Dr. Jamie Jenkins: Discipline Is an Indispensable Ingredient

2,574 is the new number to beat.

On February 11 Ray Allen set a new record for three-point shots in the National Basketball Association. Reggie Miller, who held the record for 18 years, was on the sidelines that night. When Ray hit number 2,562 to set a new record Miller said, "I'm just so happy for him because this is one of the best guys. He's so humble, he's so giving, he's a great family man and I'm excited."

The 35 year old Walter Ray Allen is a ten-time NBA All-Star and won an Olympic gold medal as a member of the 2000 United States Men's Basketball Team. He was the first round draft pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1996 after finishing his college years at the University of Connecticut. He was immediately traded to the Milwaukee Bucks where he began his NBA career. He moved to the Seattle Supersonics in the middle of the 2002-2003 season and has been with the Boston Celtics since 2007.

"He's just a machine," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "He shoots every day. He works on it. He runs every day. You look at his body. If you're a young player, just look at Ray Allen if you want a long career. He's the ultimate pro."

Allen has spent thousands of hours alone in a gym, practicing his shot. He arrives at the arena 3-4 hours before every game and shoots until he makes 150 baskets. On a recent television broadcast, Reggie Miller said, "To be able to shoot like (Allen) does, you have to take 500-1000 shots a day."

It is fascinating to watch Ray Allen play. When he shoots the jump shot the motion is so smooth and the release of the ball is amazingly quick. He is always hustling. His body is so incredibly fit for his age.

It really is not a mystery why he is so good. It is obvious that he has some God-given talent. There are a lot of natural athletes. Being born with the gifts and abilities is wonderful but it is not enough. The key is discipline. He works hard. He practices. And practices. And practices.

Discipline is an indispensable ingredient if life is to be lived to the fullest. It is necessary if a person is going to reach their potential. That is true whether in athletics, academics, entertainment, or life in general.

Discipline is developing and maintaining good habits. It is not simple but it is essential.

There are good habits and there are bad habits. Some are easier to develop than others. It seems that it takes less effort to develop bad habits than it does for good ones.

A favorite expression of one of my college professors (a hundred years ago) was, "Repetition is the mother of learning." There is certainly some truth to that. The patterns we create in our brains and our lives are accomplished by repetition. They may come naturally or we may have to work at it but habits control our lives.

I had a morning paper route when I was a boy in Mobile. I had to get up at 5:00 AM to deliver the newspaper before going to school. I did not like getting up so early. My daddy would say to me, "You'll get used to it." He was wrong. I still don't like getting up early--but I do. My alarm is set for 6:00 AM and I make myself turn it off and get up every day.

I am by nature a "high strung" individual. People who know me will not be surprised to learn that (I can see the heads nodding now). I have been known to have a bad temper. Over the years I have worked at containing that natural impulse and have attempted to restrain my responses. Those efforts have not been as successful as I wish but I keep working at it. Discipline is not a one-time thing.

Personal hygiene, eating healthy, speaking kind words, walking the dog, exercising, volunteering at the homeless shelter, tutoring at the elementary school, reading the Bible and praying, looking for the best in people rather than the worst, regular worship attendance. All require discipline.

The season of Lent begins this Wednesday. It kicks off the forty day period leading up to the celebration of Jesus' resurrection on Easter Sunday. Traditionally this is a time when Christians intentionally engage in disciplined practices such as prayer and fasting.

Jesus said, "If anyone would be my disciple, let him/her deny themselves daily." I don't know about you but that is difficult for me. Nevertheless I am not giving up. I am going to keep on trying because one day I want to hear, "Well done good and faithful servant."

Jamie Jenkins

[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," March 7, 2011. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]