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

Based upon your responses to yesterday’s introductory post, many of us are longing for more discipline in our lives. We crave order and peace. We want to be better managers of our time and life. We want to follow through with our good intentions.

But so many times I’ve found that I try to go about developing a more disciplined life in all the wrong ways. I check out a book on living an organized life from the library and think it will make all the difference. I download a printable household organization planner and think it will magically whip my house into shape. Or I think that if my house or life or responsibilities were different, then I could achieve a disciplined life.

Instead of addressing the root issue–my lack of self-discipline–I think that a fancy new system is going to fix the problem. A bad system is not the problem. I am the problem.

Oh sure. Life throws curveballs. There are job losses, babies born, illnesses, moves, and projects that can get one off course. But ultimately, whether or not I live a disciplined life is dependent solely upon me and the choices I make on a daily basis.

Those are tough words to swallow. And I could wallow in frustration over my short-comings and failures. However, instead, I want to let it motivate me. I am the problem, but I am also the solution.

I don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on organizational products. I don’t need to buy 20 books on living a disciplined life. Instead, I need to resolve to change from the inside out.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about how to start making specific, realistic changes to transform a cluttered, chaotic life into an orderly, organized life.

Practical Application

To jumpstart the 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life Challenge, choose one small project that has been nagging at you for the last few weeks or months and go start and complete it in the next 24 hours. You may find that it didn’t end up taking you near as long as you thought it would and you’ll feel so good to have it done.

I’m tackling the laundry pile (no surprise there, I’m sure, as this seems to the area I’m constantly struggling in!). Ever since returning from Relevant, I’ve been woefully behind on laundry. So I’m going to aim to get completely caught up within the next 24 hours. And then I’m going to be intentional about keeping the momentum going… more on that in a few days.

Come back tomorrow afternoon/evening and I’ll tell you how it went–and you can tell us how your project went, too!

photo credit

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  • Amanda says:

    I am so thrilled for this series! I have been feeling lazy and unmotivated lately and I know it’s all me. Thanks for giving me a kick in the butt, Crystal! Your blog continues to help me be a better person!

  • Alicia says:

    I have a ton of those things that’ve been nagging me for months! ;0 I think I’ll go for organizing the teaching stuff I’ve been meaning to go through in the garage. It’s been sitting there in the middle of the floor for months, waiting for me to purge and reorganize for my own kiddos. I just need to get to and get it out of the way. I do need to go out there first and see if it’s too cold of working conditions for now. If it is, I’ll do the pile of papers in the desk drawer (it’s a large drawr and a large pile).

    • WilliamB says:

      Sometimes the hardest thing for me is to figure out which nagging task to do first. Then common sense kicks in and I realize better to just get started, lest I spend all my time planning instead of doing.

  • Emily says:

    I am really excited about this series, as it looks like everyone else is too… I have been going in circles lately and been struggling with buckling down and doing what needs to be done (instead of what I WANT to do- namely spending a lot of time on couponing, haha).

    That’s what I love best about this site- all the practical help you give us. I honestly don’t come here for the deals (I can get those anywhere), but for the advice!! So thanks!

  • Patti says:

    I understand perfectly how much life can interfere – right now my parents are in crisis (cancer and heart attack), my son is in crisis (going through issues adjusting to college), and my husband and I are adjusting to a new stage in life (empty nesters). Because I had to give up on my normal routine and it was driving me crazy, I sat down one day and made up a list of ALL the things I needed to do, room by room. It has really helped! Now I don’t have to think about it… just go to the list and see what I need to do next. I may only have a minute to work on it or I may have an hour. At any rate, I can accomplish something. So… next on my list is to file some papers that have been stacked up since we did our taxes. I’m off to the file cabinet!! Thanks, Crystal, for your inspiration -both to tackle tasks and to prioritize my time and energy. Yes, I have carved out computer time, too!! : )

  • Johnna says:

    Love this challenge! 21 days makes it seem more attainable. My 24 hr goal is my laundry room…Don’t mind doing it but the putting it up is hard….My one goal for sure this challenge is the having the dishes done every night! Nothing like waking up to a clean sink!

  • WilliamB says:

    I have three thoughts:

    1. Discipline is also a HABIT. Good habits can be as hard to break as bad ones so consider the work put into developing a good habit to be an investment in the future.

    2. The choice of systems matter. While I don’t expect to get the perfect system from a book, I do learn bits that help me create systems that work for me.

    3. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough. A personal example: it’s better for one’s teeth to floss in the evening. For some reason, though, I only floss my teeth regularly when I do that in the morning. Flossing 12 hrs “too late” is be better than not flossing at all.

    • Crystal says:

      Great thoughts! And yes, systems do matter and I’ve gleaned a lot from reading books on organization, discipline, and time management. But at the end of the day, following-through is more important than having a perfect system.

      • Rachelle says:

        That is sooooo true…I know what to do, but get overwhelmed very easily. The follow through and up keep. I have trouble up keeping and the clutter starts to role back in. It’s hard for me to upkeep when I haven’t been able to de-clutter the entire house yet. That is where discipline is important and knowing that there will be an end in sight, right?

  • Ellen says:

    I just cleaned out my tupperware drawer! Thanks for the motivation!!!!

  • Rachael says:

    Today I am sending my neice a baby gift. I won’t say how old baby is, just that it should have been done months ago 🙂

  • Kim says:

    My laundry is insanely behind as well. Our washer was broken for about a week, and then I was just too “blah” this week to do anything about it. Before these 24 hours are over, I will have it done. Thanks for the inspiration. It is always easier to do these things when you have a group of people who are also doing it.

  • Emily says:

    I LOVE this blog and I’m very excited about this series! Than you Crystal! I am going to get my About Me page done for my and get this blog project rolling once and for ALL! Oh… and also 4 loads of laundry too.

  • SE says:

    Crystal, I have laundry issues too. I hope it’s ok to share with you what has been working for us this fall.

    I bought laundry baskets super cheap (one for each member of the family plus a big one for linens) and do a load or two of wash each day. My kids are the same age as you, my 6 yo unloads the dryer when it stops and he and my 4 yo sort the pile into all the separate baskets. We do this all week long until Friday morning when I have a dear woman from church who comes and folds everything for us. Then my kids each put their folded laundry away and I do mine and linens. If until then, the kids are in need of a clothing item, they know their basket is in the sorting corner in the basement and go down there to help themselves to what they need. So far it’s been working out just fine for us.

  • I am reading a book with some college girls called Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild by Mary Kassian. It has been a real blessing to me. Last week the chapter was on habits. The author says that our habits really show what our priorities are. We like to think that things that sound good are our priorities, but our habits really show what takes precedence in our lives. I want being a woman of God’s word and an excellent wife and mother to be my priorities, but my habits don’t show that I’m working towards those goals. So this week, I implemented a new discipline…No Bible, No Blogs (meaning that if I haven’t read the Bible I can’t read any blogs). This has helped me so far. Also, if my kitchen isn’t clean, I don’t function well or get other cleaning done because I just can’t seem to get a move on. So the same rule applies for cleaning the kithchen. I like to say, No clean kitchen, No Pinterest (kinda rhymes lol), but the point is not to get on the computer until I have a clean kitchen. I hope to build these disciplines in my life. Thanks for this series. As for a goal to complete in the next 24 hours it will be to organize our master closet. This has been on my to do list for far too long.

    • Lori says:

      I love your rules! I’m going to borrow them.

    • Cort says:

      I just heard about that book on a radio show “Revive our hearts” where Mary Kassian was speaking. I may just have to read it now.
      Totally agree with your thoughts on no bible no blogs and no clean kitchen no pintrest. I seriously am addicted to watching everyone else living out their life on these blogs in all their creative and organized endeavors that sometimes I forget to go out and do things in my own 🙂

  • Danielle says:

    I really need to do this! I am 22 yrs old and have a 1 1/2 yr old and a 3 month old and I feel like my life is such a mess. I want to enjoy my children and spend as much time with them as I can but I feel like I’m burdened by my dirty home and just can’t enjoy them fully. It is a lose, lose situation. If I’m cleaning I’m not spending time with them and if I’m spending time with them my mind is still on what needs to be getting clean and I just can’t relax. I have a very unorganized, messy home and it creates disorganization in every other area of our lives. It is very discouraging and I often get overwhelmed and frustrated when I think of where to begin. I have let the fact that it overwhelms me be an excuse to just give up trying as hard. My husband and I have talked about it and I know it is a discipline issue and , as you said, I am the one who can fix the problem. Being unorganized and undisciplined is negatively affecting our lives and I sometimes feel like it affects my happiness. I really want to change my bad habits and learn to be more disciplined. Thank you for posting this.

    All that said, I’m going to tackle my laundry as well. We are going on a trip this weekend and having clean laundry is a must! Having it all in its place will help me to pack more efficiently as well.

  • Courtney says:

    My 24 hour project is going to be the pumpkins. I have 5 pumpkins waiting to be cooked and dealt with. Time to go focus on it and accomplish it TOday!

  • Kassi says:

    I have to tell you that I know we have never spoke but I feel as if you are one of my best friends. Since you post about eating a big salad a day I have also tried to do it. I feel like I clean with you every day when I do my 15 minutes of cleaning. So today when I tackle the basement and getting it completely cleaned out I will invision you there talking to me and folding your laundry. I so appreciate the “support group” of this blog.

    I recently gave a little presentation at my church on budgeting. I proclaimed to them that “I am a budget breaker.” Like any addictive habit which breaking the budget is. One needs a support group of people that are doing the same thing. So thank for creating a community of supportive people via your website!!!!

  • I also need this challenge! I have been slowly working on my lack of discipline since beginning a leadership class at Church a few months ago. Discipline has been discussed a lot in the books we have been reading and it has been a big wake up call for me.

    Even though I am making some progress I still have a lot of work to do. Too often my “want to’s” win out over my “need to’s”.

    So for day one of this challenge I will be getting the main part of the house straightened back up. (I have already started on it). We had a long weekend and I felt like I didn’t have the energy to touch it on Monday (however I probably could have spent 30 min and made a huge difference) and yesterday I was gone almost all day.

  • tracie says:

    got the van cleaned out and cleaned out the freezer and wrote down everything thats in it. Both these things have been on my list for awhile.

  • Julie says:

    I want to thank you for your blog. I have not only learned a waealth of knowledge from it but more importantly have learned that I am not alone. I have often felt as if I was a failure as a mother, wife, and housekeeper. Your blog has shown me I am not alone and there are others out there who struggle with the same things as I do. I respect you so much for your ability to admit where you struggle and fail. You are a source of encouragement and inspiration for me! Thank you!

  • Christy says:

    I organize a mission group and I have many to do items on my list one of which is writing letter of recomendations for seniors in high school for the college applications. I have been putting this off for way too long! That is my project today, thanks for the encouragment to just do it!

  • Shannon says:

    I’m excited! I really need this! Thank you

  • Laura Evans says:

    I am going to chop that pound of jalepenos and freeze them so I can make jelly later before they go to waste….Thanks for this. I don’t have kids but work 8-5 then 6-9 outside the home M-F, so I have a SUPER hard time motivating myself to do anything after work, even my online classes. My husband has been gone out of town for work for five weeks and my lack of dicipline shows!

  • Traci says:

    So excited for this series! today I will tackle the dining room table. We haven’t actually ate a meal at the table in months. It’s full of clutter!

  • Becky says:

    Thanks for the inspiration! Love your blog! I just re-hung the crooked pictures on my bedroom wall AND cleaned my dusty light fixtures.

    You often write about living a purposeful life. I try to keep that in mind when doing household chores. For example, I will do this load of laundry so my daughter can wear her favorite shirt tomorrow or; I will dust my son’s room so her can breath clean air or; I will empty the dishwasher so we’re ready to spend time together enjoying a family meal.

  • Katja says:

    My “aha” moment came after 3 children and seven years of marriage. I didn’t want to do the dishes after dinner. (My husband was swamped with homework and my children were too young to help). I realized that my Mom wasn’t going to fly across the country and do it for me. 😉 in fact, I was the Mom. If I didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done. Life changed from that point. I grew up.

  • Sarah says:

    My project is getting through one of the three boxes that I still haven’t unpacked from moving more than 3 months ago. Here’s hoping that my cranky/sick toddler cooperates by taking a verrrry long nap. 🙂

  • Annie says:

    My Project for today is to get my radiator cleared off! It’s a great place to put things “until I can deal with it.” And that never seems to come! I’m hoping to join in! I feel like 21 days is so doable! Thanks for the motivation.

  • Amy says:

    Wow! You described me well. 😉 I’ve found that I enjoy the research and preparation to get organized a lot more than the act itself.

  • Heather says:

    I didn’t see this post until after two today. But I already tackled one of my projects without realizing it would be today’s goal, recalk the windows for winter. Tomorrow I am putting plastic around all the windows. It isn’t the prettiest but it helps with the heating bill.

    Thanks for the motivation. I need more discipline in my life!

  • Gina says:

    I have so many tasks that haven’t gotten done, I’m not sure where to start! Today I’m going to finally plant the tulip bulbs that are still in the bags on my dining room floor. They certainly won’t grow there…

  • Anshu says:

    Ok! I will play – I will fix the two overflowing shelves in my bedroom closet in next 24 hours. I need discipline more than ever because my daily help will go away soon and that may mean 2 hours less time everyday! Lets see if making some changes helps me absorb those 2 hours easily.

  • Jen says:

    Thank you so much for the inspiration! I just researched and called a pediatric dentist for my son and a dentist for my husband and I. We have been meaning to switch dentists for some time, but I never seized the moment to get it done. Getting it off of my mental to do list is liberating. I’ve also cleaned out the art supplies drawer and organized the bookshelves. Thank you for getting me fired up!

  • Jennifer B. says:

    I am so excited about this series. It seems as though my husband and I are constantly struggling with the self-discipline to get things done. Today I started a load of laundry (it’s in the dryer now), cleaned the shower curtain liner, emptied & refilled the dishwasher, & cleaned the litter box. Now only if I can get myself to complete all of my homework from my Statistics class in time for the quiz tomorrow, I will be doing just fine!!

  • Koree says:

    Work on my notebook of instructional strategies due very soon in my Methods class. Directions are unclear so it has been hard to get going on it.

  • This post literally made me cry. My life is so cluttered and chaotic that I am stressed beyond control. Every method I have tried to fix it has failed… becuase of my lack of discipline.

    Adding a huge schedule load to the chaos this past week (for finance sake) has me more stressed than I ever remember being. This past weekend I finally realized that it’s seriously time to put on my big girl pants, face the truth of my lack of character, stop making excuses, and just fix the problem.

    So far, I’ve managed to maintain the mess of this house (vs. adding to it). So it’s progress, but I’d sure like to conquer the mess and maintain the clean and organized. I know that the atmosphere of our home (and my sanity) would be much more peaceful if the house itself were manged better.

    Right now, I working on getting myself disciplined to get up right away in the morning, put a load of laundry in the wash, and unload the dishwasher while feeding the kids breakfast. Doesn’t seem like much, but this is so huge for me. If I can manage this for a complete week, I will feel like I’ve climbed to the peak of Mt. Despair.

  • Denise C. says:

    “I am the problem, but I am also the solution.” LOVE that!
    This was small….I moved our cordless drill, some screw drivers and other misc items from our kitchen, to their regular home, the garage. Why on earth it took me over a week to do, I’ll never know.

  • Sarah says:

    I love this series … or at least the idea of it! I hope the next 19 days are as great as this has been. I immediately thought, when I saw the 24 hour challenge, “I’m going to clean off my desk. No, I’ll do the whole study.” But I know that will take longer than 24 hours given other commitments (especially my 2 young kids.) So, I’m going to tackle my couponing pile. Gotta get it organized by 8:00 tomorrow evening!

  • Amanda says:

    I’ve been avoiding transferring my 2000+ photos dating back to March 2011 over to my external hard drive–don’t know why it isn’t like it is that difficult! Done now! And today I did I wrapped up a report that I normally would have put off–it feels good to be ahead of the game. Thanks for the motivation!

  • Teena says:

    I linked to your post on my blog! Thanks for this series. This quote on discipline has been working on me the past couple of days.

  • Johnlyn says:

    I wonder how many people are suffering from lack of self discipline vs. having too much on their plate (not saying that’s the case with you Crystal, but after reading the comments here that was the thought I had.)

    When people are overwhelmed, often times it’s because they’ve taken on way too much (speaking from experience!)

    I loved Amy’s book “Tell Your Time”, but I had to write a followup post on my review of her book. It said something to the effect: “the part in the book that I don’t like…I actually have to do something!”

    I my case that meant getting rid of a lot of “good” things in my life so I could concentrate on the “great” things.

    • Crystal says:

      I think that it can actually be a lack of self-discipline when we don’t say “no” and cautiously guard our time and priorities so that the good doesn’t eat up all the time for the best. That’s a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way in my own life.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  • Jennifer says:

    I was able to organize my office, all my folders for class, and get all of my stuff in line. It only took a few minutes (probably 15 minutes), but I have been putting it off for so long. Now I have a less cluttered place to spend time working on my thesis and other school work.

    I hope to continue this trend back at my duplex, and clean up my second bedroom/office at home, so that I can hopefully be more productive at home as well. This was maybe I will spend time working in my home office rather than on the couch in the living room, right in front of the TV. Hopefully this allows me to be more productive in more than just cleaning.

  • I can so relate to this! I am notorious for taking out a stack of organizational books from the library in the hopes they will help streamline my life and make me more productive. But in reality, I think it’s just a stalling tactic. In reading all those books, I may feel like I am doing something but I’m really just avoiding the hard work.

    Laundry is on my to-do list today also. Looking forward to the rest of your series!

  • My 24 hour goal was to fold all the clean laundry that collects at the foot of my bed and to also get all dirty laundry washed and put away. I have gotten all the laundry by my bed folded and put away, I have gotten 7 loads of laundry done and I have got the last load of towels in the wash now. All clean laundry was folded right away when it got out of the dryer! The laundry at the foot of my bed has been there since the week of my wedding…. which was in JUNE!!! Thanks for the motivation to get this done 🙂

  • durango mom says:

    I read this yesterday afternoon and last night I outsourced daily bookkeeping for my family business. I still “get” to do the financial statements and the analysis work, but the daily stuff is simply too much. I already have a full-time job plus the family business. Also, tomorrow my housekeepers start.
    One form of self-discipline I am working on is to be an intentional steward of my time. Where is my time best spent? Raising my kids, loving my husband and growing our business. Thanks for keeping me accountable.

  • Bridget says:

    My pastor really captured the essence of Godly discipline as he explained to us how DISCIPLINE leads to DESIRE which leads to DELIGHT. It’s called the three “D” principal. So many times we think it works the other way around and our desire for something will magically lead us into the discipline it takes to accomplish it! Thank you for sharing your journey to more discipline with us, we can all use a little more of it in our lives!!

  • jaylin says:

    i am excited to start this series! i have all these great ideas and think things will change by reading a book as well…but in truth i need more self discipline, this is inspiring me to pick one task and complete it!!! thank you

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