Self-discipline is perhaps the second most obvious attribute of maturity other than developing empathy. The Oxford Dictionary defines self-discipline as: “The ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.”
We often think of self-discipline in terms of sticking to a diet, or exercise regimen, doing one’s homework or not taking that first drink if one is an alcoholic. Maybe we exercise self-discipline when we really want to get revenge for something someone did, but we know that that really won’t get us what we want.
Oxford’s synonyms for self-discipline give a broader sense of the many aspects of it: “Self-control, self-restraint, willpower, purposefulness, strong-mindedness, resolve, moral fiber; doggedness, persistence, determination, grit.”
It takes strength to be self- disciplined. It’s worth developing this strength, because it will be a good friend for life! It’s so important that when I Googled it, about 4.5 million hits came up! Check them out if you like.
We don’t want to be controlled by our feelings. We don’t want to be weak people. We want to be able to stand for what we believe it. Many psychologists agree that living lives that follow our own hearts and expressing our own ideals is one of the basic needs that we all have. We do that by making choices that support what we believe in. We are always doing that whether we are aware of it or not. Sometimes, when we really want to change a behavior, we focus on specific things.
I am always astounded by “The Biggest Loser” contestants when they lose so much weight. They are great examples of self- discipline of the physical body. Alcoholics who receive their one-year, two-year or 20-year pins mean that they faced their demons and won!
When we do mediations for neighbors or associates who have a conflict, and it is resolved, I admire that they had the self- discipline to work it out reasonably and not get into shouting matches as often happens and never changes anything. One of the keys to being self-disciplined is having self-esteem. When we decide that we matter and we truly want decide to do something that will support our ideal, we become a powerful force for change in our lives.
According to the Public Broadcast System, “The process of learning self-control and self-discipline is linked very closely with how a child feels about themselves and their relationship to the world. It’s important that we help build and strengthen children’s ability to determine for themselves what’s right and wrong, and how to control their own behavior.
“It’s wonderful when we can count on children to do the right thing because they want to, not because they have to.” www.pbs.org/wholechild/providers/
Ideally, parents and our caregivers are the ones who model right and wrong for us, but sometimes they don’t manage to, due to their own problems. So how do we choose the “right thing”? By paying attention to what’s going on in our world. Do we like what we see? Does it make us feel good inside, peaceful, does it feel right?
If so, then look at the characteristics of the people around you who make those things happen, and try to be like them.
If not, then what can we do about it? We might not feel peaceful when we look in the mirror. It may mean that we have to physically get in shape.
There’s a lot of help available. There are athletic clubs, there are physical education instructors in schools. YouTube and the Internet are full of ideas, but we are the ones who decide how often we will exercise or what foods we will put into our mouths. That’s where self-discipline comes in. We are taking control of our lives and doing the right thing for ourselves.
We may decide that just a high school diploma won’t get us what we want in life, so we put in the time to get good grades, or even a scholarship for college. We are lucky that Kaua‘i Community College has many programs to help support local people getting their degrees. Make an inquiry.
We may decide that we are tired of the bickering going on around us, whether at home or at school. High school counselors can help point us in the direction of where we can learn techniques to make changes. Kaua‘i Economic Opportunity has a mediation program for community members if the disputes are too difficult to handle alone. Legal Aid can help us answer questions about the law, if there is a question there.
Sometimes joining a group is an excellent way to support our learning self-discipline. There are Alcoholic Anonymous groups and Weight Watchers groups that you can find in the phone book. KCC has study groups. If you are having difficulty with a subject at school, get help from the teacher and also see if you can start a study group under his/her directives.
When you do lose those pounds, get those good grades or change some things you don’t like, you’ll feel so good about yourself! You’ll see how having self-discipline was indeed a very good friend.
• Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i convened a support group of adults in our community to ‘step into the corner’ for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Email questions or concerns facing youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.