Recently I read this definition of self discipline: Self disciple is the ability to get yourself to take action regardless of your emotional state.
That explain about 99.9% of my problems in life.
I suppose if you're a person who is not very in touch with your emotions self discipline might be easy for you, but most of (regardless of whether we're conscious of it) are greatly affected by our emotional states.
Self discipline is forcing yourself to act regardless of how you feel.
I can guarantee you that you already practice self discipline on a daily basis. I would say that 5 days out of 5, when my alarms goes off in the morning and it's time for me to get up and get ready for work, I don't feel like getting up. I feel like sleeping more. But do I give in to that feeling? Ultimately, no. I force myself to get up regardless of how I feel and I make myself get ready for work.
I'm sure you can come up with many other examples of things you regularly do even though you often don't feel like doing them.
So, why doesn't it translate to all things? I want to exercise regularly, but I often don't feel like it...and so... I don't. There are lots of things that I want to do, or should do, but I don't feel like it and therefore don't do it.
I believe that's because self discipline requires the proper motivation. In essence, you have to fear or respect something enough for it to cause you to act. If I sleep in every morning instead of going to work just because I feel like it I'll lose my job. I'm afraid of losing my job because I have bills to pay and I don't want to be homeless. So I get up.
Sometimes I don't feel like cleaning my house, but I'm afraid if I don't my house will become disgustingly dirty and I'll end up on that show Hoarders.
Sometimes we may not feel like visiting elderly relatives, but we do because we respect who they are in our lives.
Self discipline requires thinking through the consequences of your actions. Sure, if I go through a drive-thru for dinner I'll have more time to do something else and I won't have to do dishes, but I'll also be eating unhealthily which will have consequences for my body.
Self discipline is partly the responsibility of parents to teach to their children and partly the responsibility of the individual as we mature into adults. Your level of self-discipline is in some part directly related to your level of success and satisfaction with life.
The Bible tells us that in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are supposed to live self-disciplined, self-controlled lives and I am coming to strongly believe that a self-disciplined way of life is really only possible with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.
Most of us can't plead ignorance, we're not stupid, we KNOW the best way to live, we just don't do it. The spiritual life is primarily a life of faith, but after that, it is a life of self-discipline.
It's like God came to us and said, "Listen almost everything you naturally feel like doing is bad, don't do it. Do what you don't feel like doing". Great.
Naturally when someone hurts my feelings I want to hurt them back. Naturally I am selfish and want the best for myself. Naturally I don't care that much about others (I mean I do about some others, but not about all others). Naturally I'm pretty lazy. Naturally I think I'm the most important person in the world. Naturally I get offended easily. Naturally I judge others. Naturally I hold grudges.
God says to forgive others no matter what they do. God says to love Him first and then others. God says to care for those in need. God says to work hard. God says that He is the most important being in the universe, not me. God says not to judge others or hold grudges.
I want to do what God says, but I feel like being how I naturally am.
Enter God's Holy Spirit.
I am discovering that when I pray, when I ask the Spirit to help me do what I cannot do out of sheer willpower (or "want to") alone, that, well, HE DOES. It's not magic, it's a choice, and it's very difficult, but HE IS THERE to empower you to choose.
Without Him I am powerless and am swept away by my emotions, but with Him there is the possibility that I can choose His way instead of being conquered by my emotions. Our emotions must submit to God's superior ways in our lives.
I feel like holding a grudge - God says to forgive
I feel like having premarital sex - God says sex is for marriage
I feel like eating fast food every night for dinner - God says to take care of my body
I don't know about you, but this makes me want to PRAISE HIM! Jesus came to set up FREE and in Him we are the most free we will ever be. Satan uses his schemes to steal life from us and to kill and destroy us, but Jesus came to rescue us from Satan's destructive goals in our lives.
I am no where near being as self-disciplined as I would like to be or as I believe the Lord wants me to be (and I don't think I ever will be while I'm on this broken earth), but I know the key to godly self-discipline is reliance on the Spirit and that just gives me hope. That I am not stuck in my bad habits. That I am not a victim of my emotions. That I am not helpless and hopeless and overwhelmed and defeated.
If our hearts and souls belong to Jesus Christ then we are already victorious over death itself, surely then you can believe that He has also empowered us to be victorious over the things that hold us back. Focus on Him, He is the answer to whatever you're struggling with. Things can be different.