Oh, the elusive self-discipline… Not getting what I want right now so that I can have what is best for me later. That has never been my natural strong suit, but with God’s help over the years I've seen some growth in this area. I believe He can grow us all as much as we desire, but we have to do our part.
I want to share a practical tool I use in the exact moment when I’m really struggling to do my part and make the choices that will help me grow. (One I should have used when my kids were eating popcorn yesterday afternoon!)
Whether you are trying to avoid eating certain foods, stop spending so much money on things you don’t need, get yourself back on task at work, or trying to lengthen your fuse with your toddlers, this process works in the moment if you do the legwork of setting yourself up when you’re not facing the moment of temptation.
I call it the PAUSE method. Much of it is based on science— the wonderful and practical ways designed us to work! Walking through the steps of the PAUSE method can be accomplished in as little as 2-3 minutes or take as long as you need if you have that freedom.
PAUSE is an acronym and here’s how it breaks down:
Call for back up. Pray for self-control. Here’s a script if you need one:
“God, I need you. I feel like my flesh is taking over and I want something/I’m feeling something/I’m doing something that I know is not your best for me. Help me overcome this moment, Lord. I want to choose your way. Thank you for always letting me come to you with my struggles. Amen”
Take 3-10 long, deep breaths. Slowly pull air in through your nose and blow it out through pursed lips. You can even give it a rhythm and a count to still your mind.
Slowing your breath deactivates the sympathetic nervous system’s chemical cascade in response to the stress of your critical moment. The increase in oxygen will also help your brain function better and get you through this.
UP & OUT
Change your immediate circumstance and get your heart rate pumping to get a quick endorphin boost. If you’re at work, take a lap around the office or if possible, take a brisk walk around the block. Getting away from screens for a moment is particularly important. If you don’t have the freedom to do that, just go to the bathroom or a storage closet and do 25 jumping jacks or run in place for 60 seconds. No excuses. Figure it out. There is a way to make this work. The goal is to get a change of scenery and get your heart pumping even if only briefly.
Are you armed for battle? Memorize and recite a truth that is meaningful to you. Find a verse that gives you strength and confidence in God’s ability to help you overcome. I’m not giving you a verse. You need to go find one. Getting in God’s Word might even be the thing you’re trying to do more of this year, so you’re welcome!
If you literally have no idea where to begin with finding an applicable scripture, email me and I'll be more than happy to walk you through it! (firstname.lastname@example.org) There is no shame in being a beginner!
Ask yourself a couple of predetermined questions that apply to your new situation. Now that your brain and body are reset and your heart has ahold of the truth, it’s time to look at this thing logically and convince yourself to make the right choice.
Do I NEED this? Do I need it NOW?
What emotions am I experiencing? Are they based in reality or on assumptions?
What will happen if I make the wrong choice? Is it worth it?
Write your questions on a note card and keep them at hand for review when employing the PAUSE method.
Once you and your sound heart, mind and body agree that the temptation is over, you can move on with your day.
Still not done wanting the thing/ not wanting to do the thing/ feeling the feelings?
Here’s a bonus step:
Take a moment to write, draw, do simple math problems or make/listen to music. This will help take your brain function from REactive to PROactive. Once you are calm, consider going through the PAUSE method again.
Okay! You’ve done it! Clean Slate.
Now get back in it and kill it, whatever your day requires of you. You are armed with a way to offer yourself a Clean Slate moment-to-moment as you work towards a better you in the new year. Let me know how the PAUSE method works for you!
And don't forget to find and memorize your SCRIPTURE and determine your EXAMINE questions so that you're ready in the moment!