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Good habits propel us to achieve our goals while bad habits can keep us stuck where we are. Developing the habit of self-discipline will enable you to make the harder right choice to work toward your goals instead of procrastinating. Self-discipline is simply the ability to motivate yourself in spite of not feeling like working toward your goal in the moment. Qualities associated with self-discipline include willpower, hard work, and persistence. It’s helpful to think of self-discipline as a skill that can be strengthened more than a gift that some people are blessed with but not others.

Skill Definition:

  • I can motivate myself to accomplish the important tasks in my life, directing me toward my goals.
  • I have strategies and support systems that help me stay focused or get back on track when there are competing demands on my time or I lose my motivation.

Key Learning Points:

  • Our lack of motivation is our biggest enemy, and each person needs to develop a personal strategy to overcome this to achieve our life purpose or live to our potential.
  • Self-discipline is like a muscle. The more you train it, the stronger it becomes. Self-discipline involves acting according to what you want for the long term instead of how you feel in the moment.
  • Self-discipline means sometimes giving up what up what you want now for what you want more. It may help to get in the habit of asking yourself, “Does this action move me closer to my goals or take me farther away from them?” to keep you motivated.

Faith Worldview:

Faith requires discipline just as accomplishing our goals requires discipline. Our ability to have a rich spiritual life is dependent on practicing the spiritual disciplines such as prayer, worship and stewardship, and we must practice self-discipline to have a fulfilling personal life. Exercising self-discipline keeps our efforts focused on serving God via our unique life purpose.

Self-discipline is important in any endeavor of life. It’s best defined as the ability to regulate one’s conduct by principle and sound judgment, rather than by impulse, desire, or social custom. Biblically, self-discipline may be summarized in one word: obedience. To exercise self-discipline is to avoid evil by staying within the bounds of God’s law. Source: Adapted from The Pillars of Christian Character by John MacArthur on Crosswalk.com.

Learning Path:

  • Review the Goal Setting topic. Select one important goal you want to achieve in the next three months. This may be part of a larger goal, but select something that you can achieve in no more than three months.
  • Answer the questions below honestly:
    • What is my motivation?
    • Who is my support system to help keep me on track?
    • What strategies will help me stay on track?
    • What interim rewards can I give myself to stay motivated?
  •  Break this goal into monthly actions. Break the monthly actions into weekly actions. Break the weekly actions into daily actions and schedule them on your calendar.
  • Ask someone to be your accountability partner to check-in on your progress every week or two.

Deeper Topics:

  • Understand that discipline is a function of commitment and goal setting. Some people may be born with more natural discipline, but we can all develop it and use this to achieve our goals.
  • Create the systems in your life that make it harder to not exercise self-discipline. For example, if you want to exercise more, keep your gym bag or your walking shoes in your car; if you want to lose weight, pack healthy snacks to take with you the night before; if you want to spend more time reading and less time with electronic media, move your computer to an inconvenient location, etc.
  • Each day, identify one or two important tasks that you will accomplish that move you closer to your goals. They don’t have to be big or time-consuming tasks but ones that move you forward.
  • Monitor your “self-talk” and eliminate the excuses. Listen to this is that voice in your head for a few days. Is it offering you encouragement or distraction? Ask yourself, “Would I be friends with someone who talked to me the way I talk to myself?” If the answer is No, practice speaking to yourself in a way that a supportive friend would talk to you.

Below are statements you should eliminate from your vocabulary. They only serve to discourage instead of encourage, and you need to become your own encourager and cheerleader.

What’s the point of all of this?
Why bother? Remember last time you tried something like that?
I’m not good enough. I don’t have what it takes. I’m too fat/ugly/skinny/shy etc.
Let’s go do something else. Let’s just watch some TV for a little bit.
-We’ll do it later. No need to get started right now.

As Nike commercials tell us, Just “do it”! Don’t wait to “feel like it”. As author Karen Lamb said, “A year from now you may wish you started today”. We all feel unmotivated sometimes, so the key is to figure out how to get yourself motivated when you don’t feel like it, and this differs for each of us. Find what works for you and then go achieve your dreams.

  • Exercising self-discipline can make the difference between accomplishing something extraordinary with your life or realizing less than your full potential. Lack of self-discipline may show up as missing a commitment, e.g. task not done or a behavior issue, e.g. getting angry, etc.

Exercises for Older Teens and Adults:

  • None at this time.

Exercises for Younger Teens (13-16):

  • None at this time.

Questions to Encourage Critical Thinking:

  • Do I have “mental clutter”? What am I going to do about it?
  • How can I improve my self-discipline to better serve God?
  • Where in my life does procrastination exist? Where do I have self-discipline? Why?
  • How can I apply the self-discipline skills I have to areas of my life where I don’t have as much self-discipline?

Tools and Templates:

  • None at this time.

Word Definition:

  • Self-Discipline. Discipline is the assertion of willpower over more base desires, and is usually understood to be synonymous with self-control. Self-discipline is to some extent a substitute for motivation, when one uses reason to determine the best course of action that opposes one’s (immediate) desires. Source: Wikipedia.

 Web Articles/Short Stories/Essays:




Faith-Based Quotes:

  • For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
  • “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

Other Quotes:

  • “Happiness is dependent on self-discipline. We are the biggest obstacles to our own happiness. It is much easier to do battle with society and with others than to fight our own nature.” – Dennis Prager, journalist
  • “By constant self-discipline and self-control you can develop greatness of character.” – Glenville Kleiser, author
  • “Self-discipline is an act of cultivation. It requires you to connect today’s actions to tomorrow’s results. There’s a season for sowing a season for reaping. Self-discipline helps you know which is which.” – Gary Ryan Blair, businessman
  • “The only discipline that lasts is self-discipline.” – Bum Phillips, coach
  • “We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

One-Point Lesson:

 Related Skills:

 Summary 2-page Lesson Examples, coming soon:

  • Self-Discipline 1 (for younger teens).
  • Self-Discipline 1 (for younger teens with instructor notes).
  • Self-Discipline 2 (for older teens and adults).
  • Self-Discipline 2 (for older teens and adults with instructor notes).