Self-discipline & Habits

What is the role of self-discipline when it comes to habit formation? Self-disciple must play some role in the development of new behaviors, because the apostle Paul said, “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so … I will not be disqualified for the prize” (I Corinthians 9:26, NIV).

Self-discipline, therefore, is the fuel that drives the formation of new habits, because nothing new is ever established in our lives without the initial surge of energy that comes from self-discipline. Whether it’s a highly desired personal achievement, virtuosity in the arts, or an outstanding performance in school or in one’s chosen sport, the journey toward any worthy achievement can only be initiated through self-disciple.

The bad news of course is that self-discipline only goes so far. Our experience teaches us and scientific research confirms that self-discipline is a powerful tool when it comes to making personal changes. But a person’s sense of self-discipline is designed to run dry rather quickly, because we humans just aren’t equipped with the ability to force ourselves to do things long-term that we really don’t want to do.

The good news, however, is that by utilizing principles of habit formation, we can use self-discipline to get a new habit started in our lives. Then, after a few weeks, that behavior can become habitual for us. It can become subconscious and “automatic,” requiring no effort on our part.

So instead of laboring to make yourself do what you know you ought to do, learn to use the “habit loop” to your advantage so you can create a permanent regimen of good behaviors in your life. In Make That, Break That, I will teach you how to do this. For now, however, just know that positive behaviors are easier when they become habits in your life.


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