What does it really mean to have discipline?
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Scientists, psychologists, and monks for centuries have been studying this defining element of humanity. Having self-control or discipline separates us from our caveman ancestors and the animals around us. But how do we know if we have it, and how much is too much self-control?
It’s believed that having a measure of self-control in one’s life will help in developing wisdom and willpower, while trumping hurtful impulses. We all have urges to do compulsive things—for example, at any moment we can walk up to someone and shove them, or while we are driving we can steer the car into oncoming traffic. But we don’t, because we have self-control. On the extreme scale, this type of self-regulation keeps us alive. On the other hand, this management of oneself is hindering us from reaching our full potential.
The thing about self-control is that we can only control ourselves in so many ways before the sink of urges overflows. That is why sometimes we end up buying a magazine or a stick of gum in the impulse section at the checkout line. We are bombarded by temptations daily and the only way to keep ourselves from cracking is to give in once in a while. Get another glass of beer at the bar, buy another pair of shoes, and sleep an extra hour—these are little things that may foster guilt, but at least it doesn’t really hurt anybody.
Because we are trying to govern ourselves in so many ways it is important to acknowledge it occasionally. After all, few people will know what you are actually controlling within yourself. Learn to reward and penalize your actions. Studies have shown that punishments are more encouraging than rewards. Do this as quickly as possible after it has been recognized. Having self-control is having self-awareness.
Those who have good self-control will tell you that they have apt self-affirmation. They are able to think about why they are doing something instead of just doing it. If you are out shopping, ask if you actually need something or if the impulse led you to opening your wallet. If you are watching a show and it ends on a cliffhanger, ask if you really need to see the next episode right away. If you just lost a round in your video game, ask yourself do you really need to achieve the next level tonight? Challenge yourself to think this way as often as possible and you’ll find that the external powers have weakened significantly.
I strongly believe that people should do whatever they want if it doesn’t affect anyone else negatively. However, repeating the same mistakes and falling into bad habits are signs of insanity. You know smoking is killing you, but you still smoke. You know eating fast food is bad, but you still eat it. You know playing video games is wasting your time, but you still play. We all pick things to control and we all choose to indulge in others. Self-control is our decision-making process when we hit a fork in the road during the course of life; don’t be ashamed, we can take the road less travelled.