What happens when you tell yourself you will exercise/start dieting/pray every morning/stop x behavior...starting Monday? Has that ever worked? Well, when you say that to yourself and don't do it, you stop trusting that the you have the ability to follow any decisions you make for your own good. You don't believe yourself anymore, and the next time you promise yourself to change, your expectation is lower. Before long, you have relegated yourself to "I SHOULD stop drinking so much Dr Pepper, but I know I'm not strong enough to stop. Oh, well." or "I know I shouldn't, BUT I really want to..." This leads to discouragement and a feeling of helplessness in spite of our own better judgment. Not a good cycle.
The problem lies in paying attention to what we want. We spend so much time thinking about this. What do we want to eat? What do we want to do? When do we want to work? What do we want to watch on TV? How do we want to spend our time? How do we want our kids to be? How do we want our spouses to be? We focus in on developing this idea of our ideal life and then pursue it in the ways that we want to, wondering why we're stressed and frustrated and at odds with people in our lives. We wonder if something else would work better, but are afraid that if we ignore our desires, we'll end up cheated out of any good things we could have pursued for ourselves.
For a Christian, the key is yielding what I want for what Christ wants for me. Maybe I want my friend to know exactly when to call me on a bad day, but maybe Christ wants me to spend that time in conversation with Him instead. Maybe I want the job of explaining to everyone around me exactly how I think they should be, but maybe Christ wants me to trust Him with their lives and choose to focus on molding myself to what He thinks I should be.
How do we release this addiction to "what I want"? One thing at a time. Baby steps, really. Tell yourself a resounding, "NO!" in just one thing. I want Coke for dinner. NO! Drink water. I want to yell at my daughter for that decision. NO! Instruct her calmly. I don't feel like exercising. NO! Do something for just 10 minutes. I would rather watch TV. NO! Sit down with the Bible, open it and read a page.
It's impressive, really. Once we learn to start denying ourselves (sound familiar?) the indulgence of preference, it's easier to do it more and more. We start believing ourselves again, that when we recognize the value of something we should do, we'll have the guts to suck it up and do it, regardless of what we feel like.
That's what discipline is, really. Acting as we should when we don't feel like it. It's not a scheduled life of rigid self-control (which is too self-focused) that is held by those who don't struggle against it. It's the simple act of the correct choices, patiently building each one on the next.
"A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from that Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:7-9