13 So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 14 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”
(I Peter 1:13-16 NLT)
While preparing for an exam in school, the one thing most of us did was kind of "cram" the night before the exam. I found this particularly true when in nursing school because the volume of information we had to "consume" in just a short period of time was astronomical. The "cram session" usually involved going over notes, reading key passages again in various texts, and if I was lucky enough to find someone to cram with, we'd "test" each other to ensure we could recall the answers. All this effort was good, but what really counted was that I took copious notes, frequently referred back to the notes, and continually filled my mind with the content being taught. There is much to be said about preparing our minds because we never know when we will be called to put into action those things we have been taught!
Part of preparing our minds is to ready us to exercise self-control when we most need it! There is nothing worse than feeling ourselves "losing control" in a moment when we know we need it more than ever. I have had frequent opportunities to speak with individuals who find themselves "mopping up" after having not exercised that self-control. The one common "theme" of their lack of self-control is really two-fold: 1) there was some type of "trigger", and 2) they didn't have a plan to help them deal with that "trigger". Although we cannot anticipate every "trigger" in life, we can get a pretty good idea what sends us down the path of little to no self-control. The lack of self-control may be in the realm of eating, responses which are less than loving or kind, or even an activity that is just not right for us to engage in because it will eventually harm us.
Now, I recognize every "plan" doesn't always work, but some plan is better than no plan at all when it comes to "pre-planning" for self-control. We may not even work the plan until we are already heading down the path, but when we implement the plan at any point prior to having gone the full distance down that path, it is a good thing! I honestly believe, and have done this myself, that taking time to formulate the plan (even to the degree that I write it down) BEFORE I am faced with the issue that triggers my undesirable behavior is beneficial. It cements the action steps I need to take in order to notice when the desire to respond in anger rises, or the way someone treats me gets on my last nerve and I want to tell them to just get lost. Self-control doesn't come naturally to us - no baby pops out of the womb having learned that the entire universe doesn't rotate around them! In fact, it takes years and years to show them it doesn't!
If you have been responding to some "triggers" lately that may not be within your control, the response to those triggers still is within your control. Take some time out today to begin to figure out what the triggers are and write out a plan. I draw a line down a piece of paper, labeling one column "trigger" and the second one "plan". As simple as that sounds, it helps me "work the plan" when the trigger comes. I commit that plan to prayer and frequently refer back to it - because you never know when you will encounter your "trigger" that requires you to be ready to respond with unwavering self-control. Just sayin!