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Human Flourishing

By Karen Vally on 15 Nov 2023

I am sure that you would agree that we're all pilgrims on this journey of life trying our best to improve. But what if we were to discover ways in which to flourish? Ryan Holiday, explores this possibility in his book called, "Discipline is Destiny The Power of Self-Control."

What is the difference between self-control and self-discipline? In my research, I found Madeline Miles's definition of these two virtues very helpful. Self-control is, "stopping a behaviour or starting a new one" and self-discipline is, "following through on that change."

Self-control, or "temperance," as it is sometimes known, refers to our ability to regulate our thoughts, words and actions. It is "a set of active and purposeful decisions and behaviours."

According to Stuart Shankar, self-control "is about inhibiting strong impulses" and self-regulation is about "reducing the frequency and intensity of strong impulses." He goes on to explain that, in fact, "self-regulation is what makes self-control possible, or in many cases, unnecessary."

 Willpower helps us resist our impulses when we are tempted ." Kendra Cherry says that willpower alone does not determine whether or not you will reach a goal, as there are several other factors such as, your level of motivation and your ability to measure your progress, that play a significant role.

"Practising good habits is more impactful than having strong willpower. People who have better self-control rely on good habits more than willpower, which leads to better progress."

It appears as if those who focus on "why they do something are able to exert greater self-control and persist longer at a task than those who think about 'how' to do something."

While some experts believe that self-control is genetic, many believe that it is a skill that can be acquired through regular effort and practice. However, it is a finite resource, so we need to pay careful attention to self-care. Self-care is an essential prerequisite to self-control. 

 Self- control is empowering and it is this sense of autonomy that enhances our confidence in our own ability to introduce, and bring about the changes we desire. It builds resilience and results in more effective decsions.The quality of our relationships, our health and well-being and our level of productivity soon improve. We feel as if we're in charge of our own destiny. There is a sense of meaning and purpose in our daily routines.

There are several ways in which we can develop self-control. It is a good idea to start in a small way before shifting our focus to the bigger picture. Be sure to exercise regularly, to remain hydrated, to eat healthily and to get adequate rest. Find a way to reduce the number of daily decisions that you will be required to make. Eliminate negative self-talk and remove temptations. Evaluate your thoughts and actions. Ask yourself, "What if...?" in order to consider the consequences of your actions. Learn how to plan effectively.

Recent research has revealed that "rewards, routines and mindfulness practices" are effective ways in which "to establish better habits and regulate behaviour over the long-term."    

There is one thing of which I am certain. By getting to know and understand ourselves better, we create an opportunity to make progress and to lead meaningful lives. Without a sharp self-awareness, we remain stuck and feel disillusioned. 

"Self-awareness, or getting to know yourself better, helps you direct your energy toward self-improvement. You can't curtail bad habits unless you know about them."

"Life is going to throw so much at you...The question is : How are you going to look at all this? How in control are you of the light under which you must examine the events of life? Because the answer determines what you'll be able to do...and, more important, who you will be...In the end, it's not about what we do, it's about how we do it and, by extension, who we are."

"Without self-discipline - temperance - we not only risk failing to meet our full potential and jeopardising what we have already achieved, but also ensure a lifetime of regret and shame. With it, we hold the key to greatness."

"Self-control is not a life sentence. It is a way of living."

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