Self-discipline | What 9-year-old Rolene taught me

  • Date:
    9 April 2022
  • Author:
    Rolene Strauss

I want to tell you a little story about 9-year-old Rolene…

When I was in primary school, I struggled with mathematics. I remember sitting at the kitchen table in front of my mother who explained the concept of division for the 10th time that day. I just couldn’t understand that if you have 3 apples and three friends, each friend gets one apple. I still remember tears welling up in my eyes and that feeling of hopelessness and disbelief in my ability to do maths.

However, for some reason, I never gave up. I spent hours and hours doing mathematics extra classes, sharpening my math skills, and the better I got, the more I enjoyed it. Mathematics ended up being my favourite subject and I scored a 98% in my matric exam. This was a very valuable lesson I learned from 9-year-old Rolene. Whenever I have to practice self-discipline, I still draw inspiration from this lesson.

This quote opened my eyes to the power of self-discipline:

“Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems” – M Scott Peck

And isn’t life filled with problems? Our ability to solve problems reflects and directly influences our ability to be successful in what we set out to achieve. If you think about it carefully, problems force us to rise to the occasion with courage and wisdom. It is because of problems that we grow… It is through confronting and resolving problems that we learn!

In school, we are deliberately given certain problems to solve for us to learn. By practising self-discipline and solving problems (whether a mathematical problem, confrontational conversation at work, or deciding between a take-away burger or a home-cooked meal for dinner), we are learning! Since I started thinking about it this way, I no longer see self-discipline as punishment, but rather as a means to an end – a way to be courageous, wise and successful!

Here are a few ways I “exercise” my self-disciple “muscle”;

1. Delaying gratification

I do something simple like waiting until I get home before eating something I just bought at the grocery store. I also teach our eldest son to wait until we’ve paid before he can open his snack or toy (a very difficult task to teach a 3-year-old 😂, but I can already see the benefits).

2. Taking time

Taking the necessary time to plan my week before doing anything on a Monday morning, no matter how difficult it is.

3. Choosing balance

It is difficult to always do the right thing, I practice choosing when I will “slack” (for a lack of a better word). Whether it is eating that delicious cheesecake at the deli, not working out for a week, or taking a day off to be as unproductive as I possibly can 😊. In this way, I still practice self-discipline by staying in control of my decisions.

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