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“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
—Norman Vincent Peale
When adversity and hardship hit hard, questions and doubts rush to the foreground.
Why? Why me? How could this happen? What did I do wrong?
We experience emotions such as shock, anger, fear, anxiety, and even panic. As comprehension reveals the depth of the problems we face, we may have misgivings about how to successfully resolve them.
It is here we stop and take some calm breaths, and tell ourselves, “Yes, I can.”
Adversities are hardships, misfortunes, and difficulties that expose our vulnerabilities and question our capabilities.
If we have never examined and accepted those parts of our personality that are weaker, less pleasant, and difficult, hard times will amplify and exaggerate them. Instead of resolve and determination, our focus remains on defeat and failure or anger and blame.
We are not perfect.
While it is important to recognize and affirm our assets, qualities, and strengths, it is equally important to acknowledge our weaker parts.
After acknowledging and affirming both, our weaknesses become less of a problem. Then, after the first shock of harsh reality, we can use our mind and energy to problem-solve instead of questioning our abilities.
Being aware of our weaknesses provides a harmonious and emotional balance between what we can do and what we can’t.
This awareness stabilizes and grounds us and provides a balancing pole between two opposing forces. It reminds us we are not all-powerful, all-capable, or all-encompassing. We need others and we need God. Just as we need to know our strengths, we also need to know our vulnerabilities.
“We know what we are but know not what we may be.”
Pride often leads to arrogance.
Adversity reveals this in unpleasant ways. Humility is a quantifying scale against pride and arrogance. In the grand scheme of things, there will be areas where we excel and areas where we do poorly. One does not outweigh the other. When we recognize both, we are able to ask for help and take on the responsibility to find solutions.
Humility brings us back to what is important in life and what we believe.
It is not about me – it is about what I have been given to work with and a God who leads, guides, and directs. We don’t always have to be right; only be willing to learn.
Life can be a hard taskmaster and tough times can be either debilitating or opportunities to become more than we were. If we play the “blame game” or continue to beat ourselves up, we will spend an enormous amount of energy and time going nowhere.
If we ask God for guidance, assurance, strength, faith, and hope, we will find we have the tools to handle the worst hardship or misfortune. As we look for blessings, adversity will be balanced by all the good things we can be grateful for.
What is difficult for you?
Perhaps you are afraid of making mistakes or of appearing stupid or incapable.
Perhaps you fear rejection and isolation.
When we accept that we will make mistakes, that we will appear stupid at times, and that we won’t always be capable, these won’t become such huge obstacles.
We can’t learn unless we are willing to risk, make mistakes and appear stupid at times. But we can respond in positive ways.
Through acceptance, mistakes can become tools instead of hindrances. When we evaluate ourselves honestly and genuinely, we can establish a mindset and attitude that says, “Whatever happens, I will, with the help of God, be able to turn it into something good.”
Monitoring personal behavior
In today’s world, we live vicariously through the sensationalism of others. The more sensational, the more we lap it up.
Or we hide in chat rooms and believe whatever we do or say there is okay. Our “reality” becomes a mixture of fantasy and self-deception.
We forget we were given the freedom to choose our responses to life. If we believe we can do anything we want without judgments, evaluations, or self-regulation as long as it is politically correct, we and our culture are headed for serious trouble. All the things we do, whether behind closed doors or in the open, matter.
“The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel change, grow, or love. Chained by his certitude, he is a slave; he has forfeited his freedom. Only the person who risks is truly free.”
—Leo Buscaglia, Ph.D.
3 ways to put self-discipline into practice
If you are struggling, wondering how to put self-discipline or self-regulation into practice, consider these three steps:
Examine your beliefs.
Define and write them down. What are your beliefs based on?
I believe they begin with the Ten Commandments which are as pertinent today as they were when God handed them down to the Israelites centuries ago.
Study your Bible.
Principles that last are based on more than what the culture of the day decides is okay. Acknowledge your need for God’s love, saving grace, strength, and power. We can’t do this by ourselves.
Recognize that there is a struggle between good and evil, personal gratification and sacrifice, wanting to do what is right and the temptation to do whatever feels good.
We can’t begin to define what is appropriate or destructive without a guiding force that is based on love; a love that first comes from God and which we then can extend to one another.
Self-regulation doesn’t mean we will live perfect lives.
We will get tired, do things in the spur-of-the-moment without thinking, and will be swayed by the social and cultural climate we live in.
At times, we will give up.
But when we have defined and predetermined our principles, this powerful guiding force helps us resolve problems and avoid destructive mistakes.