Over the past few weeks, I’ve been terribly upset because of the terrorist attack at Pulwana and what followed.
I’m fairly good at accepting that people do not share the same views as me. But in the last few weeks, I’ve lost my cool at friends and family members who “stepped out of line.” (Who decides the line anyway, especially the ones that don’t involve personal boundaries?)
In other words, I lost control of my actions.
What is Control?
Most of us wage wars against people and circumstances. We want others to accept us, circumstances to fall in place, and fate to favor us. But these are wars we can never win. (We can get lucky sometimes, but that’s not a victory.)
The only war we can win is the one we wage against our animal instincts. Yet, most people choose to lose at this war.
At any point, there’s what we want to do, and what we should do. Often they’re not just different; they’re at loggerheads.
We want to gorge on pizza when we should stick to a diet.
We want to watch Netflix when we should exercise.
We want to pursue shiny new toys when we should stick to the existing task.
We often start doing things with the right intentions and set the ball in motion. But with time, this ball grows bigger and heavier and pushing it becomes harder. When we continue pushing it, we build resilience and grit. The ball doesn’t lighter; we become stronger and better.
But many people look for the easy way out. They look for a new ball to roll. They succumb to the temptation of doing what’s easier and more fun. After all, they can return to the tough tasks any time, right? Not quite.
Each time we stop doing what we should, returning to it becomes tougher. Also, not pursuing something when the going gets tough means we don’t stretch ourselves and stay right where we are, in our comfort zone. As a result, we stay exactly where we are. For many people, a decade of experience means one year’s repeated experience ten times.
Actions Shape Your Character
Both the “should-do” and “want-to-do” actions shape your character.
One makes you fall prey to instant gratification and doing what’s easier. It makes you live in denial. You demand that people accept you for who you are, yet keep lusting for external validation and avoiding actions that will make you worthy of that acceptance.
The other makes you better at taking tough decisions, at enduring when things don’t go your way, and at giving people reasons to respect you. Yet, you’re not concerned about validation from others because you tell yourself, “I am enough,” and genuinely mean it.
The difference between these actions is the amount of control you exercise.
Lack of self-control means you commit the same mistakes and experience the same unpleasant results over and over again.
Applying self-control makes you give meaningful ends to your actions, learn, and witness better results. It helps you build discipline, which is the single most important trait that will help you achieve your goals.
You cannot master the art of self-control and be done. Even the wealthiest and most successful people give into procrastination. But the gap between such instances is longer than for the majority, and it’s filled with actions that are a result of self-control.
Self-control always remains a “you’re-getting-hot-you’re-getting-cold” game. Consciously try to extend the gaps between your moments of “weakness” and fill them with moments of strength.
We cannot expect to enjoy the results of things we should do by doing the things we want to do.
Remain at war with yourself. It’s the only war worth fighting. And the more you fight this war, the less you feel the need to fight against the world.