Achieving Self Control
In this book we will discuss how a person can gain progressive control over themselves.
Someone who has self-control has no need for this book, on the other hand someone who has no self control may not realize that he/she is in need of this book.
We need to first define who needs to gain self-control.
Self-control is needed for anyone who wants to succeed and accomplish any goal that they are not being forced into by someone else. Can you think of a goal that you would like to accomplish and no one will make it happen for you. If you can, then you can use self-control. There is no way that any person can accomplish a goal without enduring situations that are not fun. To graduate from university a person needs to learn for years, to become a doctor add another four to ten years. To start a business takes years. Any goal, even to be a movie star usually takes many many years.
Many many people are very upset that they cannot accomplish their goals. People often wait in hope that someone will accomplish these goals or help them accomplish these goals. There is a saying that, risk is the mother of fortune. Few people are ready to make the risk necessary in order to accomplish their goals. For a person to risk, they need to be comfortable in themselves and not be afraid of how they will be seen by others due to a loss that might possibly happen. Self-control helps a person to conquer their fears as well. Self-control is the magic bullet that gives a person the ability to do what is needed, to get to where they want to go.
Imagine self control as a car. There are many destinations that the car can take you to. However without gas your car won’t go anywhere. Apart from needing self-control, which is the actual car that has the ability to get you to your destination you still need fuel to move. This is your desire and ambition to do the goal that you have. If a person has no desires or ambitions they have no need for self-control.
Most people have desires and ambitions. They will need self-control to get them where they need or want to go.
All ambitions relate to a person’s belief that a satisfaction or joy will come after the ambition is accomplished. There are books that preach a person should work in what they enjoy. This has a lot of merit for there are many areas in a persons work-life that are not fun. If you find work that you enjoy, you need not use self-control all the time.
Depending on how strong your desire is, this will determine how much self-control you need and will use. Let’s say you want to become a film director. Objectively speaking you will need to study for about five years in which time you will be a waiter at a restaurant. Then you need to take any job available for the next ten to twenty years and perhaps before then but most probably only after then will you get the chance to become a major film director. Now you need to really really want this in order to have the self-control that will be necessary to get you to where you will even have a chance of succeeding. People with no self-control do not stand the slightest chance, for the moment it becomes too difficult they will do something else that is easier. This may happen in a year, a day, or even in a minute. Without the ability of self-control you cannot do anything that requires effort; which is not fun.
Can you think of some famous people? I will just use some names that come to the top of my head Jerry Springer, Bill Clinton, Seinfeld, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet. There is no way that these people got to where they are in life without hard work. Do you think it is easy to listen to crazy people coming up with ridicules accusations on television all day for years? Do you think it is easy to listen to every negative newspaper article about yourself, and this is before Lewinsky? Do you think it is easy to always come on to the set and act under any circumstance, and to be funny all the time? Do you think it is easy to run the largest software company in the world? Do you think it is easy to invest other people’s money and to have the responsibility when times are bad?
No, it is not easy to succeed. Can anyone who lacks the ability to force themselves, to do what is not fun, succeed? It is simply impossible to do something over and over and over again and always enjoy it. It just is not as much fun the hundredth time. This is why people often hate their jobs because what may have been interesting for a year or two becomes really boring after five, ten, fifteen; you get the point.
If a person is goal orientated, than what is important is not the method but the goal. If I desire money, than how I make it, (as long as it is a legal and ethical) should not make much of a difference. The reality is very different, for if I hate the method I will not succeed as much as if I love the method. This is why all the people that I mentioned before, succeeded despite the difficulties of doing what they do. For they actually love doing what they do. They love the method and the goal. Sure it isn’t fun to have to encounter and repeat the bizarre Jerry Springer shows but I can bet you that Jerry Springer loves to be famous and on TV. And the same is true with Bill Clinton; he loves or loved the attention of the masses. And the same is true with Seinfeld. Warren Buffet and Bill Gates love the art of the deal; they enjoy being able to use their minds and perceive what is needed to make money. Buffets expertise is in understanding which companies will make money, and Gates expertise is in understanding which software will make money. Both of them enjoy what they do so much that they agreed that if they lost all their money they would continue doing what they are doing now. They enjoy the method and the method helps them realize their financial goals.
This summarizes the need to want to do what it is you are doing; for only by having a strong desire will you be able to have self control and succeed. The real hard part is the self-control.
The reason self control is so hard is because people have different desires within themselves. Let’s say that you want to play a sports game and at the same time you are hungry, and at the same time your favorite TV show is on and at the same time your kids want you to play with them and at the same time you want to read a book; o.k. you get the point. Now which desire will win? Imagine that this exact question was asked of you. What would you answer? Try to answer quickly and instinctively. Basically people will choose either what they want the most or what they believe is most important. Now almost everyone could agree that playing with your child is most important but few people will have the self-control to do what they believe is important in the face of what they want to do. Now think about this. You watched your favorite TV show (the most entertaining and least exerting choice of the above choices) then your kid comes in and says good night and you say good night and then eventually you go to bed. The show is over and you’re thinking in bed “did I do the right thing? No, My gosh, that was really the wrong thing to do. My sweet child just wanted me to play with him or her and I wasted my time watching a couple of actors in some fantasy story about aliens and foreign planets.” Now depending on how you talk to yourself you could give yourself a real talk down or you could be easy on yourself and feel bad and go to sleep. I would venture to say that if you chose one of the other methods (not playing with your kid as what you would do) and if you agree that the more important method was playing with your child then you would feel bad while you were in bed.
Why? The answer is that your brain has a value system. This is a system of beliefs about what is right or wrong behavior. On the other hand you were born like an animal without any value system of right and wrong. If this is the case, your animal instincts are constantly fighting your value system. Your animal instincts work on a simple yet complex system of pain or pleasure. You stay away from pain and you are attracted to pleasure. If your animal self is really strong you will always work on the pain vs. pleasure system, if your mind is really strong you will always choose your right vs. wrong system. Now depending on the individual they will realize that sometimes their mind wins and sometimes their heart (pain vs. pleasure system) wins. It is practically impossible to find a person who only follows their emotions, such a person would be no different from an animal. And it is almost impossible to find a person who only follows their value system. Such a person would be very saintly and G-dly. Most people consistently fluctuate between fulfilling their hearts desires or their minds desires.
Think about the previous example, the heart wanted to do your favorite activity and the mind wanted to do what is most important; in other words what is right and not what is wrong. A person who does what is right feels good about themselves while someone who does what is wrong feels bad about themselves.
People in general want to respect themselves but they find that this is impossible if they have done what they believe is wrong. This is why they regret their foolish decisions. Self-control is the only way a person can overcome their heart in favor of their mind. It is a long and difficult battle. It is very similar to a civil war. A person needs to fight their own brother in order to survive. The same is true with the mind. It needs to fight the heart in order to survive. This is a battle far greater than the landing on Normandy or the six-day war. The enemy is very ill defined and knows your every thought. Only with a tremendous desire to win, will you win this war.
Another example of this battle is like a boxing match. A person needs to want to win a boxing match in order to win it. Even if someone very strong is fighting against a weaker opponent, if the stronger person does not want to win, then they simply cannot win if the weaker one does.
People in general find that there are many things that they wish they would do. Often these are things that mean a lot to them but they do not do it out of fear of how other people will perceive them. They live ordinary lives because then they will not be ashamed by anyone for doing anything different. Of course it is necessary to overcome these fears in order for a person to have self control and do what they want to. As long as a person is under the fear that they will be shamed for doing something then that fear will inhibit their desire to do it. Simply put it they get stuck in mud. Just like a person who is stuck wants to get out but can’t, fear inhibits a person’s ability to do what they want.
Overcoming these fears is not easy by any means. We will recommend a five step approach that can help a person succeed in overcoming fear of what others will say about their behavior if it is not ordinary and conforming.
Step 1 Understanding Your Motives
First you need to understand why you want to do what you want to do. If it is to buy a new car then it may be because your old one is bad or maybe you want to look cool or you want to impress someone. There are many possible reasons for human behaviors; the question is, what is the reason behind your desire to fulfill this desire to buy a car.
If you understand why you want the desire, then you will have a far clearer picture over how important it is to you.
Step 2 Identify who you are afraid of
You need to identify who you are afraid of. Of course people worry about what others will say, and these others is often ill defined and means everyone. There is always a possibility that if you think about it more carefully then you will realize that there are specific people, or even a person that you are most worried about their comments.
Step 3 Decide if the worst-case scenario is worth not achieving your goal
Decide if the worst-case scenario – that they will ridicule you – is worth not achieving your goal. If the answer is yes then go to step 4. if not then you can stop at step 3.
Step 4 Is your fear rational
Obviously you are dealing with someone that holds some power over you. If they had no power over you would not worry about what they think, if your desire is important to you. You now need to very carefully analyze if your fear is rational or not. Often our fears are the products of our imaginations. Ask yourself, if you had to judge someone that wanted the desire that you have, would you judge them favorably or not. If the answer is yes than you need to understand why you are afraid that the person you have the most fear of will judge you un-favorably. Is your fear rational or is hypothetical, meaning a possibility but not a probability.
If the answer is that it is a probability than go to step 5.
Step 5 Make a decision
First you need to decide if there is a point to what the other person is saying. Maybe you are afraid that they will say that you are wasting money on a new car and they will be right. If they are right, then possibly you should agree with them and realize that by not buying the car you will be saving money. If they are not right, then you have no choice but to make a decision. “Will I get it despite their criticism or will I not?” The important thing at this point is to make a decision. Yes or no. If the decision is no, than you should comfort yourself by saying “well there are many people who couldn’t even consider such an option.” Basically, make peace with your decision. If the decision is yes, than go do it and don’t waste another second worrying.
Worry is another strong inhibitor of action. People who are worried cannot seem to do anything. Worry is probably one of the most detrimental reasons for human unhappiness. A large part of this is not so much about what we are worrying about, rather that worrying itself produces responses in us that don’t allow us to see a situation clearly.
Lets explain. Imagine you are in a jungle and you need to get home. If you are an expert navigator with the stars you will not worry. If you are not, you have reason to worry, this worry is good for it will help you focus on the task at hand. Let’s say that you are traveling with an expert navigator, so now you have no reason to worry, but you worry anyway. “What if he gets lost, what if a bear attacks us, what if, what if, what if.” The imagination is absolutely incredible at giving “what-if” scenarios. The trouble is that a what-if scenario can produce the very same chemical responses in a human as the real thing. What happens when you are faced with real danger. Your adrenaline kicks in. It gives you extra energy, focuses you on the danger. In a split second you decide should you fight the danger or run like heck. If you are facing a lion a new scenario comes in. If you run like heck, will it chase you like heck or not? You are paralyzed with worry. As long as you continue staring at the lion, the lion has not moved but what should you do, fight is not an option, and flight is not an option. This is called stress. You are stressing out. You are poring adrenaline into your system but you are not responding. People who consistently worry without doing something about it create a lot of stress in their lives. Worry is not always about ridicules things. A person can have every rational right to worry but if it goes on indefinitely it is extremely stressful and very very difficult to cope with.
Sometimes it is past worries in the form of bad memories that cause worry. People try to recreate the past in their imaginations and undo what gave them cause of stress. Of course this doesn’t work either. Worry does not let up on its own. A person must be able to remove it from one’s mind. A soldier who was involved in traumatic experiences during world war two said if you focus on bad memories all the time you go crazy. Many soldiers and survivors of world war two don’t talk about it because it is necessary for them to focus on other things so they can reduce stress in their lives and lead a normal life.
Every person has the ability to refocus their mind on other things. Most people do not have a strong enough motive. If a person survived the holocaust the amount of bad memories that they have are so great that only through refocusing their minds can they make it to the next minute. This ability to focus on what you need to focus on as opposed to what stresses a person is very important. This is necessary in order to do anything else, for as long as a person is focused on a stressful moment, memory, or event it is impossible for them to focus on anything else. It is a chemical reaction that is telling them fight or flight and they remain with that reaction as long as they are focused on the stressful event.
The ability to relax is very important. Many times this can best be achieved by breathing slowly and deeply. Imagine that your stomach is a powerful pump that draws in air from your lungs and exhales only after it is full, try it. Do it ten times. You will see how loads of tension gets released and you can relax a bit. This relaxation is far more important than just relaxing, rather it allows you to get a new perspective on your life and on your problems. Instead of just seeing stress you might begin to see options. Seeing options is very important, for stress is to be paralyzed by fear, but by seeing an option you are freed and able to act.
Jealousy is another cause of human behavior that does not allow a person to gain self-control and do what they want. If you are jealous of your neighbors or friends cool car you will leave no stone unturned until you get it. The problem is that it is the absolutely most harmful method of achieving anything via the motive of jealousy. Jealousy is raw passion without any logic. This passion means that as long as you have what you want it is perfectly O.K. because the goal is to fulfill the passion. If you have money and you could just go buy that cool car you have not solved your problem for your friend will by a cool boat and the list is endless. This passion can consume a lifetime of activity and there will be no time for having meaning in life. There is only one way to stop being jealous and that is to look at people who have less then you and then be thankful for everything that you have.
By seeing people who have less than you, you can realize that you have a lot. I know a lady who was going through a very difficult financial time and she had the burden of feeding four children and her husband left her. She would read stories in the newspaper about people who had less than her and she would thank the creator for what she had.
Even amongst the very wealthy, the happy ones are only those that thank the creator for what they have. I remember sitting in the lounge of an extremely wealthy person and he said to me that every morning he and his wife thank the creator that they are alive. This thankfulness is what allows a person to stop being jealous. The brilliant Jewish sages coined a phrase “Who is rich? A person who is happy with what they have.” Someone who is not happy with their life is not rich no matter how much money they have. A person who has very little is far richer than a rich person who has a lot but wants more.
The story is told about a student who wanted to become happy. His wise master sent him to Zusha. Thinking that he was going to see another master he was surprised to come to the humble shack of a home that Zusha lived in. Zusha greeted this man with a smile and was a wonderful host. “Tell me my son why are you here?” “I am here because my master told me that here I will find how to be happy.” “Why your master must be mistaken” replied the surprised Zusha “I have no problems so how can I teach you to be happy.” As the student walked out of Zusha’s home he realized why his master sent him to Zusha. Zusha was a very poor man, far poorer than he, but his contentment with what he had made him far richer than he.
Jealousy is natural to the human animal and it must be overcome before a person can become happy. If you find that you are angry that others have more than you, then you are jealous of them. Think of those who have less than you the next time you see someone who has more. Truly jealousy needs to be conquered for you to live a happy and content life.
We come to the final chapter of this book on self control. I am sure that you can readily see that attaining self control is the most difficult as well as the most important achievement a person can accomplish.
If a person wants to live life and not have any accomplishments then that is a choice they can make. Normal people will realize that one day they will die. On that day they will only have their name left over. Their name will be very closely linked to all of their accomplishments. If they have done good their name will be good if they have done bad their name will be bad. It is reality, no one has ever escaped this simple reality.
Everyone wants to be remembered for the good and in order to do that they need to do good.
They need to simply do as many acts of goodness and kindness possible. Think of every action that brings people closer together as a memory in someone’s mind that you are good. Every action that separates people and causes discord and disunity as a bad memory about you in someone’s mind. You certainly should hope that you have many more good memory marks than bad ones. To live and die and do nothing is no different from an animal or an ant. To live and die and to accomplish is to make a difference forever. People want to live forever but they can’t. There is only one way they can become immortal and that is to accomplish and allow the memory of their accomplishments to live on.
These paragraphs were written to supply the necessary motive for a person to desire to have self-control. Unfortunately without self control it is far more probable that a person’s memory bank will be of negative behavior, disunity, and discord between people. A person with self-control and more importantly a good value system will leave over many happy memories of unity that they created. This is reality and no one has escaped it from the beginning of time nor will you.
You have the choice, will you exercise self control and do what is right (that which creates peace between people) or will you do what is wrong (that that sows discord between people.) You are the only person in the world that can make you do what will make your name immortal in a good way.