New Habits, The Pain of Discipline, and The Confidence-Competency Loop

I am currently working with Katie and Sarah at Dashing Dish to help coach a group of over 140 ladies in an 8 week health challenge. If you are interested in joining the next round, keep your eyes peeled! We plan on running the next Stronger Together Challenge in January!!

This post is actually the product of specific things I wanted to cover with the ladies in the challenge.

Something I have been sharing with the ladies, and something that I think is important for anyone practicing new habits to understand is that habits are tough things to make or break, but also, not everything you try will work well for you and your unique circumstances, even if it is helpful for another person. Sometimes it is hard to know the difference between the necessary pain of disciple and what is actually added stress from trying to force something that isn’t serving you. Not everything new habit you attempt to adopt over the course of your health journey will end up being a habit that you enjoy right off the bat, but the idea is that you will continue to practice them because you understand the value they will bring.

A lot of times we don’t like an activity in the beginning phases, not because the activity itself isn’t something we would eventually enjoy, but simply because we just aren’t used to it and aren’t very good at it yet. The more you practice something, the better you get at it, and eventually that leads to enjoying the activity. Essentially, it’s a matter of keeping up the habit until the point when competency kicks in. Once it does, your confidence level increases, and it becomes a feed-forward cycle! The key is to take consistent small action steps, and over time the shift will happen.

You can almost view the pain of discipline as growth curve, and when doing so it is helpful to understand that it’s a bell shaped curve. The pain is lower in the beginning because you’re excited about starting a new process. Then it builds as you really get into the heavy work of implementation. But, once you start to get better at the task and gain confidence, you’ll get over the hump of the bell-shaped curve and start to come down the other side as your confidence and competence continue to grow. (See also the confidence-competence loop).


There will be some things that require more effort and hard work than we are used to, and that is expected with the territory. However, for you to sustain this as a lifestyle, your habits cannot—and should not—make you miserable. Will you 100% love every discipline at first? No, but believe it or not, you will eventually grow to love the process of self-discipline for the fruit it yields. It’s an amazing feeling once that shift happens.

“We don’t enjoy discipline when we get it. It is painful. But later, after we have learned our lesson from it, we will enjoy the peace that comes from doing what is right.” Hebrews 12:11 ERV

On the other hand, there may be habits that you will just never enjoy, or they might not be realistic to work into your lifestyle. This is a different thing entirely than the pain of growth and the pushback your flesh will give you when engaging in new disciples.

I think it is important for you to know the difference between the pain growth that comes along with creating healthy habits versus trying to force yourself to do something that makes you miserable because you think you “should do it.



So, how do you actually know the difference?

Here’s something to think about it if you find yourself stuck trying to discern between the two:

~First, ask yourself, what would the person’s life, situation, health, etc. who practices this habit look like and/or what might they receive as their outcome for maintaining the discipline?
Once you have an idea of what that looks like, ask yourself, would I like to actually become that person and/or create that outcome for myself?
After thinking it over you’ll know the answer, yes or no.

Here is an example: I think I would like to make and stick to a budget because I have heard that it can really help with financial freedom and debt elimination. So, I imagine what it would look like to have that outcome. The out come of someone who has a budget and follows it is the ability to pay off credit card debt, improve their credit score, have reserve money for emergencies, and extra money that they can use to bless others. If that is the outcome, then yes, I want to be financially disciplined by making and sticking to a budget.

~Second, if the answer is yes, think about what it would actually take to achieve that outcome and ask yourself if you’re willing to do what it takes to pursue and achieve it.

Going back to the above of sticking to a budget, I would know that this might require me to say no to some activities or things that I would have spent money on before creating a budget. It would require the pain of saying no now in order to have a better situation later. I would have to be ok with telling people I can’t so some things for little while and I would need to be ok with managing their disappointment. I determine this is worth it and so I can fully commit to the process.

However, sometimes the input versus reward is just not worth the payoff.

For example, there are times in the past where I have been asked to work extra hours, and while I may make extra income for doing so, the additional time spent away from home is not worth the additional money I would get in my paycheck. For me, I need a certain amount away from work in order to be my best self and maintain my energy for the things which are important to me besides my financial state. 

While this may not be a health related example, it gives you a picture of the process, and that process definitely isn’t limited to health related goals. Whatever your unique goals and situations are, you can use the same mental exercise to determine what goals are truly compelling enough for you to endure the pain of discipline until you reach the other side of the bell-shaped curve. Also, some things take more time than others and that is important to understand too!

I hope this was helpful for you! Let me know what you think.

| Kaci



Reader Questions:
1/ What are some of your current short and long term goals?
2/ What new habits are you currently practicing?

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