Self control is not a thing we are born with or without. Self control is not allotted at birth or a “blob of brain tissue large in some fortunate people, small in others.”
Self control is the name we give to a “class of behaviors” that collectively comprise a skill set. We learn this skill set the way we learn any other: either subconsciously, by copying others around us as we grow up, or by conscious study and practice, repeated over and over and over until the desired level of competency is achieved.
Self control is simply the ability to control yourself. The ability to exercise restraint, to direct your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions in your “hot” states to achieve the results you have decided you want in your “cold,” logical states of mind, to do the things necessary to achieve your long-term goals (or refrain from antithetical behavior), to delay gratification in the search for obtaining greater satisfaction at a later date.
“The Finding the Freedom of Self Control,” by William Backus, is a short, small tome with lots of good tips. I read it a while back and recently enjoyed re-reading what I highlighted in the first reading. (Disclosure: The writing has a religious slant, the principles are universal.)
Some see discipline as the loss of freedom, and in excess or to the extreme, there may be some truth. But a little bit of discipline goes a long way.
In the long run, the ability to buckle down, to focus, creates much more freedom then ever is lost. Just as a bout of surge performance to clear your desk can create the freedom to go on vacation, so to can a lifetime habit of living on purpose open incredible opportunities.
Why deny yourself the multitude of doors that will open for you simply because you have yet to apply yourself, release your brakes, find your greatness, or develop your unique gift.
Come on already! The adventure awaits!
“Successful people aren’t born that way. They become successful by establishing the habit of doing things unsuccessful people don’t like to do. The successful people don’t always like these things themselves; they just get on and do them.” — William Makepeace Thackeray (1811 – 1863), English novelist famous for “Vanity Fair”
“The self controlled person maintains progress toward a goal even when he is not in the mood, doesn’t feel like making the effort, would momentarily enjoy something else or finds working toward his goal downright unpleasant.” — William Backus, “The Finding the Freedom of Self Control”
“The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of success.” — Stephen R. Covey