Mastering Self-Control

Self-control and discipline. Both of these actions go hand and in hand. You can’t have self control without discipline. Our level of both significantly affects the level of happiness we experience. As Matthew Kelly puts it in his book “Mastery of self and happiness are intimately connected.” So what is self-control? Self-control is the gateway to freedom. So many of us struggle with appetites and impulses which lead to addiction. This could be anything that we do on impulse such as shopping, gambling, eating, drinking, working, social media and so on.

How do we break from these addictions? One way is fasting. Giving yourself a break from whatever you feel has that control over you. Personally, I like to practice my fasting during lent which is 40 days. This year, I gave up my number one addiction which is coffee. I love my coffee. But I gave it up because I want to be free. I also gave up my wine and bubbles which are my go-to alcoholic beverages and lastly, I gave up Facebook. In giving these things up I felt and saw the difference it had made in my life. The sense of freedom and knowing that I can do anything that I put my mind to brings me joy. Don’t take me wrong, I especially missed my coffee but when I thought about it I said to myself “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and then I quickly got myself busy or drank a cup of decaf tea.

We all can do this. For example, if your addiction or thing you want to practice self-control with is soda then when your body asks for soda ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Why did I give up soda?
  2. What could happen if I drink the soda?
  3. Is this really what I want?

After you answer these three questions, reply to yourself and say “no, we will have water or juice today because of ____”.

When you are shopping and you have an impulse to buy something ask yourself “do I really need this?” If you are in the middle of your day and have deadlines but your mind wonders and you have the urge to go into Facebook ask yourself the three questions above and remind yourself of what is most important at that moment, and what a time waster Facebook can be at times and fight that urge.

Addictions aren’t always food, shopping, or social media, sometimes they can be behaviors such as criticizing yourself and others, complaining or procrastination. You can fast from these also and free yourself from these behaviors. Try it. Practice self-control and I promise you will accomplish so much. I’ll end by sharing this quote from John of the Cross in the book Perfectly Yourself:

“A bird, whether it is tied down by a thread or a chain, still cannot fly.”

What is tying you down? What is it in your life that is stopping you from flying?