Building Discipline

BLOG-IMAGEI have done thousands of assessments over the last 25 years.  I am always amazed at how some people are not wired to be disciplined, but yet they accomplish a tremendous amount in an apparently disciplined way.

In fact, I am one of those people who are not wired for discipline. Growing up, I can clearly remember my mother, grabbing me by my ear lobes, staring into my eyes and telling me to “…not start one more thing, until you finish something.” I am wired to be a “starter”; I love starting things and then lose interest before all of the necessary systems to fully implement and complete the projects have been developed. (I am high “D” and “I” on the DISC with no “S” or “C”).

I believe the Apostle Paul was a starter, too. He tells Titus (1.5) that the reason I left you in Crete was to clean up the mess I left behind. And he tells the Romans (15.20) that his desire is to go where Christ was not previously known, so that he would not be building on someone else’s foundation.

So how does a starter build the discipline to accomplish much?

I have learned over six decades that although I am not a person with exceptional discipline, but I CAN be a person with exceptional habits. The habits are not what has helped me accomplish what I have, but my life is better because of what these habits have allowed to take place.

If you’re looking for some exceptional habits, I can recommend a few that have changed my life over the 35-40 years that I have practiced them.

I have a habit to NOT watch TV.  In premarital counseling, the counselor challenged Mary Kay and me not to buy a TV for the first year of our marriage, but instead to commit to communicating.  40 years later, MK and I have the habit of not watching TV. We may watch a movie or a special football game (Go Blue!), but on the average day, it’s simply isn’t an option we consider. This small habit has had a profound impact in my life and our marriage.

Actually, the habit of not watching TV hasn’t really changed my life; it’s what I do in place of watching TV that impacts me.  Choosing to spend time with my family, to listen to new voices, to read books, to learn new skills and to explore growth opportunities has changed my life for eternity.

I have a habit of journaling. The daily discipline of journaling has provided a platform for reading God’s word, allowing the Spirit to speak to me in quiet self-reflection and correction.  It has provided time for prayer, scripture memory and meditation.  This habit, like the first one mentioned, didn’t really change my life, but it was the platform for life transformation.  This habit allowed other activities to change my life.

I string habits together. I tie habits together, so that when I start one habit, a sequence of succeeding micro habits follows. For instance, I run most mornings.  It isn’t a matter of discipline; it’s out of habit.  I get up and a sequence of little habits kicks in till before I know it, I am running my first half-mile.  My goal is to complete that first half mile…that is all I am committed to do.  I run the exact same course every day and, in the thousands of times I have run this same course, I have never stopped at that half mile point. I always complete the next four miles out habit (not discipline). I don’t have to think about it; my body has muscle, mental and energy memory to complete the course.

In fact, my journaling is a micro-habit that I have tied to running.  When I run, I journal because it is what follows running as much as a sneeze follows a tickle in my nose.

I do not have exceptional discipline, but I do have exceptional habits. If you are not naturally disciplined, I strongly encourage you to develop habits that will situate you for significant accomplishment through long-term life transforming activities.

Do you have an exceptional habit? What habits to NOT do something have changed your life? Do you need adopt a habit so God can work more deeply in your life?


Post contributed by Greg Wiens, HGC Chief Catalyst. Some books Greg recommends about habits: The Power of Habits—Van, Smarter, Faster, Better—Duhigg, 77 Habits for a Good life—Scott, Deep Change—Quinn, The Coaching Habit—Stanier, Ben Franklin—Isaacson