Self-Discipline – Perspective 2

By Tori

 Self-Discipline seems to be a fleeting characteristic these days with a culture that continues to teach indulgence, extravagance, and pleasure first. We are bombarded with these types of images, but rarely see the hard work behind those shown results or the other side of the reality that pays for those choices. However, as a former collegiate athlete, academic lover, and Learning Foundations coach, I believe self-discipline is an essential skill to be learned, a useful quality to possess and obtain, and an art form (depending on what you are applying it to).

I also agree with Coach Joe that sometimes self-discipline can be easy in certain areas and not others; for instance, in terms of athletics and working out I possess amazing self-discipline and that provided things and opened doors to me in college, however I am have not always been so self-disciplined in finances, which has also gotten me things and opened doors I would have preferred to remain shut.

So, what is Self-Discipline? How do we instill it in our students and home culture? How do we get our students to grab onto and gain this skill/characteristic? Is it a viable thing to want and have?


What is Self-Discipline?

Webster’s Dictionary describes self-discipline as training and control of oneself for the purpose of improvement. That’s pretty spot on. The things that come to mind when I think about self-discipline in my life are: running in adverse weather conditions, doing hill workouts, sitting down to read my bible daily, doing homework exercises assigned, cleaning the shower every week, going to bed at 10pm, eating healthy and not a lot of cookies and candy, purposefully being still for fifteen minutes or more at least once a week, and no social media every Monday including only necessary use of the cellphone that day. These are all self-discipline scenarios I have and currently implement in my life and there is positively something to gain from each one. That’s key there is a positive something to gain!

The mantra I think of with self-discipline is “You have to be willing to do something uncomfortable till it becomes comfortable.”

You’ve hit the sweet spot when the activity no longer becomes something you dread or is really hard because you have adjusted, grown and become stronger. It may even become something you enjoy regardless of the energy required.


So, how do we instill this in our students?

They say a habit takes 28 days to create – or kick – depending on your desired outcome.

  1. Set a time goal – start with 28 days because then the activity or lack of that particular activity should become a habit and feel more normal or comfortable after that time period.
  1. Get the buy in – many people need to understand the purpose and benefit of doing something before they will agree to do it. Put this purpose up in a place that is easy to see, so the student is reminded of the reward and outcome.
  1. Acknowledge that they may not WANT to do it or LIKE to do it, but that the activity is important and there is a positive gain (even if they don’t think it’s a positive gain explain the gain in short time and long time terms – this goes along with step 2 – see above).

Students and kids need to realize that the world is an unfair place, there are things they will come against in life they don’t want to do, but need to do or have to do and the attitude with which they approach it will make a world of difference.


How do we get our students to grab onto and gain this skill/characteristic?

There are many ways to go about learning and obtaining this skill, but a great way to teach self-discipline is presenting it as a challenge or game. Everyone in the family could participate or just the student themselves.

  • Definable, direct goals or steps should be created for the student to reach.
  • Parameters and requirements should be clearly defined, stated, and written down – have your student help with these and if older ask them questions to get them to think through creating these guidelines that will help them reach a goal.
  • A tracking system is essential – it’s so much more fun when you can see your daily progress and it is an accountability system as well, so put it somewhere where everyone can see it and encourage progress.

I am hesitant to encourage competition amongst family members because it can become negative (that will go against the efforts of teaching self-discipline). But, if you’re a competitive family, then this may be a great way to help a student learn to do something they don’t like. Frame it as “Let’s learn/do this together.”

  • Some ideas are: see how many books you can read in a summer or whose room stays the cleanest during the week or who completes all their chores (chores involving organization or house help duties and school work/bills completion) or outside activity time versus electronics.
  • The competition must be surrounded by positive and uplifting comments – words make a difference! So, amongst siblings and parents only positive talk regarding competition and effort should be allowed.
    • Positive examples: “Wow, you’ve got lots of checkmarks on your chores this week! I’ve never seen so many, you must be working hard” or “Your room has been looking so nice and clean this week” or “The house is so comfortable to be in when it’s organized. Doesn’t it make you feel calmer? (note this self-realization question here!)”
    • Negative examples: “I have so many more checks than you, you’re gonna loose this week” or “I finished all my chores, how many more do you have? ” or “I’ve finished all my homework already. When will you be done?/how much longer do you have?” (these last two statements though they may seem innocent are implying that one person is better than the other person or smarter than the other person because they are done already or have completed more – that is not positive!)

So, if you are going to create a competition, do it carefully because if negativity surrounds the creation of self-discipline then the student won’t be as likely to take to it. Would you want to try learning something uncomfortable just to be constantly reminded you’re no good at it? How long will you keep trying it? The point is to learn to be better at what you may not be good at, so no negativity, please!

An even better way to learn self-discipline is to create self-competition, so the student is competing against himself or herself! This builds the characteristic of intrinsic motivation, which according to many scientific studies on academic and athletics is more useful and lasting than extrinsic motivation, which is based on an external factor or other person (this outward factor is not controllable to you, so your outcome is not controllable – well that won’t necessarily bode well if you want success because you can’t guarantee it!)

Help your student create attainable goals that you can encourage them toward and celebrate with them (or for them if they need to learn this). This self-competition will be more effective in building a lasting characteristic of self-discipline as well as teaching the student how to create and improve themselves with a method where they can control thier success (because after all it depends solely on them)!


Is it a viable thing to want and have?

Self-discipline is a vital characteristic of some of the most successful, content, capable, and admired people in today’s world.

  • Olympic athletes – daily they do uncomfortable things to become physically stronger
  • CEO’s who most likely began at some mediocre job that had bad shift hours and maybe made coffee for everyone daily for a year and got up at 4am to do it
  • A news reporter who had the night desk job and writing obituaries to start
  • An entrepreneur who works 15 hour days and covers all loose ends and dropped balls and walks business flyers every weekend till the business grows big enough to hire more people
  • A lead pastor like Matt Chandler or Tim Keller or J.D. Greear, who studies and prays daily for an hour or more (built up over time through self-discipline) or goes to seminary while raising 2-4 kids and working a full time job or does evangelism on Tuesdays at the local college.

The thing to note about these examples is they had to start somewhere and that was probably a place they weren’t too keen on or that was hard! Find an example that would be useful to your child and the self-discipline area they working on. Show them the potential outcome and benefit in a way that they would be excited, such as if they love space and astronauts talk to them about the self-discipline an astronaut has to have and how their learning of self-discipline in whatever area you have defined can help them be like that astronaut or person they admire.

Also, an essential component to having them recognize the viability of self-discipline is asking them self-realizing questions. For instance, Coach Jen wanted her boys to realize playing violent video games was not very helpful to them and created anxiety and anger in their attitude, which she recognized and they didn’t. She wanted them to learn to self-discipline in the area of game choice and time spent playing versus doing something else more constructive. They set up a goal of only playing for a certain amount of time and not before bed. After a week, she asked them how they were feeling? Did they notice a difference in their dreams or bedtime routine? They ON THEIR OWN recognized the difference in their feelings and contentedness. They were less angry, less anxious, and happier with themselves for the other things they accomplished during the time not spent playing the violent games. The key here is helping the student recognize the benefit by asking “leading” questions. If they recognize it themselves (not told by you), they will be proud of themselves and more likely to continue the behavior because they attribute it to their own efforts.

To sum up, self-discipline is something to be learned and is uncomfortable at first until it becomes comfortable and may even become a delight. It is useful for positive growth and benefit. If learned through self-competition, intrinsic motivators will be put in place and the student can create their own success more easily. Self-realization will aid in the adoption and creation of this characteristic in your student. Small steps can build big rewards.


To check out Joe’s view and ideas, CLICK HERE!

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