Self Discipline: The Key to Self Reliance

By , November 29, 2009

Self Discipline. This is a good term, which, I confess I haven’t given a whole lot of thought until recently. It’s a phrase we hear all the time. I’ve never considered it a quality I particularly possessed, but I’m beginning to reassess that.

As I blog, I notice a strong common thread. Self discipline is key to virtually every aspect of self-reliance. It’s also directly responsible for my family’s success on the homestead.

After all, what is the primary ingredient necessary to accomplish any of the following?:

Self-directed learning through “unschooling”
• Living within one’s means
• Becoming debt-free
• Gathering fuel to heat one’s home
Learning new skills
Using a day planner to manage time
• Achievement—of any kind

The answer: self-discipline!

I’m rather quick to downplay or dismiss my own accomplishments. I enjoy writing in a self-deprecating style. Perhaps that has kept me from realizing just how much my family has accomplished, and the important role self discipline has played in those accomplishments.

Perhaps I hadn’t thought much about self discipline because it seems so natural. Both Michelle’s and my parents ingrained it in us deeply. Both families modeled frugality and responsibility. Even so, some of our siblings remain avid consumers! I went through a long period of acquisitiveness, but it was always tempered by frugality, and it faded as I matured.

Michelle and I eliminated most of our debt around 2000-2002, probably earlier. We paid off everything except our mortgage. “Everything” included a brand new vehicle and about 5 acres of remote property. Our debts were never substantial; we hadn’t carried any credit card debt for about 10 years, despite using the cards for almost every purchase. If we did carry a balance, it was extremely small.

Once those debts retired, we increased our savings and contributions to retirement funds, and began pouring extra money into the principal of our mortgage. We did this while maintaining a comfortable lifestyle that suited us, and building a wooden sailboat in our driveway!

This is why I often talk about “falling ass-backward” into our homestead. By the time the opportunity arrived, setting and achieving the goal of purchasing and moving to the property seemed simple!

Without self discipline, none of it would have happened, and we would not have been successful in our current lifestyle over the last four years. We planned effectively, we looked for every available financial advantage, and we achieved it.

I should add that being good at self-discipline is not the same as being expert at it. I confess to poor self-discipline in many areas. Or, perhaps there’s difference here between self-discipline and self-control. I’m not presenting myself as a paragon to which others should aspire, I just hope to point out that some of the things we do simply won’t work for those who don’t have a firm enough grounding in self-discipline.

You will find a version of the essay above, as well as writing on similar and related topics in Sacred Coffee: A “Homesteader’s” Paradigm by Mark A. Zeiger, available in print, eBook, and audiobook editions. The published version will likely be expanded, clarified, or updated from what you have just read.

Also, for a collection of our frugal thoughts and practices, check out More Calories Than Cash: Frugality the Zeiger Family Homestead Way, our new eBook—exclusively (and inexpensively priced!) from our website!

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