Last year, I set out to do so many Things. I had so many intentions and I made so many plans and I invested so much time into figuring out how to do the Things just right, but now, at year’s end, the Things don’t look the way I envisioned. The budding beginnings of these wonderful Things withered into non-existence due to my neglect. I failed to nurture them into greatness. I failed to see things through.

I just failed.

This forces some treacherous introspection and requires me to confront some nasty truths; the biggest being my complete lack of discipline – a quality that manifests in numerous ways. I give up when things get hard. I succumb to temptation. I get knocked down and just decide to stay down. I find an excuse. I never really start because I am waiting for the right time or for things to be perfect. Worse, I fail to plan anything at all and end up overwhelmed.

On a spectrum ranging from complete laziness to industrious burn out, I find a billion and one reasons not to do something, even if it is something I desperately want to do. Lawlessness is the silver spoon I use to sample each and every one of those problematic motives. Every bite is followed by the repulsive aftertaste of self-loathing; yet, I keep going back for more.

What is wrong with me?

It’s time to put the spoon down and step away from the table. This knowledge necessitates change. So I am making discipline my one word for 2016 (while noting the irony).

I don’t view self-discipline as a stand-alone. It isn’t something you can go to the grocery store and buy prepackaged and ready to serve.

Rather, it is gained through the pursuit of other things. Much like gasoline, it is the fuel required to make the car go, so you can arrive at your destination. You wouldn’t buy a gallon of gas just to have one, they way you might by a television or a necklace. It’s value lies in its ability to aid other endeavors. You wouldn’t need it if you didn’t have a vehicle, and you wouldn’t have a vehicle if you didn’t have a need to get somewhere different from where you are.

The real problem is this: how do you get to the gas station when you have no gas?

How do I acquire discipline when I lack the discipline to acquire anything?

It is a trick question with a simple answer: It comes with the car. The dealer always fills up the tank before you drive off the lot.

God made me for a purpose, and He equips me to achieve that purpose.

Self-discipline, self-control, temperance, however you want to say it, is a fruit of the Spirit. My only hope of ever combating my fleshy lack of self-control is through the intervention of the Spirit. I must continually and prayerfully seek His intercession. He will enable me to go where He is leading. That is step one.

But self-discipline is not only a divine gift, it is also a human task.

Meaning: I can’t just sit here waiting for God to miraculously and instantaneously snap His holy fingers and grant me perfect virtue. That is rarely the way it works. Instead, I have to practice.

So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books. 2 Peter 1:5-9 (MSG)

That passage will be my spiritual anchor this year, but here are a few more practical ideas I am kicking around to help hone my “alert discipline”.

  1. Set goals and clearly define them. I need a map to figure out exactly where I want to go. Then I need a plan so I can figure out what is required to get there. That should keep me from going adrift on the breeze. Idleness comes too easily when I don’t have a plan to which I can moor.
  1. Pursue accountability. It is much easier to disappoint myself than others. That typically means I share nothing, but in doing so, I loose all accountability. I must make room for the support and encouragement of others. God has blessed me with good people. I need them to act as guardrails ensuring I don’t plunge off a cliff.
  1. Stop putting things off. I spend a lot of time waiting for the Right Time, and it stands me up every time. It is never going to come. Things will never be perfect. I need to work on finding the sweet spot, where I have adequately planned but I am not just waiting around for every last detail to fall prettily into place. I will probably need the people’s help with that, too.
  1. Get back up. How good I am at falling down is exactly how bad I am at getting back up. I just lay there pondering and pontificating, but certainly not progressing. Succumbing to failure is easier than standing back up. Obviously, that hasn’t worked out well for me.
  1. Know my limits. I have to learn to say no to some good things so I can concentrate on the best things. I have to move items off my plate before I try to put more on it. Otherwise one of two things happen. I pour a lot into trivial things without rationing anything for the essentials, or I get so burdened I can’t focus on anything.
  1. Take care of me. Fortunately, I know what I need to be successful. I have to make time for those things. Prioritizing proper nutrition, exercise, quality time with my people, and rest is imperative if I want to maintain a steady course, because they are vital to my physical and mental well-being. Hopefully, by taking proper care of myself, I can better withstand temptation. Further, habitually doing these small things inherently increases my self-discipline.

There you have it – my meager game plan. This will be trial and error, but I have to start somewhere.

Do you have any tips or suggesting on how to achieve self-discipline? Do you have one word you are working on this year? I would love to hear from you!