Tag: self-discipline

How to Know You’re On To Something

When we start new habits with the goal of becoming more disciplined, people will typically respond in a few ways:

“Wow, you’re crazy! I could never do that…”

“I don’t know how you do that every day…”

“I don’t have enough self control to do that…”

What we do when we’re disciplined will seem counter cultural and people will think it a rare talent or gift. The truth is, we were the same way until we started this new routine…

Only paying for things with cash to stay on budget. Waking up at 5:00am to exercise. Not having dessert at dinner parties. Paying off a mortgage early.

Doing anything with dedicated consistency will cause people to notice. That’s how you know you’re on to something.

Why Discipline Matters

We’re in debt.

We’re overweight.

We’re discontent.

Our relationships don’t last.

Yet the world continues to preach “do what you want when you want”; that the ultimate freedom is in living with a nearly reckless abandon.

But what if that’s not working for us? What if we decided to try the opposite?

We would have to think about why discipline matters and believe that freedom is actually found in living with greater self-control and self-discipline.

On the surface, this seems completely counter-intuitive: constrict or constrain what it is I do on a daily basis in order to do more?


If we lived on a budget, we wouldn’t be in debt.

If we exercised and ate well, we’d be in better health.

If we stopped comparing what we have to what “everyone” on social media has, we’d realize we’re probably in pretty good shape.

If we kept our eyes focused on our marriages and families and made dedicated efforts to invest in those people, we would be more fulfilled than ever before.

These are the opportunities that discipline provides for us. This can be our world when we take time to sit down, set goals, have honest internal dialogue about what’s important to us and start taking responsibility for our actions.

2 Tim 1:7 tells us that “God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” We were made to live with self-control. We can do this!

Is it easy? Absolutely not. Donuts are delicious (yet unhealthy). Last-minute outings with our friends are too good to pass up (and weren’t in the budget). But if our waist lines and our wallets become stretched by our normal decision making, we really ought to say “no”. But it takes discipline.

The truth is, deep down, we all know this stuff. The hard part is recognizing it, admitting it and doing something about it.

Discipline matters and makes all the difference.

Budget Like A Millioniare

Wouldn’t life be easier if we were all millionaires?

Every financial woe would disappear.

We could eat Twinkies out of 24k gold wrappers.

Just imagine!

But – truth be told – no matter how much money you make, if you don’t budget it well you won’t have it for very long. Which is why guys like Ryan Broyles of the Detroit Lions deserve a huge pat on the back.

He’s a third year wide receiver that signed a 4-year, $3.6 million contract with $1.42 million guaranteed (a.k.a. he got $1.42 million on the day he signed a piece of paper). But what’s he done with the money since then?

Set himself up for life.

It turns out, since making it to the NFL in 2012, he and his wife have lived on an annual budget of $60,000 — just $9,000 more than the US median household income.

The reason?

He knows his time in the league may be limited and he doesn’t want to squander the monetary benefits. He even talked about having to learn to set and keep a budget for the first few months, but once he got the hang of it, it was easy to maintain.

What Not To Do
Now contrast Ryan with the recent news of 50 Cent’s bankruptcy filings and let the head scratching begin. 50 Cent makes a reported $185,000 a month off of royalties and investments – i.e. that money is working for him, so he’s not lifting a finger to bring it in.

But even on a passive $2.2 million income, 50 can’t pay his bills. He’s spending $108,000 a month…$5,000 of which is for his gardening! (And he also has a sizable lawsuit filed against him…but that’s a blog for a different topic on self discipline…)

My point is, you get the feeling that 50 is all about spending whatever money he makes with little concern for the future (he still likes to parrrty like it’s your birthday).

My goal, and hope for anyone that reads this, is to not be like that, regardless of income level.

Take time to make a budget. Live below your means. Have an emergency fund. It’s practical stuff that can remove a lot of headaches down the road (or right now). And in the end, you could very well be a millionaire instead of just looking like one.

Making A To-Don’t List


The hardest part of to-do lists is that they never seem to end. Every day brings something new.

Personally, this sometimes creates an overwhelming feeling – like I have an insurmountable list of things standing between myself and personal accomplishments. And it never stops growing.

I’ll agree, to-do lists help declutter the brain and remove a little bit of stress with lots of tasks spinning in my head, but what if I looked at it the opposite way? That there are actually things I could do without that would help me get to what I really want (or need) to do?

This thought came to mind from two examples at work.

Shiny Objects
I make lots of phone calls during the day. After hanging up, I found myself in the habit of scrolling through the screens of my phone to check social media feeds embedded on the screen (i.e. I didn’t even have to open the app…dangerous). A couple of minutes passed, and I would catch myself and regain focus on a task.

The same thing happened with email. While working on my computer, I found myself clicking back to Outlook to see if I had any new messages. Or as soon as a push notification came through my phone, I would check the message. It was a distraction that kept me from working efficiently.

Helping Me To Help Myself
In each instance, I added “checking facebook” and “checking phone email constantly” to a “to-don’t” list — a list of things I don’t need to do during the day.

To help myself even further, I removed the social media feeds from my home screens and turned off email push notifications.

Wouldn’t you know, everyone’s best comments and shares still show up in my feed later in the day, and I have yet to single-handedly cause the collapse of my employer by not immediately responding to an email.

As a result, I’m able to complete the task I started in less time. Consequently, I become a more dependable co-worker by passing on needed reports and information when it’s actually due. And if a last-minute request comes in, I’ll see it as soon as I’m finished with my current responsibility – then it will get placed at the top of my remaining “to-dos”. (More on this another time).

While it’s always important to know what we’re supposed to be doing, I’ve found it also helps to be conscious of what I shouldn’t be doing. And a “to-don’t” list is a great place keep track of those things.

Would You Like A Side Of Sass With That?

How we talk to customers, co-workers and family members sets the tone for our conversations. Personally, I would say that it gives them “permission” for how they communicate in return.

side of sass

Two examples…

In my wife’s business, she sends proofs for custom address stamps and says “Just let me know if everything is correct and I will continue with production.” Almost inevitably, this leads to an excited response from the customer ending in “You may continue with production!” This phrase, in itself, isn’t a very normal thing for people to say. But she prompted it, so they reciprocate it.

In another instance, a customer failed to respond to multiple requests about the next step of a project. When the answer came, it was a pair of curt messages denying culpability. My wife’s response stayed cool-headed, explained the misunderstanding and communicated the fact that she just wanted to move forward. Not long after, the customer responded with an apology for the messages and said, “I appreciate the way you handled the situation and your response, and I’ll be sure to speak highly of your business to others.”

We run into these types of situations every day.

What goes around comes around.

The thing is, it takes self-control to bite our tongue. It takes will-power to not get dragged down into a negative conversation fueled by the heat of the moment. (And all of this is only further complicated by the non-verbals we send with email, texts, etc.)

But based on the words we choose and the tone in our voice, we can steer the way other people interact with us.

Is it easy? Definitely not. We’re human.

We get stressed.

We get tired.

We get annoyed.

We get hangry (or at least I do…).

Whether we like it or not, all of these factors can have an effect on our own communication. And if we let them control us, it gives others permission to address us in a similar manner. Things can spiral out of control pretty quickly if we’re not careful.

What we say and how we say it can either build rapport or dig ditches.

Let’s try and stay out of the dirt.

Being Open To Change

Yesterday marked the halfway point to Easter Sunday! If you have been making a Lenten fast in an effort to become more hungry, I hope you’ve been able to see and feel a spiritual growth over the last few weeks.

For this post, I wanted to share a small prayer that I found while going back through my journal. I originally copied it from my devotional, but it’s come to mind regularly since Ash Wednesday and has helped keep me in the right mindset while praying. It simply states…

“Father, do what you must in me to do what you will through me.”


It’s so simple, isn’t it? But so difficult to accept!

To me, this is a crux (and crutch) of discipline in my spiritual life – to be able to discern what God is trying to do inside of me (with thoughts, feelings, etc.) in order to follow his will for me here on Earth.

The Trap
For me, it becomes easy to use just two types of prayer:
1. thanksgiving
2. asking for something that I want (my default)

The prayer that’s missing, though, is the one that says “…thy will be done…”

The humility to realize I’m in a situation for a reason isn’t easy to accept. But if I give it time to play out, God has a pretty good track record of bringing things full circle.

What I’ve come to realize is that, sometimes, to get the things I want, God has to change my perspective on what I really need.

Sure, I want the guy that cut me off in traffic to get stuck behind a semi.

But maybe what I really need is to learn patience.

When I get annoyed by another driver, it changes the mood in the car for a minute. It’s not fair to my wife. And it’s not fair to other drivers around me because my attention is now slightly less focused on my surroundings in thinking about that car.

If I can learn patience in that situation, though, it can eventually carry over to other areas of my life.

The Release
By becoming more patient, I become a better husband, co-worker and friend. Heck, I even become a better stranger by holding doors for people and not hurrying past the sweet old couple scooting down the grocery store aisle.

Who knows? My new-found patience could ultimately have the potential to put me in a situation where someone else’s prayer is answered because of my patience. If that doesn’t create a sense of personal fulfillment…I don’t know what ever will.

It’s a roundabout way of getting there, but I believe that by being open to Him moving inside of me, I’m more susceptible to finding true freedom in Him moving through me.

So try the prayer out for yourself. Really sit on it. And see if you learn a deeper lesson from something you’re going through.

Living With Okay


I was listening to Dave Ramsey’s radio show on Friday and someone called in “needing to be convinced to pay off his debt”. I thought, “Uh oh…this guy’s about to get hung up on” haha.

As the man explained his situation, he was a pharmacist, he had 20 years left on his student loan, he had a very low interest rate and was making about a $200 payment each month. It wasn’t breaking his bank but he wanted to keep the security of his cash flow instead of putting everything he had into paying off the debt. But this was his last debt to pay off and knew he also could knock it out in a year and a half if he really tried…

Dave’s response is what stuck with me.

He acknowledged that, based on his salary, this guys was doing “fine”. But he was also at a point where he should really be getting excited about knocking the debt out. Specifically, Dave said:

“It’s not like you like the payment…it’s just become tolerable. Sometimes the thing that keeps us from being excellent is not something that is ‘bad’, it’s something that is ‘okay’. And so we accept it. We tolerate it. And if you tolerate the ‘okay’, it keeps you from excellent. So don’t tolerate the ‘okay’…Can you limp along and keep it like a pet and eventually and get though it? Yeah, but that’s not the highest and best use of your life and your money.”

The thing I thought most interesting here is that if I swap out the word “payment” for anything else that has me stuck in a rut…it’s still 100% applicable.

I don’t want to strive for mediocrity.

For going with the flow.

Or the status quo.

I want to strive for the highest and best use of my life and my resources.

Using a Zero Balance Budget + A Free Download

Do you make a budget for your monthly spending? Or does that thought suddenly remind you that you need to go clean the kitchen grout?

Photo by Waag Society
Photo by Waag Society

While it’s definitely not fun, planning where and how you’ll spend your money is probably the most fundamental element of being disciplined with your spending (and adding a little self-discipline to our lives is what we’re all about here!). So what’s the best way to make a budget? Mathematically speaking, a zero balance budget will make sure that you have a plan for every dollar you earn.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Start with your monthly take-home pay at the top of a page.
  2. Write down every expense you’ll have that month. First, the necessities: rent, utilities, groceries, debts, etc. Then move on to the extras: savings, new clothes, eating out, Starbucks…
  3. Plan every dollar until you have $0 left.

For only a three step process, it’s kind of crazy that budgeting gets so much resistance, isn’t it?

Maybe it’s because people don’t like doing math on paper – it’s feels so 3rd grade, right? But I’m the same way, that’s why I made this downloadable budget spreadsheet to do the work for me.

A few things to note:

  1. Cell names are totally customizable – I tried to be thorough but realize it’s not all-encompassing.
  2. If you don’t have access to Microsoft Excel, I’ve uploaded the spreadsheet to Google Docs, so you can access it by signing into a Gmail account.
  3. If you accidentally delete a function, feel free to come on back and re-download.

Here’s the important part:

Once you’ve filled out the spreadsheet, give your keyboard the ‘ol “Ctrl + P” to send that bad boy to the printer and make yourself a hard copy!

It’ll be tangible. Real. You’ll literally have to throw your budget away if you don’t want to reference it the rest of the month! The goal is to have a plan for your money, so when some sort of temptation or “great deal” crosses your path, you can honestly tell the salesman, “Sorry, my budget’s already set for the month” and walk away.

Try it for a month. See what you think.

We’ll discuss further benefits of having a budget at another time, so until then…

Do you have budgeting questions or tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them! Please leave a comment below.