Why-Why Not contest for April 2020
Why is control and self-control important?
Control has both a light and a dark side. This essay focuses on the benefits of control and self-control. Both can protect us and propel us to flourish. Parents control children who lack experience and discernment. As we grow, we choose to exert self-control to meet our goals or to avoid future anguish. We experience control either when we are obliged, required or coerced into doing what we’d rather not do or when we are prevented from doing something we want to do.
We experience consequences that vary in severity when we neglect or refuse to do what the “controlling force” demands of us. Here are a few examples:
Your mother has assigned you a set of the chores for the week. If they’re not done to her satisfaction, you’re definitely grounded for the next two weeks.
Your boss told you that if you miss one more day of work, you’re fired and if you lose this job, you’ll be in a lot more trouble than you want to deal with. You partied all weekend and wake up so hung over Monday morning that you can barely see straight.
Your doctor tells you that you must get your blood sugar down or you’ll need to start insulin injections the following month. Just the sight of a needle makes you break out in a cold sweat.
You’re up to your ears in gambling debt and have very unwisely gone to a loan shark. Your loan is overdue and you’ve been threatened with the loss of a limb.
There are times when what we desire is impossible for financial, physical or other reasons beyond your power to change. Here are a few examples:
You’re ten years old and want to get the latest Star Wars movie “The Rise of Skywalker”. The movie costs at least $20. You’re no good at saving money so all you have is $5 in your piggy bank.
Because of a serious accident, both of your hands needed to be amputated. You had remarkable talent as a pianist and were obliged to cancel your concert plans.
You entered a contest that you were confident you would win. Not only did you make plans for the prize money, you spent it by maxing out your credit card. As for the contest, you followed all of the rules met the deadline, and the quality of your entry was excellent. Unfortunately someone else won and you placed fourth which meant no monetary prize.
If you don’t pass this chemistry exam, you’ll lose the credit for the course and you’ll not be able to graduate. You would bring shame on your family by this failure. You studied as well as you could but this course was extremely difficult for you. There was so much you didn’t understand, especially since it wasn’t in your native language. There is an opportunity to cheat and a slight chance of getting caught. If you do get caught, you’ll be expelled and the shame would be exponentially greater than if you simply failed to graduate.
Here are a few limitations that I’ve needed to accept in my life:
The Motor Vehicle Association where I live would never give me a license to drive because I can’t read below the second line of an eye chart.
I have very little coordination and even less balance so I can only admire but never imitate Jennifer Beals in Flashdance.
Because of low vision, I will always work more slowly and less efficiently than most people. I will often need extra help and the humility to ask for it.
The first type of self-control happens when I do something that, while unappealing in the moment, will benefit me later, especially if I do it repeatedly. Here are some examples of unappealing things that we do because we know they benefit us or because they prevent problems from developing:
Engage in physical exercise.
Going to bed early enough to get all the rest we need.
Having and following a wise financial plan, however basic it might be
The second type happens when I refrain from doing something I strongly desire but which will have negative consequences later; these consequences will be all the more serious the more often I repeat my favourite unhelpful behaviour.
Eating what I want, as much as I want, whenever I want.
Buying more than my budget permits and increasing my consumer debt
Ignoring chores and enjoying myself doing things I like to do instead.
The most significant benefit of self-control in my life within the past two years was losing weight by creating and following food boundaries. I started in July 2018 and reached my goal in February 2019. I have maintained a 30 pound weight loss for 14 months so far. There are a lot of times that I feel like breaking my food boundaries and choose not to. There are other times when I do break them.
Once I was asked to define the word “discipline”. This is what came to me in that moment from a source far wiser than I:
Discipline is doing what you don’t want to do when you don’t want to do it because it [u}needs to be done. AND
Discipline is not doing what you do want to do because it shouldn’t be done.
What, or who, has the most control over you these days?
In what area of your life are you exerting self-control the most consistently?
Where in your life do you believe you most need self-control, even if you have no desire whatever to practice it?