The Scriptural Science of Self-Regulation

Duct Tape and WD-40.

Someone once told me, "You only need two tools in life: WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn't move and should, use the WD-40. If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape." There's something profound in this redneck wisdom. There are thoughts and behaviors that we know should change. They are just plain wrong, and they have to go. But we feel stuck with them. If we could spray some sort of WD-40 to loosen them up, we'd do ourselves a great service.

And then there are thoughts and behaviors we want to stick, but they end up slipping away. New Year's resolutions fall off the wall by February 1. High priorities and important-but-not-urgent to do's float freely and easily out the open window of our minds. Our aspirations burst apart under the water pressure of financial and relational crises. Our focus is scattered in the gusty winds of competing priorities. My question is, Where's the duct tape when we need it? How do we hold the good stuff in place, and free ourselves from the bad stuff?

I'll share some of what I think are compelling answers to these questions in the weeks and months ahead. But for the sake of brevity, let me give you one thought. The most powerful method of self-control, proven by the latest research in the science of self-regulation and completely in line with Scripture, is managing your attention. When you learn how to divert your attention away from the bad and set it on the good, your mind changes and your behaviors quickly follow.

I use the attention management technique to control my urges, whether it be for eating right, sticking to my budget, getting things done now instead of procrastinating, or saying no to sin. Attention control is like a rudder on the ship: a small thing that turns a big thing. Over the past nine months, I've used this method to lose 19 pounds of fat. I've also used this method to save lots of money. I've used it to get better at loving my family, my church, and my Lord Jesus Christ.

Of course I'm far from perfect. I have to say I'm sorry a lot, to God and everyone else. I remind myself that we're all a little bit pitiful. We all have sin natures to resist. But with the power of the Spirit (one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control, by the way), and a little bit of attentional duct tape and wd-40, there's a way to new levels of self-control.

about erik van alstine

Erik is a change expert and author of the personal finance discipleship system, Breaking Free: Financial Strategies that Transform Debt into Wealth. Breaking Free is like driver's ed in your financial life, a powerful video curriculum that offers experiential learning, assessment, and transformation! Take our free MoneyFinder Quiz to see just how much payoff Breaking Free can create for you!