Discovering the nine areas of self-discipline

Self-discipline is more diverse than you might think.

Yesterday I shared about the infectious nature of self-discipline. Many people have experienced an exponential effect from creating self-discipline in one area of life. It starts as a new exercise routine and within a matter of months, if not weeks, they’re more cognitive and efficient in their workplace, less grumpy in communication, and more attentive in their dietary needs.

The nine areas of self-discipline

Discovering the nine areas of self-discipline - writetojoncook

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When it comes to your personal life, there are nine distinct areas that require self-discipline. None of these are exclusive areas; they all have some sort of connection to each other in some context.

  • Fitness – This needs to include both weight-resistance and cardio. You need both your engine (your heart) and your system (arms, torso, and legs) to operate well for an optimal fitness levels.
  • Food – This is more than just eating regularly; this is eating intentionally. How much value do your meals communicate to your body?
  • Finances – Live within your means. Save money, Invest for retirement. Don’t spend money you don’t have to impress people who only care about your financial status; spoiler alert: you don’t want those people as “friends”.
  • Time – You, Barack Obama, Barbara Corcoran, and Robert Downey, Jr. all have the exact same amount of time each day. How we spend it says more about the value we place on it. Time isn’t money; time is more precious than money will ever be.
  • Career – Are you disciplined in your work responsibilities, or is it obvious you could improve? Don’t wait for your next review to develop new skills, increase your productivity, and lead your team in tackling your work opportunities.
  • Relationships – Self-discipline in relationships means you don’t date losers and energy vampires. It means you do what you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Self-discipline means you’re loyal, honest, reliable, and practical in maintaining good relationships.
  • Faith – We all believe in something. My faith is very important to me, so self-discipline means that I spend time every morning reading the Bible, praying, meditating, and living out my faith in practical ways.
  • Mental – This is probably the trickiest self-discipline to identify because we often don’t realize how many negative mental narratives we entertain. Creating self-discipline in our minds means we pay attention to the voices we allow ourselves to hear. It means we also protect our minds from “Debbie Downers,” energy vampires, destructive critics, jealous doubters, and especially against abusive influencers.
  • Hobbies – How many times have you seen someone take up a hobby, like swimming or playing the piano, and it’s created a more disciplined approach in how they treat other areas of their life? The mental and kinetic focus it requires to learn scales on a piano can improve your attention span and cognitive skills.

Creating self-discipline in these nine areas will enhance your life and how you impact the world around you. Life is too short, God is too good, and the life Jesus calls us to follow means too much not to make the most of the life He’s given to us.

How has your life changed because of self-discipline in these nine areas? Please share your experience below.

The infectious nature of self-discipline

Self-discipline is contagious.

Self-discipline can start in one area of your life and completely transform the rest of your life. How often do you see someone starts exercising regularly and then they’re more focused at work, less stressed in meetings, and soon they seem like a completely different person? It’s because self-discipline in one area can quickly create self-discipline in other areas.

The infectious nature of self-discipline - writetojoncook

How financial self-discipline improved our marriage communication

Kara and I went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University in early 2012. We had close to $20,000 in debt between grad school student loans (guilty as charged), a car loan, wedding debt, and credit card. This past September we paid the very last of the student loan debt and we’re now totally debt-free except our mortgage. (Read more about our debt-free journey here!)

Getting disciplined in our finances actually increased self-discipline in other areas of our life because self-discipline is contagious.

Self-discipline in our finances helped improve communication in our marriage. If you’ve never put together a legitimate budget with your spouse, be prepared for a Master’s Class in conflict resolution and communication. The leading cause of divorce in North America today is money fights and/or money problems. (Dave Ramsey) Kara and I improved in our understanding of how we communicate our overall expectations for marriage, a self-discipline started by getting on a written budget and clearly communicating our financial expectations.

Self-discipline in one area of life can transform your entire life

The elusiveness of self-discipline is that adopted discipline, choosing to be disciplined, is far more effective and lasts longer than forced discipline, like military or microclimatic control. You need to choose to be disciplined, which means you need to get to a point where the numbers on the scale, the tightness in your chest, the anxiety in your brain, or the misappropriation of your bank accounts needs to grate your nerves to the point of change.

If you choose to pursue self-discipline, prepare for other areas of your life to be transformed. It’s not some magic pill or fairy wand; it takes hard work! Self-discipline allows us to make the most of our God-given opportunities to create the best life possible to share hope, life, and peace with those around us.

Over the next two days, I’ll be sharing more about self-discipline, the nine different areas of our personal lives that need self-discipline, and practical steps for creating self-discipline in your own life.

Fighting the scarcity mindset

How do you react when you hear the word no?

For a lot of people, the word no is a deal-breaker. Uh-oh, someone said no, so whatever you hoped for is out of the question. For others, the word “no” is a redirection: someone had the opportunity to be a part of your future and they chose to decline. It’s on to the next opportunity with the next person.

The difference in response is a textbook example of the scarcity mindset vs. an abundance mindset.

Scarcity vs. Abundance

The scarcity mindset is what’s adopted by those who believe in limited opportunities, scarce resources, and a “me vs. the world” control-driven mentality. It’s what keeps people from celebrating the success of others. Scarcity withholds recognition and waits for the other proverbial shoe to drop. It’s a suppressing and limiting mindset.

Fighting the scarcity mindset - writetojoncook

The opposite is an abundance mindset: there are plenty of opportunities, resources, and potential for great things if you’re willing and open to partner with the right people at the right time and work hard to seize those opportunities.

Scarcity says, “I have to fight to keep my customers happy or they’ll leave me for my competitors.” Abundance says, “How can I create so much value for new and existing customers that people will be begging to stay?”

Scarcity says, “I don’t want to know my competition; they’ll probably just steal all my ideas!” Abundance: “If I can partner together with other “competitors,” what might we be able to create together?”

There are over seven billion people in this world. The U.S. economy processes trillions of dollars in business a day. The European Union also processes trillions of euros in commerce a day. Asia, South America, and Africa also process astronomical commerce every single day… and you’re worried about 10-15 customers?

An abundance mindset sees virtually limitless opportunities and says, “Let’s create something so remarkable to help as many people as we can that we’ll be lucky if we stay current with the demand.” Abundance is what drove entities like Facebook, Apple, Harley Davidson, and AirBnB to become so incredibly successful.

Stephen Covey describes an Abundance Mindset in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The Abundance Mentality… flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.

Switching from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset

A lot of businesses and churches suffer from a scarcity mindset. It’s easy to white-knuckle your operations and clients or congregation attendees in some fear-driven attempt to maintain control.

It’s the insecurity that arises when you hear someone say they admire your competition’s latest commercial or event. It’s the nosiness that starts to flare up when someone mentions your “competition” in a passing conversation.

A scarcity mindset is poisonous because of the fear behind it. Spit it out. Quit drinking that Kool-Aid. We need to switch from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset. It’s the belief that God is a good God and gives good gifts to His children. It’s the belief that it’s our job to add value and hope and even share abundant life with those we come in contact with on a daily basis.

Creating an Abundance mentality

An Abundance mindset means you welcome conversation with supposed competitors. Abundance means you partner with other talented people and see what you can create together. Abundance means you’re focused on creating significant, remarkable experiences that will enhance the world around us. Abundance means you celebrate the success of others, not jealously criticize from a distance.

Peter Diamandis shared a TED Talk in 2012 called Abundance is our future. It’s well worth your time to review and consider the impact it may have on your own mentality.

[ted id=1375]

Have the courage to make the leap.

“Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne

I remember the first time I went to jump off a cliff into a lake. Trees, open dirt, edge of the cliff, air. And then nothing for five seconds. The rush, the adrenaline of jumping made the ice-cold splash into the mountain lake almost bearable for my middle school body. Brr!

Have the courage to make the leap - writetojoncook

It took me several minutes of uncertainty before I decided to take the leap, but I’m glad I did. How many times do we stand at the edge of opportunity and toe the cliff’s edge? How often do we shy away and say, “It’s okay; I’ll just watch.”

We see others make the leap, even hear them shout encouragement, “You can do it! It’s so much fun!” And yet, it’s only when we choose to leap ourselves that we feel the rush and excitement for ourselves.

My own leap came in the fall of 2013 when I started Keynote Content. It didn’t take much to compel me to leap, but I was still uncertain of the results. Now, over a year and a half later, I see that making the leap was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

You may be facing a leap, a chance to jump into a new opportunity. Maybe it’s going back to school when you might be much older than your classmates. Maybe it’s writing your first book. Maybe it’s starting your own business or a nonprofit. Maybe it’s leaping out of a bad relationship, business partnership, a rat race of a job, or a toxic church situation. Maybe it’s asking someone out. Maybe it’s a leap into the complete unknown, but you just know you need to jump in with both feet.

“Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage”

Having the courage to leap into a God-given opportunity is part of what makes us human. God doesn’t create us to be safe and predictable; we’re called to this wild adventure of life and it’s not for the faint of heart.

I love the theme throughout We Bought a Zoo that sometimes all it takes it is twenty seconds of insane courage.


What will it take for you to make the leap today? How has courage helped you leap into new opportunities? I’d love to hear your stories below.

Work smarter, not always harder

You don’t always have to work hard to be extremely productive.

Many Americans are hard workers. We built the Ford F-150, created the Craftsman wrench, and perfected coal mining. Americans work more hours per week on average than any other country in the world. (20 Something Finance) The problem is that simply working harder and harder has a law of diminishing returns: you can only work so hard before you start to crumble.

Work smarter, not always harder - writetojoncook

Is working hard a curse?

I’m all for working hard. I love putting in a full day’s work, especially as an entrepreneur. God created the gift of work before Adam sinned; it’s a gift, not a curse.

When you’re in a job you hate, it can feel like a curse. Part of that curse is that we think we have to work harder, put in more hours, and do things the way they’ve “always been done” without considering, “Is there a smarter way?”

A hamster on a wheel works very hard and goes nowhere. Work doesn’t always have to be hard if you can work smarter. A strong man can carry a large piece of furniture up a flight of stairs… or anyone can use a furniture dolly, save their strength, avoid injury, and carry the furniture even farther.

Tips for working smarter

Sometimes you need to work hard to enjoy smart work, like setting up a template system or scheduling a series of meetings. Abraham Lincoln once said that if he had six hours to chop down a tree, he’d spend four hours sharpening his axe. This echoes Stephen Covey’s 7th Habit of Highly Effective People: Sharpen the Saw. No matter what you do, full-time, part-time, or volunteer, there are several ways to improve the quality and effectiveness of your efforts through smarter work. Here are a few examples…

  • has a fantastic series of TED talks about working smarter. Enjoy!
  • If you travel a lot for work, why not create a standard packing list? Instead of spending 30-40 minutes before every trip thinking of what you should take, you can spend one hour creating a packing list and save yourself several hours from reinventing the wheel.
  • Life hacks are a great way to learn simple solutions to everyday tasks and hassles. For example, wear sunglasses if you’re driving in the rain. It increases the contrast of the road and makes lane stripes easier to see. You’re welcome.
  • Block out 15 minutes at the end of every day to do three things: review your day, preview the next day, and triage upcoming tasks. Refine the Mind has a fantastic list of Time Management Tips.
  • How long does it take to think about a better solution? Two minutes? Ten seconds? Thinking of smarter work solutions doesn’t take as long as you might expect. Before starting a task, it’s worth asking yourself, “Is there a better way to do this?”

What are some ways you work smarter than you used to work?

5 disciplines for staying relevant in any industry

“I’m not relevant anymore.”

My friend’s words rang in my ears over a cup of coffee. He’s spent fifteen years in his industry, works in a very prestigious role, and by all appearances looks like he’s positioned well for the next ten years. On the inside though, he knows he’s behind the Bell curve.

5 disciplines for staying relevant in any industry - writetojoncook

So, we wound the clock back. Becoming irrelevant doesn’t happen overnight. The good thing is that it’s not a death sentence for anyone: you can be relevant with a few key decisions each day. There are five disciplines that can help you stay relevant in any industry, no matter your age or background.


The old adage is true: leaders are readers. The average CEO reads five books per month. (Refresh Leadership) Reading feeds your mind, heart, and soul with fresh insight and challenges your perspective. Don’t just read what you think you might like. You need to read a variety of content from a range of voices, especially ones with whom you know you don’t see eye-to-eye, to stay relevant.

Ask better questions

Everyone ask questions, but not many people ask good questions or the right questions. The next time you have a question about a process or a person, pause first… and then think of either a better way to ask the same question or consider if there’s a better question to ask. Asking better questions will get better results. The goal in asking better questions is to create better thought, richer discussion, and more productive results.

Learn a new skill from a young person

The average age of a U.S. small business owner is 50 years old. (Experian) Facebook launched over ten years ago. Twitter launched almost ten years ago next March. LinkedIn is one of the most powerful platforms for leveraging your business future.

And yet, so many entrepreneurs and business professionals are still disconnected from social media. Learning a new skill, like how to use LinkedIn, the difference between Google Drive and Google Docs, and even how email marketing works are all valuable skills. Social media will change. Technology is always evolving.

One of the best ways to stay relevant is learning new skills from a young person, like how to use Periscope effectively. I’m only thirty years old, but I’m already looking to college students for what I can learn from them. The day we stop learning is the day we die.

Connect with new people in your industry

Want to stay relevant in your industry? Meet new people. Go to networking events. Ask others in your industry who they think you should meet. Ask them why they thought of that person. And then, buy that person a cup of coffee or a beer, whichever works for you. Connecting with others and connecting others are two important skills that add value to your network and to the future success of others.

Create a life plan

This isn’t a five-year plan. A life plan is a set of principles and aspirations that you hope to be true in your life. For example, part of my life plan is to live faithfully, joyously, prayerfully, and generously in how I approach my everyday life and relationships around me. This hope will help me stay relevant because people want to be around others who are faithful, joyful, devout, and generous in how they treat others.

What do you do to stay relevant in your industry?

Why chasing your dreams requires naiveté

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs

Our world says being naive is automatically a bad thing, “Grow up! Quit dreaming. How naive, that’s not how the world works!” Dreamers are and need to be naive though; it’s in our blood. Naiveté comes from a French phrase that means “instinctive belief,” a very different definition than the one we’ve accepted.

Now, this doesn’t mean you’re ignorant of reality because we as dreamers need to balance our dreams with our current reality, though we hope and plan to affect that reality for the future. For dreamers to succeed, we need an instinctive belief that what we dream to do is within the boundary lines of what’s possible.

Why chasing your dreams requires naiveté - writetojoncook

Too naive not to be published

I published my first book in September. My second book Launch Plan: Your Path to becoming a Successful Entrepreneur went live on April 22nd. I’ve never met with a book publisher, spoken to a literary agent, hired a professional editor, went to a book trade show, traveled for a book tour, did a book signing, or even got a rejection email from a publicist. By all pedigrees, I’m below the level of “mutt” when it comes to being an author.

And yet, I am one.

Nobody told me I had no business publishing a book, let alone two. Chasing your dreams takes a thorough dose of naivety. You have to be pretty naive that God has you on a special path to step out in faith. It takes guts and tough conversations and making one more phone call, sending one more email, having one more conversation than you want to have. It also takes naiveté, that instinctive belief in the possible.

You need an instinctive belief that your dreams are possible… or you will fail. (Click to tweet this!)

Naiveté can fuel your dreams

I love that I get to help others launch their dreams. I get to work with single moms trying to build a business. I get to work with first-generation immigrants from all over the world working to create a new life for a better future.

It’s not about me; it’s never supposed to be about me. It’s about helping entrepreneurs, authors, speakers, dream chasers, and career changers find their God-given purpose. It’s also about protecting that instinctive belief, that naiveté, that what God’s created for their future is within the realm of opportunity.

What are some ways you’ve embraced naiveté when it comes to chasing your dreams?

You can’t create motivation

Motivation is like musicianship: you either have it, or you don’t.

It’s much easier to hire motivated people than hiring just anybody and hope they’re motivated. Dave Ramsey says he’d rather redirect a horse already running than try to turn a donkey into a thoroughbred.

This isn’t Newton’s first law of motion where an outside force can influence the movement of any stable object with enough momentum; that’s not how motivation works. As much as you might try, you can’t create motivation, only contribute to it. You can yell and incentivize someone all day long, but it’s still up to them to change.

You can't create motivation - writetojoncook

Motivational posters don’t work; they’re only wall decor with quotation brackets. Carrots on a stick don’t work. Raises and bonuses don’t work. Incentives can only carry you so far with inspiration, but they can’t create true motivation.

Motivation can’t be fabricated or coerced, only ignited within the individual.

I’m naturally very stubborn. It can be a very good attribute as an entrepreneur, but very bad for responding to God’s direction. There are times in my life where outside factors all point towards necessary change. All the lights on the virtual dashboard of my life flash “warning, warning!” but it isn’t until I feel internal motivation that change actually happens.

The same is true for pursuing your dreams. Whether it’s going back to school at forty, launching your own business, writing a book, starting a cause, or changing career paths, nothing happens until you have the motivation to change. No motivation, no change. Period.

Motivation is God’s way of igniting internal change for good. (Click to tweet this!)

God allows circumstances, conversations, and opportunities in our lives to cause motivation. Motivation happens when it’s more difficult to remain where we are than to change our circumstances.

  • Maybe it’s a spouse saying something needs to change or else.
  • Maybe it’s hitting the ceiling of your skill set that you’ve ignored sharpening for years.
  • Maybe it’s seeing the writing on the wall before the down-sizing and knowing your future is in limbo.

Whatever your situation may be, you have a God-given opportunity to change. It’s up to you to seize that opportunity and change for good, for something worth fighting for in your future. Motivation is a fire waiting to be lit to fuel your life for tomorrow.

What’s your motivation? How has your life changed because of what’s motivated you?

Part of our story: “L” Cook

L Cook - CSPN Baby Announcement - Logo 1

Kara and I are beyond excited to announce that we are expecting Baby “L” Cook this fall, due Oct. 22nd, just in time for the World Series. Mama Cookie is currently 15 weeks along and we can’t wait to meet our baby. After trying to get pregnant for well over a year, we thank God for answering our prayers.

(In case you may not be familiar with baseball, the letters in the graphic above for C, RHP, and SS are C = Catcher, RHP = Right-hand pitcher, and SS = Shortstop.)

We would love your prayers as we anticipate our growing family. Please pray for…

  • Safety and health of our baby.
  • Improving health for Kara. Morning sickness/nausea has been a beast the past month or so, but things are looking better now.
  • Wisdom for us as we enter the wild world of parenting.
  • Growing our village – we truly believe it takes a village to raise a child and we’re carefully praying for God to bring people into our lives who can share godly wisdom, discipleship, and encouragement as part of our “village”.

If you’re not hustling, you’re wasting.

Chasing your dreams takes hustle: that higher gear of hard work, determination, and drive that’s filled with passion.

God gives us opportunity and it’s our job to sprint towards the life He’s created for us. God doesn’t say, “I’ve created a wild, exciting adventure for you with unbelievable blessings and memories to make… but take your time; it’ll all come to you eventually.” NO! He gives us a path to follow and then says, “Go get it!”

Abraham Lincoln hustle quote - writetojoncook

I haven’t always hustled. In fact, I was pretty lazy in my pre-teens and early high school. My dad taught me what it meant to work hard and chase after what matters. I kept learning how to hustle better all through college until I became an entrepreneur. My grades in college were bad my first two years (sub 2.5), so I learned how to study the right way, take better notes, pay more attention, and my senior year were my best grades in college.

Hustling as an entrepreneur has to be redundant: what entrepreneur doesn’t need to hustle? If you’re not hustling, you’re wasting! You’re wasting time, resources, opportunity, networking, clients’ attention, even a chance at more sleep, whatever that is.

I get to wake up usually between 5:30-6:30 a.m. and I end my work day around 6:00 p.m. Hustle is the pace car for my everyday life and I love it! Gary Vaynerchuck says, “Without hustle, talent will only carry you so far.” I want to push both my talent and my time to the highest gear possible in pursuit of God’s path for me.

Hustling shows God we’re taking His plan for our lives seriously. He loves us no matter what and His love isn’t based on how hard we can work. At the same time though, God gets giddy when He sees His kids pursuing His path with a full throttle on life.

What would it take to kick your life into “hustle” mode? The pace of your life directly reflects how highly you see the opportunity God’s called you to pursue. Are you coasting through life or are you kicking into higher gear?

How has hustling changed your perspective on God’s plans for your life? What are some ways you’ve changed your schedule or mindset to make the most of your God-given opportunities?

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