What do you think self-discipline might have to do with spring? Can you define self-discipline? Would you consider it a trait of character?
Self-discipline is indeed a trait of character. It is defined as the ability to control one’s own conduct by principles and good judgment instead of acting on impulses, desires, or what everyone else in society is doing. Think of an Olympic athlete in training. That athlete must control his or her conduct based on principle in order to properly train. The athlete cannot give in to a desire to go out and party just because friends are all doing it. The athlete must not suddenly decide on impulse to play video games all day and not train – or eat quantities of a very desirable junk food. To be successful, the athlete must control conduct in every area of life by exercising good judgment.
The same is true of those of us who are not athletes. We are not prisoners. We do not have someone else controlling our lives. It is up to us. We must exercise self-discipline to control ourselves instead of just letting life happen day after day.
Well, but what does self-discipline have to do with spring?
Spring Fever! There’s something in the air besides pollen. Spring break, spring vacation, spring weddings – countdown to summer. You (and your children) probably want to get outdoors. You want to shed winter clothing. You want to get together with friends and family. If you talk to a teacher, you’ll probably hear that kids are acting crazier in school. They don’t want to do their work and, frankly, neither do their teachers.
You and I must exercise self-discipline in greater measure in the spring. We must control our actions by principle instead of giving in to spring impulses and desires.
Spring is actually a good time to work on building self-discipline. Start with spring cleaning. Clean your home, room by room the way your grandparents and great grandparents used to do it. Clean your office at work – or your desk in the classroom. Clean closets. Donate things you no longer need. Create a place for everything you do need. Put things in their places and be sure they stay there. Teach yourself that orderliness matters.
Building self-discipline in such mundane areas of life prepares you for greater successes. Not building self-discipline in life’s small matters will leave you lacking when it comes to the really important issues.A famous rhyme based on the 1485 defeat of England’s King Richard III at Bosworth Field illustrates the principle.
For want of a nail, a shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe, a horse was lost,
For want of a horse, a battle was lost,
For want of a battle, a kingdom was lost,
And all for want of a horseshoe nail.
You can develop self-discipline by making yourself take care of small matters like sorting your papers, cleaning your desk, closets, cupboards, etc..
You can also discipline yourself to get organized with a to-do list and schedule. If you do not control the hours of your own day, everything (including other people) will do it for you! An elaborate planning system isn’t necessary, but jotting things down and then doing what you wrote is a big help.
Leisure time entertainment can be good, or it can control us. Take control of your leisure by entertaining yourself with challenging, stimulating, creative, or productive activities. Read good literature; take a walk and observe your surroundings; have a creative conversation about ideas – not about people. Don’t be disciplined by constant pursuit of things that have no value other than entertainment.
Discipline yourself to be on time. Do you know someone who does this? Do you? If you’ve agreed to be somewhere at 7:30 AM, be there a minute early! Each of us has the same number of minutes in a day. Those who have built self-discipline make the most of their time, and show that they value both theirs and yours by arriving at the agreed-upon moment.
Self-discipline is a part of marriage and other binding contracts. All such agreements call for self-discipline, i.e., self-control. You promise that you are going to do something, and if you are a person of self-discipline, you will do it if at all possible. You promised to stay with your spouse until death separates you – you will discipline yourself to do as you promised. Maybe you agreed in a contract that you would teach third grade for a year – you will discipline yourself to teach to the best of your ability on every single school day of that year.
You can build self-discipline by making yourself do the difficult tasks first. When I was in college, I had a habit of squandering my time on the easier, low-priority assignments. Then, with little time, little physical and mental energy left, I would sigh and try to do the work I least wanted to do, finishing them poorly or not at all. My boyfriend (now my husband) exercised self-discipline! He forced himself to tackle the most difficult assignments first. In fact, he would often do a paper the week it was assigned, even though its due date was six weeks later.
We could say many other things about self-discipline if we were discussing it in person. I’m sure you would have much to contribute, but let me close with this over-arching principle:
Self-discipline is based on that king of character traits: RESPONSIBILITY.
You and I can build self-discipline best if we first build responsibility. Take responsibility for your life – for every area of your life. Control your life. Control yourself. Don’t put yourself in a prison where circumstances or other people control areas of your life. Enjoy the freedom, the exhilaration of doing what you know you should be doing. Live by principle, not whim.