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Last time, as I was about to hit “submit”, I felt a pang of doubt when I made the statement; “You can’t blame your behavior on anyone else. You are 100% responsible no matter how bad you are feeling or what’s going on in your life. Period.” I was afraid my words were too harsh and my readers would be offended. My finger hovered over the keyboard wondering if I should delete it. Were my readers tough enough to take it?

I was relieved to see the “likes” that appeared and gratified to see the post shared by so many. Hey, I was encouraged! Maybe some of us are ready to tackle another hard lesson on the path to becoming a fully mature adult! That being said I’m going to throw out another subject that makes a lot of us cringe. “Self-discipline”. I just want to say the words and run. I can almost feel muscles tighten as jaws are clenched, ready for another verbal “tongue lashing” and more work.

Going back to last time, if we are 100% responsible for our circumstances, who is responsible for changing them? We know the answer, don’t we? Ever hear the little ditty “If it’s to be it’s up to me?” Cliches are born out of truth and certain truths, like that one, are timeless.

Here’s an example. In the stretch of years between the last months of the Civil War and WWI, a man named James Allen wrote a little book called As a Man Thinketh. It is jammed with pearls of wisdom that will never go out of style. Here’s one: “Circumstances do not make the man, they reveal him.” The book is still widely available and small enough to carry in a pocket of your tightest jeans. I suggest you check it out.

Think that is surprising? Here is what the philosopher, Epictetus, had to say on the same subject during his time on earth, which was about a hundred years after Christ’s crucifixion. “Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.” Hmmm, centuries did nothing to erase that nugget.

So, what is the real definition of self-discipline? I am borrowing this one from a blogger named Steve Pavlina. “Self-discipline is the ability to get yourself to take action regardless of your emotional state.” Sort of ties right in with the statement in the first paragraph, the part about being responsible for our behavior, doesn’t it?

Here’s the good part, though. In the words of another of my favorite smart guys, Jim Rohn; “Discipline weighs ounces, regret weighs tons.”  It is far easier to develop the small habits of self-discipline than it is to live with the effects of not doing it.

Like anything important we do, the first step is to begin. Now. Start with small promises to yourself before you make promises to others. Little things that will give you some successes to build on. They can be this small.

For example, promise yourself you will not leave home without making your bed and then unless the house is on fire, do it. Or promise yourself you will not go to the grocery store without a list. Put a pad of paper by the coffee pot or the refrigerator and every time you run out of something, write it on the list. Take a picture of the list with your phone. If you forget the list, you probably will have your phone with you. See what I mean? Start small, make it simple.

Once you nail a couple of easy things, add a couple more and then keep integrating more small daily disciplines in your life. Make it a game, make it fun. But do it!! You won’t see a whole new you in a week or a month. But when you peek into your future, your crystal ball will show you amazing progress in a year of sticking with it and you’ll see an entirely brighter, happier new person five years from now. Five years will pass whatever you do, why not make the tiny efforts that yield such huge rewards?

Next time we’ll talk more about choosing the things that matter most to you and discuss ways to beef up your determination. See you in two weeks.

Betty Streff

Betty Streff began her career as a customer service representative for a large corporation in Omaha. Four years later she found herself to be a farm wife in a small rural community with limited opportunities for women. After a humbling self assessment, she listed her assets as talents for sketching, sewing, and the natural ability to strike up conversations with complete strangers. Using these and her optimistic nature, she began stitching up some bibs and pillows for a craft show, who wouldn't? Over the next 25 years she became a serial entrepreneur obsessed with studying faith, spirituality, leadership, motivation, and management as she developed her businesses. Betty has spent the last few years working in corporate America in the hospitality and manufacturing world and she continues to immerse herself in the study of what makes people tick. The explosive growth in the relatively recent science of positive psychology fascinates her. Betty devours everything she can find on the subject and is especially intrigued with people who thrive no matter the circumstances and in discovering ways that happiness and optimism can be learned. She is currently exploring ways of sharing and cultivating the exciting possibilities with both individuals and businesses. She and her husband Steve have been married 45 years and are blessed with 2 incredible daughters, 2 fantastic sons-in-law and 6 amazing grandchildren.

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