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“As our self-discipline increases, we discover that life can no longer defeat us. We move tranquilly under the protection of that Presence we know as the ECK, or Divine Spirit.”—Harold Klemp The Language of Soul

Self-discipline. This is one of the hardest things to master. When we discipline ourselves, it is NOT about what other people or society require of us—it is what we tell ourselves to do.

Managing ourselves is hard, particularly when examining bad habits. Habits like drinking too much, smoking too much, doing drugs, eating too much, not exercising enough, not sleeping enough, gossiping about other people, and the list goes on and on. To simplify this, it is about keeping promises to ourselves. If you tell yourself you want to exercise and then blow it off, this hurts us inside. It eats away at our inner core. It is like you are looking at yourself walking off a cliff and you cannot stop yourself. You know what you’re doing is harmful, but you just can’t stop. You must have another chew, another smoke, another drink, another candy bar, another bag of chips. You can’t stop talking about other people, you can’t get up on time, you can’t stop watching the television, or playing just one more video game.

It was quite a few years ago and I discovered a truism for myself. It was this:

“The moment you discover you cannot keep commitments you make with yourself is the day you discover you are absolutely fucked.” – Dave Gardner

This was my situation. At the time, I was overweight. I was in an unbelievably horrible position financially. My marriage was falling apart. My career was in the toilet. If anything could go wrong, it did. I think, in retrospect, that we cannot really grow or improve until we’ve hit this level of despair. We finally begin to understand that when life goes sour it is not because of outside circumstances in most cases. It is about what is going on inside of us. Our internal attitudes, the way we look at the world, our character, are what cause us the most pain.

I realize that some folks are hit with something that is unbelievably horrible. When I think about natural disasters, car accidents, crime, illness, and any other situation that comes out of nowhere and knocks us in the dirt, it is a different situation. Many people, because of their inner strength and self-discipline can pull themselves out of these things and continue to thrive. When you cannot trust yourself or do what you know you need to do—it is horrific.

Attitude has a lot to do with our lot in life. Victor Frankl was a Holocaust survivor. He witnessed his family systematically murdered by the Nazi regime. He experienced untold horrors at the hands of these animals. In light of this, he learned a great deal about himself in the camps. The one quote I came across that really stuck with me is here for your review:

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Victor Frankl

Our attitude has a lot to do with self-discipline. The way we interpret the world is filtered by our attitude. If we believe we are a victim, we will assume that everyone is out to get us. We will look outside of ourselves to blame circumstances on our lot in life.

Let’s return to the statement I made about natural disasters, car accidents, and other items of chance that happen in our lives through no fault of our own (in most cases). One person will look at it and blame God, the universe, or wallow in self-pity. Another person will not blame anyone, accept the situation for what it is and get on with their life.

When I began to realize that my attitude and my ability to control myself were responsible for my lot in life, I began to change the way I looked at things. This was not a quick fix. It took a lot of pain, suffering, and time to get through all the problems I had created for myself.

I began to set little goals for myself. I felt if I could begin rebuilding trust in myself I could pull myself out of the pit I created. I started by getting up at a certain time and making my bed. Then I began exercising. Not a lot of exercise, mind you, but exercise. I began eating right. I called creditors and set up payment plans I could handle. I got a physical and went to the dentist. I began reading my Bible and praying regularly.

I began small. I set little commitments and kept them. After a while, I began to increase my personal commitments to challenge my new-found discipline. Sometimes I slipped and fell. I picked myself right back up and re-committed. I kept going. I began to realize that I could not lose if I kept going. Each time I slipped in my self-discipline, I forgave myself, got up, and started again. This was another major learning event for me. I realized another truism:

“You can’t lose if you don’t quit.” – Dave Gardner

What is the moral of the story? We are responsible. We choose how we respond to outside events. We reap what we sow. We can recover from despair and bad situations. We can overcome our weaknesses and rise again. Our internal character, self-discipline, and attitudes are what create our external realities.

Until next time…