“I Can’t Change”& Relaxation

Tension and stress has become natural part of modern life. You may have a number of addictions and compulsive behaviors which you consider as normal, but which may chain your potential and prevent you from walking into the terrains of freedom and celebration of God’s goodness. Years of repetition and immobility in some areas of life may have eroded your faith in your own capacity to change. Learned helplessness is one of the major causes of self-impoverishment. In this module you are invited to look into your belief system pertaining to change and improvement in life.

Part three- Self Discipline Module 12

Address your Belief system and develop a power tool


“I Can’t Change”& Relaxation


  • “I Can’t Change”
  • “Some people just can’t change,”
  • “I’m just lazy.”
  • “This is just the kind of person I am.”
  • “I’m just like my mom (or dad).”


How often have you heard these types of statements? Probably quite often. But no matter how often you have heard them, they are as full of holes as a screen door. People do change—constantly. However, there is a catch. Maybe you remember the old joke that says, “How many psychotherapists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one—but the light bulb has to really want to change.” Therein lies the rub.

No one can make another person want to change; the desire for change must come from within. In short, if a person is to change, then that person first needs to choose, consciously and subconsciously, to change. And increasing one’s self-discipline easily qualifies as a change. This applies regardless of whether the self-discipline will be put to use with a small task or a big project.

About choosing to change:Our behavior, emotions, intellect, and just about everything else about us, other than biological considerations, are the result of a series of choices. Many of these choices are made on a daily basis. Moreover, we decide daily whether to continue honoring certain past choices; sometimes this process is conscious, other times subconscious. Indeed, choice is what links our current behavior to our past decisions, experiences, and influences.

We are chained to our past only so long as we choose to be. “I’ve been this way for so long, I can’t change.” “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” “I was raised to believe…” Such statements reflect an unwillingness to accept responsibility for one’s present life. Of course, who we are and what we do today is related to yesterday.

But to allow our yesterdays to determine and dictate our todays and tomorrows is a choice. The part of you that does not want change wants you to believe that the past is a steel trap. If human beings were incapable of breaking free of the past we would still be living in cold, damp caves, and hunting for our food with a club. As a species we escaped being trapped in the past. We invented houses, automobiles, and supermarkets.


Likewise, we as individuals can reinvent ourselves by realizing that “I don’t have to be who I was yesterday. Furthermore, I do not have to do what I did yesterday.” By replacing negative self-talk with positive self-talk, and by using visualization to replace undesirable subconscious messages with desirable conscious messages, you will find yourself enjoying the many fruits of self-discipline.

Remember:While a positive attitude can create positive actions, the reverse is also true. Positive actions can create a positive attitude. They feed and support each other. You are now gaining the information, techniques, and tools to strengthen them simultaneously.


Also, this is a good time to alert you about the positive aspects of taking personal responsibility for your actions. Consider Shakespeare’s observation that our faults lie not in the stars but in ourselves. Yet only a few of us ever accept responsibility for our predicaments.

We are not talking here about accepting responsibility for situations that are genuinely beyond our control; rather, we are talking about our refusing to accept responsibility for the situations that are well within our range of influence. And if we don’t accept responsibility for our own influence on our lives, then we will subconsciously make all sorts of excuses that free us of the responsibility to take action toward our goals.

Moreover, if we rely on fate and luck to somehow deliver our goals to us, then we’d better pack a large lunch because we’re in for a long wait. Good luck happens when preparation meets opportunity.

As Dick Motta, one of the winningest coaches in professional basketball’s history used to say, “I’m a firm believer in luck. The harder I work the luckier I get.”


The point:

Your ability to develop, employ, and sustain self-discipline is directly related to your readiness to accept responsibility for creating your own circumstances.



Power Tool: Relaxation


By using some sort of relaxation system you can immediately increase your ability to think, feel, and do whatever you choose to think, feel, and do. Why? Any decrease in tension, anxiety, and fear, creates an immediate increase in self-discipline. And situational relaxation will immediately decrease the tension, anxiety, or fear that occurs when you are confronted with a task that a part of you does not want to do.

Now, in addition to learning a few basic ways that situational relaxation will boost your self-discipline, you will learn a quick relaxation technique that is tailor-made for use with self-discipline.

But first, let’s quickly review how Hyde keeps you from applying self-discipline. By now you know that Hyde creates subconscious anxieties and fears whenever you decide to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone. When Hyde begins to use the poisons, roadblocks, and self-defeating beliefs that you learned about earlier, you begin to feel stress. Then the part of you that wants to apply self-discipline begins to turn away from whatever task is at hand. In other words, you begin the Avoidance Process: You begin to move away from the stress that Hyde connects to the task.

In this type of situation, avoiding the task at hand feels natural. Why? The Avoidance Process goes like this: First, you decide to begin a task that requires self-discipline. Next, Hyde uses various tricks to keep you from doing it. Then, because of the inner conflict that is beginning to go from simmer to boil, your stress level begins to rise. When your stress level rises, so does your anxiety level. Then, as your anxiety level rises, your motivation drops. Then you say to yourself, “I don’t want to do this now.” Then, because psychological stress causes a physiological reaction, suddenly you don’t physically feel like

doing the task.


In fact, the closer you move toward the task, the more you think and feel like avoiding it. As the Avoidance Process unfolds, you find yourself putting off, avoiding, or escaping a task that you need to do in order to reach whatever goal you’ve chosen. Then, when you start doing some sort of avoidance activity, you feel immediate emotional and physical relief. This false feeling of relief occurs even though you know that the consequences of your escapism and delayism will create problems later. What to do?

Well, you already know the poisons, roadblocks, and self-defeating beliefs that short-circuit your self-discipline. But general knowledge is not enough to overcome Hyde’s resistance. You need to know which specific tricks are being used against you. Then you can usually pinpoint why they are being used. Armed with why, you can work out a quick deal with Hyde to relax the inner conflict that occurs when a part of you wants to do something that another part of you does not want to do. When the inner conflict relaxes, the roadblocks will begin to shrink, eventually becoming so small that you will be able to exercise your desired behavior. So how do you find out what Hyde is up to? Easy. All you have to do is relax.

Then you can ask yourself the “Why” questions: “Why do I want to eat something instead of writing this report?” “Why do I want to watch mindless television right now?” “Why do I think that filling out this form will be so painful?” “Why am I responding this way?” And although the specific questions that you ask yourself will change according to the task you are facing, the nature of the questions will remain the same. You will need to ask yourself “Why”questions.

These questions will help you quickly determine the real reasons for your avoidance behavior. These real reasons will inevitably be related to one or more of Hyde’s various poisons or roadblocks.


Your recognition of these mind tricks will immediately diminish their power. Relaxation is what gives you an opportunity to shift your behavior decisions from the subconscious into the conscious part of your mind. In other words, when you become quiet and systematically relax, even for just a couple of minutes, you can suddenly hear yourself think. Then, by using your new tools and techniques, you can quickly transform your hidden negative thoughts into positive self-discipline support.

Important: If you relax for a minute before beginning an avoidance behavior, then you will become aware of rationalizing, minimizing, and justifying the avoidance behavior. This insight alone will give your self-discipline a gigantic boost. So how do you do situational relaxation?

A Quick and Easy Situational Relaxation Technique

What is situational relaxation? As the name implies, it means that whenever you find yourself beginning to avoid a task that needs to be done, the situation calls for relaxation. Regardless of the nature of the task, whether you are about to write a report or start a cleaning project, a systematic relaxation effort will move you toward self-discipline. Physical relaxation will automatically create the psychological state that allows you to put your self-discipline tools and techniques to work. So, whenever you feel Hyde pulling you away from the task you want to do, take two or three minutes to go through the following steps. The more you do it, the faster and easier it becomes.


  1. 1.Take a few deep breaths, slow your breathing, and say to yourself, “I am completely relaxed.” It doesn’t really matter whether you are standing, sitting, or lying down. Simply try to be as physically comfortable as the situation will allow.

  2. 2.Then as you continue to slow your breathing say to yourself: “I am tightening my forehead, then relaxing it. I am tightening all my facial muscles, then relaxing them. I am tightening my jaw, then relaxing it. I am tightening my neck muscles, then relaxing them.” Continue to go through your major muscle groups (shoulders, arms, hands, back, stomach, etc.) first tightening then relaxing them.

  3. 3.Take a minute to really give your body a chance to feel relaxed. Control your breathing. Use your self-talk to support your physical relaxation. Use visualization to see yourself easily doing the task that is at hand.

  4. 4.Quickly ask and answer a few “Why” questions. Listen to what Hyde is saying to you. Become aware of how Hyde is trying to trick you into avoiding the task. Then counteract Hyde’s influence by telling yourself the other side of the story. Be convincing, be forceful, but be relaxed. Focus on a specific immediate reward for completing the task. Use visualization, self-talk, or any other tools that feel useful.

  5. 5.Begin to take a small action step toward the task. As you get closer to the room, table, tools, or wherever you need to be to start the task, continue to control your breathing and physical state. Remind your muscles to relax. Every time you feel or hear an avoidance message from Hyde, use your self-discipline tools and techniques to replace that message with a flood of self-discipline messages. Pour it on thick.


  1. 6.Actually start the first step of your task. Once again, remind yourself to relax. Control your breathing. And, I repeat, every time you feel or hear an avoidance message from Hyde, use your self-discipline tools and techniques to replace that message with a flood of self-discipline messages.


Getting started is the toughest part of the self-discipline process. While this is true with daily tasks like exercises, diets, and skill development, it is also true with one time projects. Situational relaxation, more than any other tool or technique, will help you start, no matter what type of project or task is at hand. Use this quick relaxation technique every day, throughout the day, and watch yourself sail through the self-discipline process over and over. Yes, situational relaxation becomes easier and easier with regular use. And, yes, you will complete more tasks when you systematically relax and stop fighting with yourself.

Note:Situational relaxation is especially effective in dealing with self-discipline challenges that involve consumptive behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and overeating. These behaviors become habits when we automatically react to a situation without first thinking about our actions; without really hearing ourselves give the order to act, without consciously knowing why we are choosing to act in a self-defeating way. Moreover, because consumptive behaviors seem to descend upon you spontaneously from out of nowhere, you naturally feel that this behavior is beyond your control. No so, not by a long shot. You actually are in control of your behavior, or more accurately, the Hyde side of you is in control.

Remember:Hyde is a part of you and is therefore subject to your influence. Relax and listen to what Hyde says, your behavior will then begin to make sense to you. And you can then come up with ways that will have you doing what you really want to do rather that what Hyde wants you to do. Remember also that consumptive behaviors need to be replaced with some other behavior or you will feel a void where the consumptive behavior used to be. This void will affect your self-discipline negatively. So whenever you attempt to stop a behavior, always replace it with another behavior that you would rather have.

For prayer and Reflection: Mt 11.28-30: Mk 1.35: “In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house and went off to a lonely place and prayed there”.Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’;

Mk 6. 31-32 “And he said to them, ‘Come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’… So they went off in the boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves”. How do you organize yourself to be with the Lord and relax with your problems?

I Can Achieve Without Discomfort”& Vitaminds

Part three-Self discipline Module 11

Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain are the basic human drives in order to stay alive healthy. To some extent, both pleasure and pain are indicators of wellness or illness at the physical level. But Paradoxically even physical health is enhanced by good amount of physical strain and work and can be ruined by excess of pleasurable activities. At the mental and spiritual level, many faculties are awakened and nurtured by adequate exposure to hardships, pain and sufferings. But negative attitude towards discomfort and suffering can be life-depleting. This module invites you to probe your belief system with regard to discomfort and struggle.

I Can Achieve Without Discomfort”& Vitaminds



Unrealistic dreams of Hyde


  • “I Can Achieve Without Discomfort”
  • “Maybe I will get lucky and…”
  • “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow is not yours
  • “Why to take the trouble and burn your fingers.. ?”


These are the beliefs of persons who refuse to accept that there is no such thing as a free lunch. In order to achieve anything special, a person would do well to accept the reality that one must accept a certain amount of trade-offs.

Trade-offs can be viewed in terms of goods given for goods received. These “goods” that one gives up can take many forms: time, money, immediate gratification, psychological comfort, or physical comfort—to name but a few. In other words, every journey to self-discipline requires that you cross the comfort zone and accept proportionate hardships and renunciation.


The person who refuses to venture outside the comfort zone, where trade-offs usually take place, can never hope to incorporate self-discipline into everyday life. However, the extreme concept of “No pain, no gain” does not apply here. Actually, the “No pain, no gain,” attitude represents a version of the “All or Nothing” thinking that works against the development of self-discipline. Here, we are talking about the discomfort involved in such trade-off examples as: giving up sugary desserts when you’re on a diet; saying “No” to various distractions when you have a project that you want to work on; or accepting and facing hard situations when you opt for a difficult mission.


And although all of these examples are uncomfortable, you would be engaging in “All or Nothing” thinking if you irrationally insist on telling yourself that they are intolerable rather than simply uncomfortable.

Subconsciously insisting that everything be easy, without effort, is but another way to avoid confronting many of our secret fears and the anxiety that accompanies them. It is also a way to indulge the part of us that doesn’t want self-discipline; the part of us that hates to wait or to work.

Whenever we find ourselves avoiding a particular task, our avoidance usually isn’t based on the real effort involved in performing the task itself. Rather, our avoidance is usually based on a pseudo-horror that we have subconsciously connected to the performance of the task. Again, the subconscious belief that creates this type of avoidance is “I can achieve without discomfort.”

The point: Learn to expect, accept, and tolerate periods of discomfort without mentally inflating them. Without periods of discomfort you will not accomplish even the simplest task. Moreover, practice identifying instances in which you act as if you believe “I can achieve without discomfort.”

When you become aware of what you are subconsciously telling yourself, you can then consciously challenge your self talk and replace it with statements that support your self-discipline. You will be surprised at how quickly your self-discipline is positively affected by using this easy technique.

Your Choice




Comfort Zone




Power Tool: Vitaminds



The technique I’m about to describe will bring about fast and dramatic improvement in your self-discipline. I’m talking about affirmations. Affirmations are words or phrases that reinforce your goals or the steps that lead to your goals. They are like vitamins for the mind, or as I like to call them, Vitaminds. Self talk affirmations work wonders, but written affirmations work even better. They provide you with simple and easy self-motivation that works on a very deep level.

Writing affirmations is a very dynamic technique because the written word has so much power over our minds. When we write self-messages down we are reading them as we write them, so it’s like creating a double hit of positive psychological support for our actions, a vitamin for the mind, a Vitamind.

Now is the time to select a goal (or step toward your goal) to which you would like to apply self-discipline. Transform your goal or task into a short, single sentence, an affirmation. Use your name, and write your affirmation three different ways using first, second, and third person. In other words write:

üI, Ted Brown, practice piano one hour a day.”

ü“You, Ted Brown, practice piano one hour a day.”

ü“Ted Brown practices piano one hour a day.”

Keep your sentences in the present tense. Make them specific, sometimes using numbers helps with this. Try to capture an
action when possible.


Always state your affirmations in positive sentences rather than negative sentences. Write, “I Francine Smith, enjoy life without cigarettes.” Not, “I, Francine Smith, don’t smoke.” Write “I, Francine Smith, weigh 120 pounds.” Not, “I, Francine Smith, want to lose 40 pounds.” Positive sentences work better for self-discipline than negative ones.

After you have written your three affirmation sentences (first, second, and third person), copy the group of affirmations two more times, so that on your sheet of paper you have three identical groups of sentences. Each group should contain your affirmation three different ways.

Write your sentences by hand, slowly in a thoughtful manner. Don’t just do it mechanically. Think about what these words mean as you write them. If you feel any negative thoughts as you write, or any resistances, or any doubts, then write down your negative thoughts on a separate sheet of paper. Even if the negative thought or feeling is only slight, write it down. Really listen to yourself. If, for instance, you begin to hear yourself say, “I’m never going to lose weight,” “This is going to be too hard,” or “I am never going to get the garage cleaned out and set up an office,” write it down and then continue writing your three groups of affirmations.

After you finish writing your affirmations, look at any negative thoughts that you wrote. This process will give you a good look at the methods that you are using to inhibit your self-discipline. Try to connect the negative thoughts you wrote to one of the self-discipline road blocks we discussed earlier, such as Hyde’s poisons, or one of the five subconscious fears, or one of the subconscious beliefs that underlie the fears.

Sometimes you will find that a negative thought or feeling can be connected to more than one of the roadblocks, sometimes connected to all three. After you discover Hyde’s methods, give yourself a few moments to think about what you discovered. Then you automatically will begin to counteract Hyde’s anti-self- discipline campaign. Your insights will help you develop positive patterns of self-discipline for any goal you want to turn into reality.



Now turn your

affirmations into Vitaminds

This trick is quick and easy. Simply take the sheet of paper that contains your three sets of identical affirmations and separate the three sets. Put one set where you will see it every day, even many times a day. How about on the bathroom mirror? Your car dashboard? Your night stand? Next, do the same with the second set of affirmations. This will give you a set of affirmations in two different prominent places. Put the third set into you wallet or purse, so that you have it with you throughout the day. All you have to do is remember to read it as many times as you think of it. Ten times is good; a hundred times is better.


For the rest of your life, use this technique to turn each of your goals into Vitaminds. Try writing them on index cards. Change the cards every couple of weeks, or whenever you get so used to seeing them that they no longer have an impact. Change cards when you change goals, or when you add new goals to your life.

In addition to making Vitaminds that keep your goals in the psychological spotlight, you can also make Vitaminds to help yourself start or finish any task that you don’t want to do. This technique works even if you have two or three different goals going at once. Every time you write or read your Vitamind, you are giving your self-discipline a boost. Remember: Take your Vitaminds daily!

You will soon be combining your Vitaminds with Visualization, Self-talk, and other techniques. Individually, these techniques work well. In combination, they work incredibly well. Don’t neglect them. They’re all quick, easy, and effective.


Whenever you find an inspiring quote write it on a strip of paper and put it where you can see it many times a day. Also put a copy in your wallet or purse. Remember to read it frequently. Change your quote regularly.

For prayer and reflection: 2 Cor 12. 10: “For the sake of Christ, then I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities: for when I am weak, then I am strong”. What is the meaning of cross for you? Does it give you meaning and power to face the discomforts of your commitment with realism and passion? Make a collection of biblical vitaminds that have boosted your spirit in the course of your history. ( Eg. “Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ Jesus my Lord (Rom.8.39).

What is the difference between masochism (pleasure caused by pain) and the Christian exaltation of cross and suffering?


Home work to be sent: Send a summary of your insights after going through module 11 and write at least three of your favorite inspirational quotes.

“I Must Be Perfect” & Reward Systems

Our underlying belief system is the play ground of Hyde’s pranks. Bringing our self-defeating unconscious beliefs into light is an important way to meet the adversary face to face. The biblical world saw it in the first parents whose desire to be like God caused their downfall. The unconscious need to be perfect may form part of the DNA of original sin. Biblical call to be perfect is entirely different.

Hyde needs some patting to be tamed and to cooperate. Hence the reward system. This module picks up one underlying strong belief system that weakens self-discipline and proposes a power tool that supports it.

Part three-self-discipline module 10


“I Must Be Perfect” & Reward Systems


“I Must Be Perfect”

Earlier we explored a subconscious goblin called Fear of Mediocrity. Now we are about to examine the belief system underlying it: “I Must Be Perfect.” Perfectionism, as we established during our exploration of Fear of Mediocrity, reigns as one of life’s greatest anxiety provokers. Its consequences include: procrastination, insecurity, alcoholism, drug abuse, broken relationships, and more. We all occasionally suffer bouts of perfectionism, when we find ourselves in terror of an error. But some persons find themselves in a continual wrestling match with this self-defeating belief.

  • I must win this contest”
  • “I must perform this job perfectly.”
  • “I must be the best”


Please notice that lingering behind such perfectionistic self-talk is the word “must.”Even when the word “must” is unspoken, the implication is there nonetheless. Whenever you feel you “must,” you’ve climbed into a pressure cooker. You’ve fallen victim to the attitude that says “Any performance short of perfection is unacceptable.” But human perfection does not exist. A part of you realizes, of course, that the concept of perfection is only an ideal to motivate you to seek the best in yourself. Indeed, this part of you wants to develop ideas, plans, and goals then turn them into reality. However, another part of you, the part chained to perfectionism, refuses to let the ball get rolling.


Your logic tells you that no matter what you do, most likely it won’t be perfect. For someone hung up on being perfect, the psychological pain, humiliation, and self-loathing that result from falling short of this impossible standard is too much to endure.

The consequences? Whenever the part of you that desires achievement begins to walk toward the door of self-discipline, the perfectionist part of you greases the doorknob. This behavior is an attempt by Hyde to avoid the impending anxiety that you have connected to imperfection.

The point: You will generate a lot more self-discipline and accomplishments by accepting that the “I must be perfect” attitude is a hindrance, not a help, regardless of your endeavor. “If you don’t do it right, don’t do it at all,” usually means that it will not get done at all. But if you dispute this irrational belief whenever it arises, you will quickly come to realize that: The reality of getting it done is more satisfying than the dream of getting it perfect.

Caution: Hyde will try to keep you tied to perfectionism and away from self-discipline by telling you that, “You don’t want to write a poor report, do you?” “You don’t want to do sloppy work, do you?” You don’t want to be called incompetent, do you?” Don’t allow yourself to be tricked. Different projects, of course, require different amounts of attention, time, and effort. Trust yourself to know the necessary and appropriate level of effort you wish to put toward any given project.


Perfectionism weakens perseverance. And perseverance produces more achievements than talent, smarts, or luck. Indeed, the path to accomplishment lies in perseverance.

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: Nothing is more common than unrewarded talent. Education alone will not: The world is full of educated failures. Persistence alone is omnipotent.” Calvin Coolidge

Here is a simple, enjoyable, productive exercise that you can use to teach your subconscious, which is where it really matters, that absolutely nothing bad happens if you don’t do a particular project perfectly.

Try this:
During the next few weeks purposely write a few mediocre letters to a few different friends. Do not try for wit, genius, or perfection; but do not say in any letter that you are just dashing it off. In other words, in the body of the letter don’t make excuses for being less-than-perfect. You are not writing a Great Novel. Do not tie your self-esteem to the act. Do not spend much time being methodical; the point is to write a quick, mediocre letter—and live. Any considerations about content are yours. Regarding length, keep it short. Again: By no means are you to acknowledge your purposeful mediocrity in the body of the letter itself.

As you do this exercise, you actually are reprogramming your attitude, both conscious and subconscious, about perfectionism.


Power Tool: Reward Systems

Have you ever used a thoughtfully constructed, systematic reward system to help you get your projects started and finished? If not, then you will need to develop one. You are about to learn a simple system that will motivate you to action. This system will also reduce the conflict between you and Hyde when the time for action arrives, when you are actually faced with doing the steps that lead to your goal. But first, a word about rewards.

In the human behavior field rewards have been historically used to support desirable behaviors. Tons of research underscores the benefits of using rewards. A systematic reward is the golden key that opens the door to your self-discipline, painlessly. With that said, let’s quickly address some of Hyde’s mind tricks before they get started here. One of Hyde’s favorite tricks is to start saying things like: “I don’t deserve a reward for doing something that I should be doing anyway.” “I don’t feel right about giving myself a reward, it feels like a bribe.” “A job well done should be reward enough for me.”

Don’t buy into it. Hyde uses such deceptive lines to prevent you from using the power of rewards to fuel your self-discipline. Do you feel bribed when you collect your paycheck from work? Of course not. And, unfortunately, “a job well done” will not reinforce your positive actions enough to insure that you repeat them. For that, you need the psychological motivation that only tangible rewards can provide. Successful self-discipline requires that you learn and systematically use the benefits of rewards. Believe me, rewards are the easiest, most effective psychological motivators available to get you started and keep you going until you complete your projects.


People who have attended seminars, workshops, and classes on self discipline greatly benefit by using a personalized reward system that includes: Private Praise, Contracts, and Gradual Steps.

1. Private Praise:
Every time you perform even the smallest step toward a large goal, immediately follow you action with private praise. That’s right, immediately congratulate every positive thought, feeling, or action, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, with supportive self-talk.

For example:

ü“Well done”

ü“It makes me feel good to get this done.”

ü“Congratulations! You did it!”

ü“Good going!”

The beauty of this technique is that you can do it any time and any place. Over time, these little supportive phrases will begin to weaken your resistance to doing things that you need to do but don’t really want to do. Give it a try. Soon you will begin to feel more and more comfortable when you take a step toward your goal. And by immediately patting yourself on the back following a completed step, you are boosting your self-esteem, which is a key ingredient in the self-discipline recipe.

Tip: Try to use the words of someone from your past who once gave you support for your accomplishments. Try to hear the sound of that person’s voice. This will give you added subconscious power when dealing with Hyde, the side of you that does not want self-discipline. But remember, this technique is only one third of the reward system that you will be using. So do it a lot, but keep the words short and simple. Quick phrases like “Good work!” “Don’t give up!” and “You can do it!” said in a strong, solid, supportive voice will work psychological wonders. This technique is too easy not to use constantly.


Important: If you slipin your self-discipline, do not berate yourself. Don’t call yourself stupid, lazy, or stubborn. This type of self-talk is counter-productive, it’s a subtle form of punishment and works to lower your self-esteem. Punishments do not change behaviors as well as rewards do. So when you slip, and you will slip because you are human, say to yourself, “So I slipped. No big deal. I’ll do better next time.” That’s right, let yourself off the hook. And even though you might feel that you should be harshly criticized for slipping, the real truth is that you will be much better off in the long run if you do not punish yourself in any way. So, when you hear Hyde’s put-downs, immediately replace them with a soothing, understanding word or two for yourself. And be sure to smile when you do it, so your subconscious mind will know that you really are not angry with yourself.


2. Contracts: Self-contracts are powerful psychological devices that you can use to reward yourself for every step you make toward a goal. You contract with yourself just the same as you would with another person. When you contract with yourself always be specific about your actions and the reward involved. Sometimes translating the agreement into numbers helps.

For example:

“Every time I complete an assignment, I will reward myself with thirty minutes of guilt-free, junk television, because I like it.”

“For every time I clean up my room, I will go for an ice cream”

“When I finish writing an assignment, I go for a long walk.

“Every time, I finish writing an article which I have planned, I go for a ….”

Tip: Simple written contracts with yourself will give you more self-discipline power than verbal ones. The act of writing involves you in your agreement physiologically as well as psychologically, thus adding even more power to your efforts.


3. Gradual Steps: This might just be the most important element in any reward system. Remember that all of your self-discipline projects need to be based on a step-by-step approach, and each step needs to be rewarded. This holds true no matter how small the step or how small the reward. Because the first few steps of a project might seem too small to deserve a reward, many people make the mistake of withholding rewards until after they take the bigger, more visible, difficult steps of their project. This approach is counterproductive because it overlooks the psychological benefits of having a solid reward system that operates throughout the entire project.

In other words, use rewards at the beginning of the project, then when you hit the middle and end stages you will get a psychological boost from knowing that the entire project has had enjoyable benefits for you, not just the outcome. This can keep you going when you hit the parts of your project that are outside your comfort zone. It will also help you get started on your next project.

give you extra power to negotiate with Hyde. You, more than anyone else on the planet, know what your Hyde likes. Use

this knowledge to get Hyde working for you rather than against you.


Exercise: Design a reward list

Now it’s time to put together an easy reward system based on your personal innocent pleasures. Don’t just think about this exercise, write it. You will need it later. All you have to do is grab a sheet of paper and a writing tool. Then you need to list all the things you can think of that you would like to do for fun, I repeat, for fun. Think of movies, travel, classes, television, conceits, clothes, small indulgences, big extravaganzas, etc. The longer the list the better.

When you initially run out of ideas the list is not done. You’ll want to keep your list active. Add to it whenever you think of additional pleasures. Always add to your list as soon as you think of things. Make sure that each item on your list has a number on the left side. Don’t concern yourself about the order that your reward items appear on the list. The important thing is that you keep each item short. One word, such as “Movie,” works great.

Keep this exercise simple, don’t make it a chore. You are talking about rewards here, so make doing the list fun! Generate a list of affordable, realistic and life-congruent pleasures. Each reward on your list will be a powerful tool in your negotiations with Hyde. So, do not take this tool lightly. Your reward list is as important to self-discipline as any to-do list. Moreover, it is important for you to actually write your rewards down, rather than just think about them. We will be using your list in combination with the Action Plan that comes later. I repeat: A reward system is a key ingredient in your self-discipline recipe. Choose the rewards proportionate to the work done and the time spent on important assignments. So, use rewards generously and self-discipline will taste much better.


Example: Rewards List

My Guilt-Free Rewards

  1. 1.Go to a movie
  2. 2.Watch a video.
  3. 3.Go for an ice cream
  4. 4.Enjoy a pizza
  5. 5.Visit an old community member or a neighbour
  6. 6.Dinner at a special restaurant
  7. 7.Fifteen minutes of long distance talk
  8. 8.Do a service to a companion
  9. 9.Join for cooking
  10. 10.Help in the garden
  11. 11.Dumb TV, with popcorn, one hour,
  12. 12.Weekend outing to visit a friend
  13. 13.phone call to a dear person
  14. 14.An hour in the garden
  15. 15.A distant call to an old friend
  16. 16.See a play
  17. 17.Fluff novel, one chapter
  18. 18.Read magazine
  19. 19.Play a music, one hour
  20. 20.Go hear live music
  21. 21.Prepare a special dish
  22. 22.
  23. 23.


The rewards need not be always physical pleasures, but something that you enjoy doing leisurely for the pure joy of doing it. There are mental and spiritual joys which, when a person begins to discover and enjoy them, he/she may no longer be very much attracted to physical comforts and consider them a reward. Therefore, each one has to design his/her own reward system. All the same, the capacity to enjoy small pleasures of body and mind is proper to an integrated person. Reward is not to be seen as an external dividend for which you force yourself to do something. In that case, your action loses its intrinsic value. Here we mean reward in the positive sense of allowing yourself to enjoy simple pleasures and joys of life consciously in order to celebrate your successes.


Apply the reward system nowto your current program. You are in the 3rd part of the program of self-discipline. Now on after finishing every module (or every two/three modules), reward yourself with one of the items from your list which suit your present context. Observe its effects on you.

For prayer and Reflection:St. Paul went around the world of his time with unbelievable zeal and energy. The source of his untiring energy was his experience of Christ and love for his people. A religious may not be satisfied by material rewards for his mission which has no payment.   When one discovers the world of gratuity and spiritual rewards, mere temporary rewards may be seen as superfluous. How do you apply the principle of rewards in dealing with your Hyde, in the economy of the Spirit? Read and reflect: 2 Tim 4.6-8 “ I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race… there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the righteous Lord will aware me on that Day..”. Phil. 3.8: “ I count everything a loss for the supreme joy of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”. Is there any conflict between little rewards for your Hyde and the gratuitous response to God’s love? Is Christian faith against fun, pleasure and celebration? How do you integrate them in a vision of faith that appreciates and recommends fasting and renunciation?

Home work to be sent: Did you make a list of rewards? What do you feel about it? Summarize your insights and experiential wisdom in rewarding your Hyde to get it cooperate with your chosen projects.

Understanding Subconscious Belief Systems

Part Three- Belief Systems and Power tools

self-discipline module 9

We are at part-three of this course. You are doing well. In this part, we are addressing the underlying belief system. When you deeply probe yourself, you may encounter in you deep seated beliefs that are incompatible with your identity as a disciple of the Lord, loved and accompanied by Him dearly. These false beliefs are like the darnel that grows with the good seed (Mt. 13.25) and even act as thorns that choke the word as it grows (Mt. 13.7). For us self-discipline is fundamentally conquering oneself for Christ and surrendering the un-evangelized zones in us for the Good News of God’s Kingdom. It is in the terrain of our belief system that the Word of God has to sprout and bear a harvest of hundred fold. The forthcoming modules take a deeper look into our belief system.

Subconscious Belief Systems

And Five Power Tools


Understanding Subconscious Belief Systems

To further strengthen your positive psychological forces, and weaken your negative ones, you will now begin to develop an awareness of the underlying attitudes and beliefs that created the subconscious fears about which you have been learning. For behind each of these fears lies an irrational, self-defeating belief. Upon these beliefs, attitudes are formed. These attitudes, some of which we all subscribe to, determine our daily actions and inactions. The following section of this self-discipline program provides you with information designed to make you aware of self-defeating beliefs and how they operate.


Important: You need to know that most elements in the self-defeating belief system operate subconsciously. So before you can neutralize their influences on your behavior, you must first become aware of their existence, then recognize when they are at work, then you can minimize their influence. In other words, to improve your self-discipline you need to shift your self-defeating beliefs from your subconscious into your conscious. Then and only then can you effectively deal with them. So, until you deal with your self-defeating beliefs, you will be plagued by never-started projects and half-finished projects; and you won’t know why.


. . . plus five Self-discipline power tools

In addition to telling you about the subconscious beliefs that inhibit the development and application of self-discipline, this section will provide you with five power tools that will quickly build up your self-discipline muscle. But here is the key to using these tools: Timing!


To be effective, each tool needs to be used at a specific stage of the self-discipline process. Psychologically speaking, whatever you do (or don’t do) happens in stages.


When you consciously guide each stage to your desired outcome, you are practicing self-discipline. You may not be aware of it but during the self-discipline process you are applying specific behavior tools to get you started and move you along from beginning to completion. Self-discipline problems occur when people don’t apply the appropriate tools that work best at a particular stage.

The main four stages of the self-discipline process are:


  1. 1.Decision to act
  2. 2.Preparation
  3. 3.Action
  4. 4.Completion/Maintenance

Most people wrongfully start the self-discipline process at the Action Stage, when in fact they are psychologically at the Decision or Preparation Stage. That is why so much exercise equipment ends up gathering dust in the garage, why so many diets are prematurely abandoned, and why so many business plans never hatch.

Why do so many people begin every new year with personal calendars, schedule books, activity organizers, etc., but stop using them in a few weeks? These wonderful tools don’t work because people try to use them prematurely. These are tools for the Action Stage, but if the person using them happens to be at the Preparation Stage, these tools are almost useless. In other words, it is useless to use a screwdriver to sink a nail or use a hammer to turn a screw. Both tools can be tremendously helpful, but only if they are used at the right time.

Each of the five power tools you are about to receive were designed to be used at specific stages of any task you attempt, regardless of whether the task is a one-time endeavor or an ongoing life change. The success of each stage depends upon how much attention you paid to the previous stage. Don’t attempt to built the penthouse before you build a solid ground floor. If you pay proper attention to the Decision Stage and the Preparation Stage, you maximize your chances of success at the Action Stage and the Completion/Maintenance Stage.

Remember:Self-discipline is a process with stages and steps, and problems occur when people don’t recognize what stage they’re in.

Important: The Decision and Preparation Stages must be worked on before the Action Stage. Later you’ll learn about how the different stages work.


To repeat: Each day for the next five days, you will be presented with a brief explanation of a common subconscious belief that works against self-discipline. Also each day, you will find a description of a psychological power tool. Put these tools to work immediately!




  1. 1.“All or Nothing”& Visualization

The “All or Nothing” Attitude

  • “There are only winners and losers,”
  • “There is only one right way to do it.”
  • “Either do it right or don’t do it at all.”

The preceding statements represent a belief that fosters self-defeating behavior. Every bit of research in human behavior reveals that life isn’t simply black or white, win or lose, good or bad. Life, for the most part, is lived in the grey area, somewhere between the two extremes.

The prevalent but irrational “All or Nothing” attitude is what keeps gambling houses worldwide pulling in billions. The “All or Nothing” gambler always ends up with nothing. This extremist attitude spawns many of the subconscious fears we previously explored. “All or Nothing” thinking paralyzes our efforts at getting ourselves into a pattern of self-discipline because we feel, subconsciously, that we might stumble. And because “All or Nothing” thinking equates a stumble with a fall, we feel that it’s safer not to even try to pursue our goals.

Besides, under this belief system success means living a life of funless workaholism. Who wants that? Certainly not Hyde.

And what about the part of self-discipline that says you need to break big jobs down into small, bite-sized tasks so you won’t feel too overwhelmed to get started? Well, unfortunately, if all you can see is the whole overwhelming project, you will never get yourself to begin because you can’t feel comfortable taking small steps; you must do it All. It’s an “All or Nothing” proposition you tell yourself.

Since it is seldom possible to do any project all at once, you do nothing. Well, of course. With images of “All or Nothing” hanging over your head, you will find reasons to prevent attempting endeavors that require step-by-step self-discipline.

And finally, you subconsciously tell yourself that if your plan doesn’t work, you will be Nothing, a loser. If you define yourself only as either a champ or a chump, then everything is defined in terms of life and death. This stress provoking proposition alone is enough to harpooon your self-discipline efforts. Under such terms, your inner sense of self-preservation will keep you from starting something that you might not finish. The irony, of course, is that you cannot possibly finish something unless you start it. And getting started is usually the most difficult step of any project.

To approach life in “All or Nothing” terms is to multiply your negative psychological forces tenfold. This means that in essence, you’re working against yourself. This type of inner battle will drain you of the energy necessary for perseverance toward any goal. “All or Nothing” thinking is an important element in subconscious fears, which are self-discipline’s greatest obstacle.


Power Tool: Visualization


Visualization is one of the easiest and most effective self-discipline tools at your disposal. It also works well as a time management technique. The best part about visualization is that you already do it. You do it when you remember something from the past, when you contemplate the present, and when you fantasize about the future. Visualization refers to all the movies in your mind. Subconsciously you use visualization thousands of times a day. Consciously you use it at least a hundred times a day. So, how does this relate to self-discipline?

All of your actions and non-actions are directed by the mental images that you create about your chosen goal or project. When you choose a goal or project, your mental images will either support your efforts or oppose your efforts.

Important: Hyde’s fears and doubts, the ones that weaken your self-discipline, frequently take the form of images rather than words. These negative images can be consciously transformed into positive images. Visualization is simply self-talk that uses mental pictures rather than words. A few pages back you learned about verbal self-talk. You learned that the specific words you say to yourself are important in your self-discipline efforts. You know that you can use specific, concrete words and phrases to support every step of your goal or project. But words work with only a part of your psychological system, your intellect.

Hyde mixes the poisons that you learned about earlier with a variety of negative mental images and uses the mixture to sidetrack your self-discipline efforts. When this happens, you need to repeatedly visualize the positive aspects of your goal or project. You need to use visualization at every stage of the self-discipline process.

Visualization is self-talk in Hyde’s favorite language. So to offset Hyde’s negative influences. You need to replace Hyde’s self-defeating mental images with supportive mental images. When you choose a project or goal, you can also choose mental images that make you less susceptible to Hyde’s resistances while simultaneously programming your subconscious mind to motivate you and magnify your powers of perseverance.

Consciously create vivid mental movies that involve your senses. Let’s say that your goal is to start rising an hour earlier to exercise. Then every day for a week or two before you rise earlier for the first time, visualize yourself doing it. Hear the alarm. See yourself stretching and rising. Smell the morning. Then seeyourself doing specific exercises.

The key is to include many specific details in your visualizations. During the week prior to going into action on your project, each day visualize yourself in action as often as you possibly can; ten times, fifty times, a hundred times daily. Your visualization needs only a few seconds to be effective. Sure, it would be more effective if you close your eyes and visualize for thirty minutes each time.

But if you can only catch twenty or thirty seconds, here and there, fine. I repeat, practice visualization every day for a week before you go into the action stage of your project. Each time you visualize yourself actually doing your project, or the various parts of your project, you gain self-discipline support from your subconscious, and simultaneously weaken Hyde’s ability to stall your action.

Visualization prior to action will firm up your commitment, increase your confidence, validate your ability, motivate you, and most important, it will reduce Hyde’s influence.

In other words, the simple act of visualizing yourself confidently and adequately doing the in-between steps of your overall goal will maximize your inner strengths and minimize your subconscious fears and doubts. Visualization will enlist your subconscious mind to help you accomplish all the steps in your project. Once you get your subconscious mind working for you, it will continue working for you even when you are unaware of its supportive activity.

Visualization works best when you visualize all the specifics of the activity you want to do. In your mind: see, hear, smell, taste, and touch the location, clothes, room, temperature, details, details, details. Make it real. The more you practice visualization the easier it will become. So, mentally, many times a day, for a few seconds, use visualization to experience yourself doing what you want to do. Visualization is quick, easy, and remarkably effective.

For prayer and reflection: Jesus used parables and metaphors amply to implant the Kingdom values in his hearers and to replace old frightful or self-defeating images about God, neighbours with empowering images. Recall the impact of the biblical images in you: Awaiting Father and the prodigal son; Good Samaritan, seed, widow in the temple, leaven, last judgment, lilies in the field, fig tree, pearl,…


Home work to be sent: Visualize one of your important projects in hand at present and visualize it in steps and try the proposals of this module and see its effects on you. Observe yourself and narrate its effect on your mental climate and body. Summarize your insights.

Dealing with Fear of Risks

You have been quite bold to make life changing decisions like joining religious life at an young age. But when it comes to ordinary life, leaving your comfort zones may cost you a lot. You may feel the pull of the strings backward when life demands risks. In this module we shall probe the fear of risks that affect self-discipline.

Part two-Self-discipline Module 8

Dealing with Fear of Risks

“Better to be safe than sorry,” says a proverb that dug its way deep into our inner-most being during childhood. For many of us security and safety have become all. In areas where we have self-discipline difficulties, we’ve gone beyond simply following the old saying that advises us to “Look before you leap.” In certain areas of endeavor, many of us unfortunately shy away from either looking or leaping. The unknown has come to be something we equate with danger. Like all the rest of our fears, fear of risks operates undercover. Our only clue to its subtle manipulation lies in its result on our lives: repetition that leads to stagnation.

Many of us feel comfortable only in the presence of sameness, things to which we’ve grown accustomed: same foods, same style clothes, same friends, same recreation, same, same, same. Life becomes a rut when we subconsciously come to view risks as dangerous threats to our security rather than as opportunities for growth. The only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions. But how, you might ask, does fear of risks interfere with the development of self-discipline?

I’ve found that persons who fear risks are persons who doubt their ability to function successfully in unfamiliar situations. The concept to focus on here is self-doubt. When self-doubt intrudes, your self-discipline effort never receives the very important “I can do it” message that supports its growth.

So while at first glance the connection between self-confidence and self-discipline might appear to be a loose one, it actually is a most important one. For as we learned previously, self-discipline isn’t an entity unto itself; it is a collective composed of many diverse psychological forces which add up to a larger force, much the way that a tornado is a collective of little breezes that create an irrepressible wind by working together.

Moreover, our self-discipline muscle gains strength only through frequent exercise, exercise that leans heavily on self-confidence. So, if we live our lives in a rut, our sense of self-confidence falls into a state of atrophy, wasting away because of insufficient use. We seldom become aware of its loss until a situation arises in which we need it. We then discover that our self-confidence is useless to serve us. Think of self-confidence as you would a suit of clothes that you stored away years ago: You haul it out expecting to slip into it and cut the same dashing figure you did in bygone years, but you find that what hangs on the coat hanger is a moth-eaten, shapeless ghost of its former self.

Likewise, when you stop taking risks, your self-confidence muscle won’t be usable when you reach for it. Therefore you don’t have the use of one of the most important elements of self-discipline: self-confidence. Furthermore, if a person continually refrains from taking risks, for even a short period of time, a subconscious fear of taking risks sets in. To address this fear is to awaken your sense of self-confidence, which in turn will give your self-discipline a psychological boost.

Remember: Self-confidence supports self-discipline.


Nothing ventured nothing gained. That’s the ticket. Begin to think of risks as opportunities, not dangers. When you are faced with a risk that you wish to take, but feel immobilized by fear and anxiety, practice self-talk. Ask yourself “What is the worst thing that can happen?” Chances are, if you pursue this question, you’ll find that your catastrophic expectations are probably exaggerated. Of course, this isn’t an invitation to transform yourself into a foolhardy daredevil, but simply a method to get your self-confidence muscle into shape.

It needs repeating: Self-confidence and self-discipline feed off each other. No self-confidence, no self-discipline. You won’t start that diet because you don’t think you’ll stick to it. You won’t start that business because you don’t think you can make a go of it. Indeed, a large part of self-discipline requires that you genuinely believe in yourself.

Remember: Self-discipline can be hindered by fear of risks, but this fear can be overcome by a change of attitude, which is entirely under your control.


Exercise #5 – Exploring Fear of Risks

The following exercise is designed to help you discover your hidden concerns and emotions regarding fear of risks. On a sheet of paper we are going to explore three past experiences in which you took a risk and ended up sorry. The only rule here requires that in these situations or events you ended up saying, “I wish I hadn’t done that.”

Take your three experiences from your earliest memories. Explore your childhood. Be specific. Name names. This will give you an awareness about how, when, and where your attitudes and beliefs about taking risks originated.

Note: Spend no more than fifteen minutes on this exercise. Hyde will be peering over your shoulder and giving you a load of reasons to simply think about it rather than write it. Don’t listen to Hyde!

As you write take notice of yourself both physically and emotionally. Physically: Do you clench your teeth? Do any of your muscles tighten? Your stomach muscles? Neck muscles? Do you notice any changes in your breathing rhythm? Faster? Shallower? Emotionally: Do you re-experience the hurt? Do you feel frightened? Angry? Hostile? Embarrassed?

Again, it is important that you take note of your reactions as you complete each of the exercises throughout this self-discipline program. Your reactions will give you valuable insight into how much your current behavior is affected by the past experiences.


Start writing NOW


Don’t underestimate the value of the preceding information and exercises. Whether or not you’re aware of it, positive psychological changes are already taking place within you. In the dark subconscious corners of your mind, you have thrown a searchlight on negative forces that have operated under the cover of darkness for years. Simply by becoming aware of these goblins, you have defused much of their power. In terms of your overall personality, when negative forces are weakened, positive forces are automatically strengthened.

Before moving on, make sure you’re thoroughly familiar with all the subconscious fears we have explored. Don’t forget that within all human beings these fears are present in varying degrees, and often operate simultaneously (yes, you can have a fear of failure and a fear of success). But even though you won’t ever completely eliminate these fears, you certainly can minimize their influence. In other words, you can feel:

üFear of Failure

üFear of Success

üFear of Rejection

üFear of Mediocrity

üFear of Risks

…but forge ahead!

Tip: Write the above fears down on the left side of sheet of paper. Then write a number from 1 to 5 at the right of each fear. Number 1 goes next to the fear that you think you are most influenced by, and so on down the line. This is a simple way of imprinting your most influential fears solidly in your mind so that you can easily recognize them when they are affecting your behavior, thoughts, or decisions.


You have been exploring the subconscious fears that put an unseen wall between you and self-discipline. You have recalled past experiences that play a key role in your present behavior. You now are in a better position to recognize these psychological saboteurs, and minimize the self-defeating influences of the past. Now that you are building self-discipline, Hyde is about to pounce upon your progress with renewed determination.


A part of you does not want self-discipline.



To repeat: We all have a Hyde inside us. So, accept that in matters of self-discipline, we are our own most difficult problem. Whenever you feel that Hyde’s negative self-talk is slowing your progress toward improved self-discipline, go back and skim the section called “Meet Hyde.” In fact, you might find it a good idea to do that periodically as a precautionary measure. It’ll keep you on track.


With this the second part of this course comes to a close. Give yourself a pat on your back and go for an chocolate or listen to a favourite music, or do something that makes yourself happy, when you finish it. You do merit it.

For reflection and prayer: Put yourself in the shoes of St. paul as he says, “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one-I am talking like a mad man-with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea;…” (2 Cor .11.23-30). The more the sense of mission the less will be the fear of risk.


Home work to be sent: A summary of your important insights regards the fear to take risks after going through this module.

Write a paragraph about your struggles with Hyde in your effort to make steady progress in this course. What are some of the important observations about yourself while doing this course?

Dealing with Fear of Mediocrity

Part two-Self discipline Module 7

Once you discover your inner beauty as a child of God and allow yourself to be loved for what you are, you will have the inner power to stand up for yourself.

After all the daring decisions to give up everything for Christ, it would be tragic to live your commitment in a lower level of consciousness. It is important to live a life of quality and authenticity, without attempting pharisaic perfection. Higher quality of life lived in ordinary simple ways is typical of holy men and women. Low self-esteem that seeks a boost in performance and perfection can pose serious obstacles for personal growth and free service in mission. Here is another of our fears that paralyzes initiative and action. You know, perfectionism is different from doing things with excellence and quality even in ordinary matters. Explore yourself.

Dealing with Fear of Mediocrity


How often have you considered yourself a perfectionist? Probably quite often. But how often have you looked beyond your perfectionism to try to get a glimpse of what is behind it? If you are like most people, probably never.

But if you took a long look at perfectionism do you know what you would find? You’d discover that perfectionism is the socially acceptable Siamese twin of a subconscious feeling called fear of mediocrity. Because perfectionism is socially touted as a positive personality trait, we consciously accept its existence within us as desirable. But within the hard-core perfectionist, fear of mediocrity stands unseen off stage and pulls the strings. So, even though perfectionism enjoys acceptance, it creates a pattern of self-imposed pressure that we tend to avoid. This avoidance, in turn, leads to procrastination and self-defeat.


An ice skater who once competed in a Winter Olympics spoke about the early days of her figure skating career. She lamented about having been so overwhelmed by the pressure of perfectionism that she had a nervous breakdown and lost most of her hair.

In another case, the pressures of perfectionism prompted writer Dorothy Parker to explain her inability to meet deadlines by saying that for every five words she wrote, she erased seven. Moreover, Parker’s ongoing difficulties with alcohol were probably related to her intense perfectionism. These reactions to perfectionism arenot at all uncommon.


Perfectionism is really a subconscious fear of appearing mediocre either to ourselves or to others. Attempts to escape our fears often lead us down self-destructive and self-defeating paths.

Fear produces anxiety, and anxiety produces a host of other undesirable physical and psychological conditions, including such reactions as alcoholism, drug abuse, and depression.

When we fear falling short of perfection, our self-discipline power suffers because we subconsciously send ourselves a message that says: “My efforts might turn out to be less than perfect, maybe even mediocre. Better not to even try than to risk that devastating possibility.” In the meantime, while we subconsciously send ourselves that negative message, we’re faced with the reality that perfection is impossible. Our self-discipline, then, suffers a defeat before we even begin our task.

Consequently, regardless of our chosen task, we fight ourselves every step of the way: “If I can’t do it perfectly, then I really don’t want to do it at all.” This inner tug-of-war will shadow our every attempt to exercise self-discipline until we replace our subconscious fear of mediocrity with a realistic, rational point of view: Chasing perfection is like chasing the fountain of youth— it’s a fool’s mission. Immediately divorce your self-esteem from perfectionism.

Remember: None of us is perfect; nothing we do is perfect. We’re all human; perfection is the domain of the Gods.


Exercise #4 Exploring Fear of Mediocrity

The following exercise is designed to help you discover your hidden concerns and emotions regarding fear of mediocrity. On a sheet of paper you are going to explore three past experiences in which you were held back by a fear of mediocrity. The only rule here requires that in these situations or events, your course of action was based on a fear of not doing something well enough.

Take your three experiences from your earliest memories.

Explore your childhood, but you need to know that this particular fear grows stronger with age. So you might want also to explore your teen years. Be specific. Name names. This will give you an awareness about how, when, and where your attitudes and beliefs about being mediocre originated.

Note: Spend no more than fifteen minutes on this exercise.

Hyde will be peering over your shoulder and giving you a load of reasons to simply think about it rather than write it. Don’t listen to Hyde!

As you write take notice of yourself both physically and emotionally. Physically: Do you clench your teeth? Do any of your muscles tighten? Your stomach muscles? Neck muscles? Do you notice any changes in your breathing rhythm? Faster? Shallower? Emotionally: Do you re-experience the hurt? Do you feel frightened? Angry? Hostile? Embarrassed?

Again, it is important that you take note of your reactions as you complete each of the exercises throughout this self-discipline program. Your reactions will give you valuable insight into how much your current behavior is affected by the past experiences.

Start writing NOW

For prayer and reflection: Is your perfectionism biblically supported? Jesus said, “You, therefore, must be perfect as my Father is perfect” (Mt. 5.48). What kind of perfection does Jesus ask of his disciples? Are the saints perfect humans in the measure of your perfectionism?


Home work to be sent: Write a paragraph of your insights after you have completed this module. You may add your questions or further reflections.