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21 Days to a More Disciplined Life: Discipline is a Process

Yesterday we discussed how living a disciplined life is dependent solely upon me and the choices I make on a daily basis. You are not only the problem, you are also the solution.

So how do we change from the inside out? Well, first, we have to realize that it will be a process. You can’t just decide to go from zero discipline to 100% discipline overnight.

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill you can take that will suddenly make you a disciplined person. Instead, you need to just resolve to change something and then follow through with it–even if it’s as simple as resolving to put your purse away in a designated spot when you come home instead of dropping it wherever you feel like when you stumble into your front door.

It’s easy to want to overhaul our whole lives in a matter of hours or days. But I promise that if you set small, simple, and achievable goals to begin with and stick with these over the long haul, it will be much more beneficial and effective than trying to radically change within 24 hours and ending up exhausted and burnt out after three days.

I love how FlyLady encourages her readers to start changing their lives by shining their kitchen sink. Again, this task might seem so small that it’s hardly worth the effort. But it really can make a big difference.

For instance, not too long ago, we started making a big effort to go to bed every night with a spotless kitchen. I’ve been amazed at how much more peaceful my mornings are when I don’t wake up to a sink overflowing with dirty dishes. It just makes my whole day seem bright to walk out of my bedroom and into a sparkling kitchen in the early morning! The opposite effect is true if I wake up to a messy kitchen: I feel overwhelmed, defeated, and behind before my day has even begun.

It’s a simple thing to whip the kitchen into shape at night. In fact, if my husband and I work together, we can get it completely clean in ten minutes. But developing the habit of not going to bed unless the kitchen is clean can change my whole outlook on the following day.

Remember: Moving in the right direction–even at a microscopic rate–is still moving forward. Slowly making seemingly tiny changes can add up to major differences over a period of time.

Practical Application

Choose one small bad habit you will commit to reverse or one good habit you will aim to implement in your life for the next 20 days. Use the Habit-Forming Chart or Habit Tracker (if you’re ambitious, there’s a 3-habit 100 days chart here) if that helps. Or, you can track your progress online through DailyFeats and earn free gift cards!

After you’ve put some thought into it, come back and tell us what one small change you decided upon. I’ll share mine tomorrow.

Yesterday’s Progress: The laundry is DONE. Well, at least until tomorrow. :) Yay! How did your project go? Did you get it finished?

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  1. Sakura says

    I bottled 14 jars of grape juice last night and (insert drum roll here) folded all the laundry that was clean while the juice processed!!! Thanks for the to get off my booty and get things done. My 21 day habit goal is to spend 30 minutes wogging (walk/jog) daily. Today was day one and done!

  2. says

    It is funny how your kitchen sets the tone for your entire household! I love your goal of cleaning it before bed each night. I think I will try it! With my first baby being pretty new still I’m trying to learn the balance between getting enough rest and still maintaining our home. I’m finding that if my morning starts off right, then the rest of the day goes well and I don’t have to feel guilty if I collapse on the couch in the afternoon! Going to bed with a clean kitchen is an excellent way to start, makes a big difference.

    • WilliamB says

      You may already realize that just about every advice column, book, and person who gives advice, says that getting enough rest with a newborn around is the most important thing. And you know what? It is. The rest can slide or be reduced to its minimum while you get to know your new person and figure out how to take care of it.

  3. says

    Alright, my habit is to do a 15 minute pick up every night – hopefully most nights I’ll have the kids help me. It is so much better to wake up to a picked up house than a messy one. Plus, if I can’t manage 15 minutes . . . well, that’s a whole other problem!

  4. says

    My 24 hour goal was to get all laundry cleaned, folded and put away. This included all the clean laundry that had been making a pile at the end of my bed since JUNE! And it is all done. All laundry folded and put away. Including washing and drying 8 loads :) Feels great to have it all done!

    My bad habit? Brushing my teeth at night. I am just so tired by the end of the night that most nights I pass out on the couch while reading a book. I don’t go to bed because I typically wait for my husband to get home around 11 but that is just to late for me to stay up til. I am hoping to get this into my routine after our evening snack time. (I do evening child care in my home so we have snack time before bed each night.)

    Thanks again for the motivation. moneysavingmom.com is #1 on my list of sites I enjoy!

  5. JennieC. says

    My good habit goal: Only checking Facebook twice a day instead of staying logged in and having it suck my time!!!

    Thanks for the encouragement and motivation!!!!

  6. Meadow says

    My 24 hour goal was to clean up a messy area at work. Yay! It looks a lot better!
    My 21 day good habit goal is to wash my face and take a shower every night before I go to bed. Nothing makes my day start better than waking up clean and refreshed!

    I sure do need to be more disciplined.
    Thank you, Crystal!!

  7. Glori says

    This series is addressing my life’s grand problem, discipline!! I get too easily distracted by books or computer and leave everything else undone until I’m desperately late with meal prep, basic cleaning chores, personal care and kid time. It’s terrible…a lot of my reading (books and blogs) relate exactly to this, personal organization, homemaking, parenting, etc. But the big thing is: I.Won’t. DO.it.

    So, I have too many projects that I’ve been procrastinating and many little habits to work on. For the project, I think purging my closet: too much stuff that doesn’t get worn. And for the habit: picking up a book or the computer only after the main tasks of the day are done, and for a timer-set length of time as a reward. =)

    On the positive side, I DO get the kitchen completely clean most nights (no dishwasher and not much help), because I know it will definitely make a difference in the morning.

    Thanks Crystal for sharing and giving us this space to share, too.

  8. Laura Evans says

    Got my peppers chopped yesterday!! It wasn’t even that late of a night–only took about 30mins.
    My habit that I need to change (there are so many) is to do some form of exercise–walking or doc prescribed stretching–once per day.
    Wish me some luck!!

  9. Nichole says

    My project took yesterday and today, but I did it: finished writing the thank-you notes from my baby shower last week. Baby can COME! NOW, please! :)

  10. says

    Thank you for starting this series. I have been praying about how I can be more disciplined and make my life and home run more smoothly.

    My goal at the beginning of this week was to go to bed with a completely clean kitchen. It was encouraging to hear that I am not the only one who struggles with this.

    By evening I get warn out and it is easy to just leave a baking dish to soak in the sink and a few knives. After the dishwasher is run and full of clean dishes, snack containers and glasses get set on the counter and in the morning is is so discouraging to have a messy kitchen.

    I have loved having a clean kitchen this week. I have older children, so I have them help load and unload the dishwasher, but I mostly do the dishes that need to be washed by hand and counter tops. It’s amazing how little effort it takes and what a blessing it is.

  11. Denise C. says

    My new habit that I am going to work on is……stop swearing. I grew up with parents who cursed like sailors and swore I’d never do it, and I do. Not. something. I. am. proud. of. at. all.

    Fill in words: fiddlesticks, shucks are coming to mind as clean words, any others?

    • Nichole says

      My favorite, because it makes me laugh: a very proper British librarian I once knew always used to say, “Muffins!”

    • WilliamB says

      Words that start with the same sound as the curse word are always a good start. Fudge. Drat. Crud. Fewments.

      Have you considered a quarter jar? Everytime you – or someone else – catches you swearing, you pay a quarter. Some people find it extra motivating if that money has to be donated to a charity they *disagree* with.

      • Denise C. says

        These are great! I tried the quarter jar once and it was a complete bomb. I’ve thought of the rubber band on my wrist, snapping it when I said a bad word too (need to find a rubber band though!)

  12. says

    I’ve been thinking about this all day trying to figure out which small goal I want to work toward, and I think I’ve finally picked one! I really, really want to get back in the habit of eating meals at the kitchen table with my 2 1/2 year old. We always have a family dinner around the table with her dad, but during the day when it’s just us, I tend to let it slide and we eat wherever, whenever. When we eat at the table, it’s a great bonding time and I find that I’m much more deliberate about what we’re eating (because it feels like a meal and not just one in a series of snacks). Plus, the kitchen table is SO much easier to clean off than the couch! 😉

  13. Hannah Rogers says

    Very excited about this series! My husband and I are going to do this together, our life could definitely use a little discipline! My 24 hour was to get caught up on my work (I work from home for my families business and am always struggling to stay on top of it). The 20 day challenge took a little more thought, there are sooooo many things and habits I would like to change or implement, but when it came down to it, nothing could be more important for me than getting in the habit of reading God’s word, DAILY. I am always up and down with it now, some weeks I do well, some weeks I only pick up my bible on Wednesdays and Sundays. Excited to see what the Lord has in store for me throughout this series.

    “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

  14. Koree says

    *Try to walk outside or on treadmill.

    *More patience at work.

    * Not worry about clean house; it’s just me who cares and I have more important priorities at this point.

    *Not do schoolwork the night before/day it’s due.

  15. Tracy says

    I am so thankful to find this series and glad I did not just sit by and read, but decided to participate. I lost my job at the end of September and have been discouraged with no responses to my several attempts to find another. I have been putting off washing my delicates which included most of the work clothes I wore the last week of my job. I figured I don’t need to wear them why wash them? I finished this project in 24 hours and it feels great to have it accomplished. Now to tackle my bad habit of letting the mail pile up on the kitchen table. Thank you for encouraging all of us to have more discipline in our lives. I am sure it will be helpful during these next few months and hopefully a new job to come.

  16. debbi says

    I read that discipline is remembering what you really want… :) Saw it somewhere through the Flylady.net website. That really has helped me see discipline as a positive rather than a chore. :) Great job to you!

  17. Krystal says

    Ever since I found your website about a year ago I have been very blessed. Reading your blog has been a real motivator and encouragement for me. I am looking forward to this series. Lately I have been overwhelmed and stressed out. When my husband asks why, I don’t have a clear answer. I am a stay at home mom and non of the things on my to-do list are critical. However, I feel like they needed to be done yesterday! I was so excited when I was able to cross off two things from my list. I finally folded and put away the baskets of clothing that was clean, and I made some homemade granola bars and muffins that I had been wanting to try. I felt better all day long :) As for my bad habit…I haven’t picked the one I want to work on yet. However, I am looking forward to crossing off days from the chart. Thanks!

  18. says

    I’m in a very busy season of my life (3 kids under 6, 3 part time jobs, an online class), but I really, really want to lose the last 10lbs of ‘baby weight’ – I’ve come so far and stalled. So, in keeping with the little time I have, my new habit will be to spend just 15 minutes every evening on my elliptical machine. Even I can find 15min in my day!

  19. AudreyM says

    So I’m a little late to jump on this band wagon, but I decided last week that I would get the dishes done before bed. Funny that something so simple would make your day go so much better. I’ve been sucessful about 4 out of 5 days. But I have to cut myself some slack doing dishes when I get home from work at 11pm sometimes just isn’t possible. Having 2 kids and 4 months pregnant I can only do so much.

    Today’s project, tackle the “piles” papers and coupons scattered throughout the living/kitchen area.

    Thanks for the encouragement! I love reading your stuff!

  20. becky k says

    I’m a little late to jump on this band wagon, too. Last week was pretty crazy for me, but I knew what my first project should be right away–it just took me a few days to get to the point where I could just sit down and get it done. My 2 year old found my recipe file (back in the summer, I believe) and dumped it out. I didn’t have time at that point to reorganize everything, so I just stuffed all the recipes back in the box. I could have reorganized it 3 times over in the time I’ve wasted over the past few months trying to find recipes in the disorganized mess. (Why do I do this to myself?) So, I finally sat down for about 25 minutes and put everything back in order and made some new categories/divider cards. My recipes are organized better than they were before.

    I really need this series, Crystal. Thanks so much!

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