9 Habits – self-controlled

Jill Rowe, our Ethos and Formation Director explains how being self-controlled is like having a trellis in place to guide us.


With this trellis in place

When we hear the word ‘discipline’ it’s quite likely that we find ourselves transported back in time to when we were at school.

“Sit up straight!”

“Walk in a line!”

“Be quiet!”

“Work in silence!”

There were certainly a lot of orders or rules that we were expected to adhere to. And if we got anything wrong, if we didn’t follow those orders, there was the possibility of some kind of punishment, some kind of discipline, to help us realise that it always made sense to do what we were told!  Ah, happy days!

Our understanding of the word ‘discipline’ was therefore more negative than positive. And this understanding has probably stuck as we have got older. But, if we look at the original root meaning of the word, it refers to the idea of ‘trellis’, the structure used to help plants grow well, true and strong. In this way we can see that discipline (trellis) is a good, positive thing.


It is from this understanding that we can deepen our appreciation of what it means to practice the habit of being self-controlled. We may have associated being self-controlled with all the ways we can think of ‘not’ doing something – like not over-eating or not over-reacting or not losing our cool or not drinking alcohol or not…

But being self-controlled is about much, much more than those things we shouldn’t do. It is about having the right ‘trellis’ or self-discipline in place to enable us to make the right choices and behave in particular ways so that we can become the very best version of ourselves. It is about courage and being brave – opting to do the right thing, not the easy thing, and choosing courage over comfort. Every time we make this self-controlled choice, we build this great reserve of resilience into our lives which we can draw upon when life doesn’t quite go to plan, or when it feels like we’re climbing huge mountains.

So being self-controlled is much bigger, more expansive than we might have first thought. And with this ‘trellis’ in place, the possibilities for growth, including depth, in our lives becomes incredible.