September 28, 2011

I don't want to!

"Do something every day that you don't want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain."
Mark Twain

I took a class last week on finances and this quote was part of the powerpoint presentation.  It occurred to me that most people in our society would balk at such a suggestion, but once implemented, this "rule" has the power to drastically change your life.

To illustrate my point, let's go back to childhood.  When I was little, my life was made of many small daily rules ranging from "feed the cat" to "make your bed" to "clean up when you make a mess."  Although I have no doubt that I did my fair share of complaining, these rules instilled in me values that I carry into adulthood: I am responsible, I still make my bed every day and if I make a mess, I consider cleaning up part of the process.  Because these rules were ingrained in me, it does not seem like a monumental task to make my bed, hang up yesterday's clothes or do the dishes--it's just a part of life!  It's not "painful."

I was blessed to have parents who were involved in my upbringing but also allowed me to fail when it was my fault!  They did not rush in and save me, as they most certainly could have done.  They made me do chores.  They made me come in early on Saturday night so I was rested for church on Sunday.  As a young person,  I did not realize that they were instilling life long habits in me by making me abide by rules that seemed "painful" at the time.

Fast forward to college.  For the first time in my life, I was the sole manager of my time, my space, my finances, my eating habits and my studying.  There was no parental eye overseeing what I was doing or how I was doing it.  So what happened?  Did I sleep all day, rack up credit card debt, eat junk food non-stop (cookies don't count) and never study.  Absolutely not.  By that time, I had learned the value of taking care of my belongings (my body included - exercising!), managing my money (I got a job), and making good grades.  Did I want to go to the gym every day? No.  Did I want to leave my house at 7:00am to babysit 3 mornings a week?  No.  Did I want to spend hours holed up in the library with Mary Jane? No.  (Side note: It helped having a best friend who would study with me.  Thanks, MJ!)  BUT I learned the positive side effects of following through with these tasks: I felt better, I had extra cash to spend on travel and clothes, and I kept scholarships and my parents happy with good grades.

So where I am going with this?  In each phase of life we have the opportunity to build new and positive habits, we have the chance to test our own limits and become better people.  Sometimes doing something you don't want to do means not doing something (like eating 6 cookies before bed).  Maybe it means restricting your clothing budget to save more money for the future.  Maybe it means digging into a big messy project at work that no one else wants to handle.  

The best part: most of the ways that we deny ourselves today will reap more blessings and benefits in our future that we could ever dream imaginable!

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