Discipline is a funny thing. It feels like a challenge when we’re in it, but often the rewards at the other side are outstanding.
- Physical discipline—like exercising regularly and eating healthily—rewards us with a healthy body and loads of more energy.
- Emotional discipline—like affirming our children even when we feel shattered ourselves—rewards us with a strong, confident, balanced self and family.
- Spiritual discipline—like taking fifteen minutes of quiet time for ourselves each day—rewards us with a sense of calm, direction, and purpose.
How do we dial-up on our discipline to get the best results for our family’s body, mind, and soul? Here are the three biggest areas where, as a single parent, a bit of discipline will pay back to you in a priceless way:
1. Plan Ahead
I’ve found this first year of my daughter being at school a really challenging one. In order to continue to work, I’ve had to hire nannies and ask for favors from friends with a frequency that makes me uncomfortable. By March this year, my diary was planned through to September! I do like to plan, but when I have to coordinate my daughter’s holiday time, her dad’s time with her, my partner’s time off work, and his children’s school holidays, it’s like a world class game of chess!
Tough as it was to get all parties to commit ahead of time, I now have a clear understanding of my time off and where I need to be, and with whom. This in turn allows me to plan ahead from a business point of view and book in clients and continue to sustain my growing businesses (a necessity!) until the year end.
Forward planning has great benefits—we can get discounts on holidays by booking early, save money up front to buy new school shoes, enlist help from friends if we’re moving house, book time off work for our children’s school events, and plan fun activities for weekends and holidays. If you plan to succeed, you’ll succeed with your plan!
2. Save Money
Okay, now I’ve had times when I’ve been pretty lousy at actively saving money. There either wasn’t a penny to spare (like the first year after my divorce—seriously broke!), or, in my pre-family days, there were just too many things that took my fancy and I had no better education than just to go ahead and have the clothes, the wine, and the holiday.
Three years ago, I read a book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. He wrote that “saving is a habit” and we should learn to be disciplined with it from a very early age. He talks a lot about how we should financially educate our children. And he says that we should try to save 10 percent of what we earn. What are we saving for? For the future—for a down payment on a house, for our children going to university, for the time off we might want (or need) to take.
Small amounts invested now—even in a simple savings account—will grow exponentially over time. Einstein said that “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world.” Over time, we get interest on the interest of our money in savings—that’s money for nothing again and again. You’ve got to like that!
3. Commit to Self-Care
Now this is a big one and it can span from keeping fit and healthy to establishing healthy boundaries with our children and our ex-partners. It’s a discipline to make sure that we take exercise every day and that our fridge is stocked with fruit and vegetables instead of jars of sauces and instant “snackage.”
Remember that your children will learn the things you model to them. When you ask them to contribute to the household and to themselves, you’re teaching them valuable life lessons. Whether it’s to tidy the bathroom, put their clothes away, help to prepare supper, come with you on a cycle ride, speak politely to each other and to their friends, save money for the new computer game they want, plan ahead for their football game at the weekend—all these things take discipline to request, and they take energy and follow through to conclude. And every time you succeed, you’ll make life in the long term simpler for your children, and life in the short term simpler for yourself.
The discipline of self-care also extends to making time for yourself. To take time each day or each week to look forward to a time or an event that is just for you; a time when you can re-focus on how good life is and how blessed you are to have family, choices, and a hopeful future.