In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear outlines many common, practical tips in the “self-help” genre, many of which are identical to those Herbert W. Armstrong was teaching in Church publications and on the air over half a century ago. One such point is how crucial your environment is to your productivity.
It is easy to look at someone you would consider “self-disciplined”—driven, motivated—and wonder where they get the willpower and discipline to be productive and fruitful. Clear points out that most disciplined people are simply better at structuring and organizing their lives to optimize productivity. Look at a disciplined person, their desk, their room, their bed—the little things. Mr. Armstrong considered creating an environment conducive to productivity paramount, and you can see that from the campuses he raised up. We strive to keep that standard high on the Armstrong College campus today as we all must in our individual lives.
The environment you work in is important. There is a reason God put our first parents in the Garden of Eden. They were to dress and keep that environment. God knew that maintenance would yield character.
If you’re trying to become more disciplined and more organized, look at the little things—like your desktop. Focus on organizing the areas you are in every day.
Adam and Eve were required to make a choice. Mr. Armstrong wrote in The Missing Dimension in Sex: “This creation of right spiritual character in us demanded free moral agency—that man must intelligently choose the right as opposed to the wrong—that he exercise free choice, develop self-discipline.”
God will not force you along. It must be a choice. For younger people, you might feel like it is being forced upon you—you are being driven to school or to church. But as you grow older—especially approaching college age—you are making choices daily that have an impact on your overall character development.
Notice Deuteronomy 30:19: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” God sets the choice before us and tells us to choose. We have to decide to partake of the Tree of Life. It is accessible to all of us in the Church. If you choose God’s way of life, it brings blessings into your life, into the College, into the Church—into whatever projects God sets before us.
The Moffatt Translation renders Galatians 6:4 as: “Let everyone bring his own work to the test—then he will have something to boast about on his own account, and not in comparison with his fellows.” The King James Version says, “But let every man prove his own work.” Each new school year or semester is a reset opportunity for all of us—a chance to look at what we could do better. We need daily self-evaluations. Think about your work, your productivity, your organization (or lack thereof) in your day-to-day living—your environment.
“For every man shall bear his own burden. … Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (verses 5, 7). It is easy to want some kind of Miracle-Grow that bears great fruit quickly. But God wants us to think more about the seeds we plant. Whatever you sow, you will reap. Every effect has a cause. Mr. Armstrong emphasized this heavily throughout his ministry. We must be cause-oriented. Ask yourself, What will these daily decisions produce? What will they bring forth?
Mr. Armstrong wrote in his Autobiography about his struggles—like getting up in the morning. He had days that were not as productive or moments where he made a decision that did not go the way he anticipated. But consider the work he did—the fruits—and the environment he created: It lent itself to productivity.
Your physical space may not be much, but since it is where you spend most of your time, it is important to develop an organized and productive environment. Spend your time with people motivated for success—that is positive peer pressure. But you still have to choose to seize this opportunity.
It is important for you to train your will. Create a mini-AC-campus environment at home or in your room. This applies whether you live on campus or in the field. It even matters how you make your bed in the morning!
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good” (2 Timothy 3:1-3). “Incontinent” means without self-control. Satan’s world is full of this. People are addicted to these kinds of traits and human activities. Consider the young man who was so attached to material wealth and pleasure that he couldn’t give it up to follow Christ (Matthew 19:16-22).
In the December Youth ’84, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “Character, then, once the true knowledge is acquired and the right decision made, involves self-discipline. The truly educated person is a self-disciplined person” (emphasis added).
Consider the environment you live in and how you can improve it, organize it and better structure it. Choose to build good habits. Choose to be self-disciplined. Choose to be productive!