Just a quick note today to share with you what I've been learning and thinking about since the beginning of 2012. (Ok, so it wasn't quick or a note -- more like an epistle. Just read the bold print if you need something quick, Dearie!)
A little "life math"...
This is incredibly important! The goal isn't discipline, but freedom. Our first, and most important freedom is spiritual freedom from the slavery of sin. That is the ONLY guaranteed freedom in this life, and it is only found in Jesus Christ.
I may work toward something like financial freedom (independence from outside income) or physical freedom (the health to enjoy any activity I choose) but I do so with the knowledge that God may change those aspects of my life at any time in order to make me more like His Son, Jesus Christ.
Grammy and I both have neighbors for whom a car accident left them with a lifetime of physical handicaps and debt. They still have the potential for spiritual freedom that is available to every person on earth, but they will not know physical or financial freedom this side of Heaven without a miracle.
A specific, measurable goal (Destination)
Written plan (Route)
+ Wisdom (Consistently doing the next right thing)
I need a goal, not a wish
We're planning to take a week's vacation to Yosemite National Park the Summer of 2015.
not We're hoping to get out west sometime before Nate leaves for college.
I'm going to run the Turkey Trot 5k with the three of you Thanksgiving 2012.
not We all need to get in better shape physically.
I want to finish memorizing Colossians by December 31, 2012
not I really need to memorize more scripture.
Each goal needs to be achievable and solidly within the limits God has given me. Spending the summer of 2015 traveling through Europe and the Holy lands would be an amazing adventure, but God hasn't given us the financial resources to make that a reality. I couldn't physically run (or even walk) the Boston Marathon next month, nor do I have the intelligence to finish memorizing Colossians by March 31. I tend to overestimate my own awesomeness, so I often have Daddy review my goals with me for a reality check.
I need a written plan, not just a general idea
We need to save the funds, research and reserve the available transportation and accommodations, and prepare physically for the trip by hiking progressively more difficult trails in the White Mountains to be able to take a trip to Yosemite in the Summer of 2015
not I hope we can come up with the time and money to take a trip before Nate goes to college.
Once a solid plan is in place, it's time to set a 28 day goal that makes progress toward the "big" goal.
Often this small part of the plan will be accomplished sooner. Praise the Lord for the gift of time, and set a new goal. Don't try to set a whole string of mini-goals reaching out to the main goal with dates. Just concentrate on the next 28 days. Once that goal is achieved, set a new one with a 28 day time slot.
When you choose a life that is abandoned to God and available to people, 28 days is about the shortest time frame in which you will be able to accomplish anything of note.
For the Yosemite trip, I might determine that by April 13 I will have
- opened a dedicated bank account for the trip,
- determined the highest possible cost for the trip,
- created a notebook to begin collecting information,
- and made plans for an end-of-the-summer camping trip/day hike up Lafayette.
This, Dear heart, is a gift from your Heavenly Father. Experience may give you the knowledge of what is the next best thing to do, and past successes and failures will motivate you to some extent, but nothing can replace the wisdom from above. The Israelites fitted themselves for battle, but the victory was the Lord's every. single. time. Often the goal and the plan had been directed by Him as well!
I know that I do best with goals that have relational value. I try to involve one or more of my family members in most of my goals because I work much harder toward relationships than I do toward abstracts. For example, I might determine that I want to lose weight. Instead of setting an abstract "pound" goal, I would set the goal of having matching mother-daughter dresses for Christmas because I know you'd turn inside out with joy and I also know that the largest pattern size for matching dresses is a 14/16. I could also set the goal of reducing our refined carb intake (again, sigh) because I know that Daddy's back arthritis almost disappears when he's not eating refined carbs. I'm carb sensitive, so I drop weight quickly when I cut the carbs.
When these three elements are solidly in place, even the most loosy-goosy gal will develop discipline.
That $100 you got for your birthday? You'll want to chunk all (or at least part of it) toward that trip. It's supposed to hit 90 degrees today? You'll get a mile run in early to make your mini goal toward that 5K. You'll install a Bible memory app on your phone or i-pad to get your memory work in during odd moments or toss in a load of laundry every night after dinner so it never falls behind. Soon, you'll find that a disciplined life is not just easier, but also the desire of your heart. Keep in mind that there are multi-million dollar entities and best-sellers (Financial Peace University, Weight Watchers, Julia Morgenstern) built on this simple premise:
No Plan, No Discipline
For a price they'll set a goal and give you a workable plan. The people that utilize these methods often have tremendous success, because the company they worked in conjunction with made discipline much easier and more desirable. You can create the same environment for discipline/success with any area of your life if you know the simple formula.
Aggh...this got long again. Ah, well, it's stuff I need to share with you because it will probably never come up in conversation, but it's important.
Love you "scrunches and bunches",
P.S. - I firmly believe that discipline is about continued growth, not about achieving an ideal. Perfection is stifling for you and those around you. Always be growing, and always leave space for others to grow!