Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Road to Hell (and Other Bad Words)

What I’ve Been Reading (No. 1)
By Phoebe Farag Mikhail

“Hell,” I learned a few years ago, is a bad word in some states, like Virginia, where my Sunday School students widened their eyes in shock when their teacher from New York used it. “It’s not a bad word where I come from,” I tried to explain. 

They must never have heard their aging next door neighbor repeat the old maxim: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The proverb is used when the cause of something bad is someone’s failure to do something good, even though that person had good intentions to do otherwise.

On January 1, 2013, many of us resolved, with good intentions, to be more organized this year. Or to get more exercise this year. Or to clean out our garage this year. Or to leave work at 5 pm every day this year. Or to stop twittering away all our time on Facebook this year. Or—well, it’s February.  

Are you, like me, on the road to hell?

There is another bad word, however, that may help you and I get off that road.


It’s bad because we often think of discipline as something unpleasant we must inflict upon ourselves for some greater good, or some internal ability that some people have, but others don’t. Or, with regards to children, “discipline” often connotes how parents should deal with their children when they misbehave.

Link the word “discipline” with “desire,” however, and it seems less difficult to swallow. Discipline without desire can be fruitless, and almost impossible to maintain, unless there is some external threat of punishment. 

But when discipline is motivated by an intense desire, it’s not even called discipline anymore. It’s called doing what we want. Similarly, if we considered this link between desire and discipline when it comes to raising children, we might think about how we want to instill in them a desire to behave, rather than fear of punishment when they misbehave (I’ll blog about that in a future post).

Discipline (and its friend, self-control), is driven by the desire to achieve, and can be developed and strengthened. Anyone with the desire to accomplish can develop discipline and reap its countless rewards.
 I’ve discovered that to develop more discipline in my life, I must:

  1. Feed my desire for my goal
  2. Build discipline by developing habits that will help me achieve that goal.
  To give an example of feeding my desire, I have a goal of waking up early in the morning, before my kids, to get a head start on my day and do things I usually can’t do when they’re awake. Despite the plentiful obstacles to waking up early in the morning, I feed my desire to wake up early by investing in high quality coffee beans so I have a fresh cup of coffee to look forward to in the morning, doing things I enjoy in my early morning hours (like praying, writing, NOT folding laundry), and reminding myself of the inexpressible joy I feel when my son wakes up, runs out to the living room into my arms, and happily exclaims, “good morning Mommy!”

For developing good habits to build discipline, I came across a great resource that summarizes the most important habits needed to develop discipline and accomplish goals: a short and sweet Crystal Paine’s ebook, 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life.* These include the tried and true habits of goal setting, learning to say “no,” breaking down large projects into smaller tasks, and finding accountability partners. 

You can read the blog posts upon which blogger Crystal Paine based this book here.  To develop good habits to help me wake up early, I say ‘no’ to late night computer use, and ask my husband to wake me if he finds me shutting off my alarm.

Reformulate your goal into a desire you can feed, then develop good habits to build the discipline you need to achieve them. Do you have other resources for leading a more disciplined life? Please share them in the comments.

*This post contains affiliate links. That means if you choose to purchase the book mentioned in the blog, I will get a commission if you click through my links. I will never post an affiliate link to a book unless I have read it myself, found it useful, and worth sharing.