I remembered something I heard Jim Collins say a few years ago at the Global Leadership Summit about disciplined people doing disciplined thinking and taking disciplined action. We are mostly not keen on discipline. It smacks of punishment, of reminding us that we've done something wrong. But of course that's not what it means in this context.
It's interesting though how the choice of a word can make such a difference to the way we perceive what we are doing or experiencing. We can understand an athlete having a punishing training routine in order to prepare for competition, but we find it difficult to translate that idea into developing a deeper walk with God. And maybe that is why, at least in part, we shy away from the thought of using discipline in connection with discipleship too. It sounds like hard work and we don't really want our relationship with God to be about hard work.
But discipline is not just about hard work and self-denial and pushing oneself harder and harder. It is simply a matter of the choices we make. Make it even more simple. It's about choosing to make a choice rather than just letting things happen around us.
I'm learning a lot about discipline at the moment.
Anne and I have both embarked on a programme to lose some weight. Over the last five years or so I've been monitoring my mass as it's steadily gone down. It has wandered up and down, but the progress has been downwards over all. It takes discipline to do this. Old eating habits that were fine when I was running and playing squash and riding a bike, are no longer helpful. I've had to make some disciplined choices about what to eat and when to eat it. Our current success is down to a more rigourous and disciplined approach to eating than we've had. It is in essence about establishing long-term habits and not just about a quick fix.
What I find fascinating, and obvious really, is that it is easy to remain focused and disciplined when you can see positive outcomes. So the fact that my weight has dropped over 8Kg in something like 6 weeks and some of my clothes are distinctly loose encourages me to remain disciplined in my habits.
The problem with spiritual growth is that the outcomes are often less obvious and harder to measure. That makes staying disciplined much more difficult. I don't have an easy answer for that one. But what I do know that is that it can often be the little things that can make a difference. If only growing spiritually was as easy as shrinking physically!
Anyway, I ought to stop blogging, get changed, and get walking. Otherwise I won't achieve my other target of 10,000 steps today!