In the 6th chapter of Matthew Kelly’s book Perfectly Yourself, he makes this statement about people in our world today. “Our culture often prescribes instant gratification as a cure for our deep desire for happiness. As a result we often fall into the trap of believing that we would be happy if we could just do what we feel like doing at any given moment. Our insatiable appetite for instant gratification tends to lead us farther and farther away from character, virtue, integrity, wholeness and our authentic self.”
That’s quite a statement. Then he goes on to develop the necessity of self-discipline and following our real passions for life if we truly want to be truly happy.
When we look at the world today, we see people are all over the place. We see many people are addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, work, shopping, smoking, etc. We see peoples who lives are unstructured, with no self discipline, no clear goals in life. If you ask them, “What do you want in life? they will probably answer, “I want to be happy” but they are miserable.
We all need to have self-discipline in every aspect of our lives – the physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, professional, and financial. If we want to retire with a “nest egg,” we have to have self-disciple to put a little money aside every pay day so can retire without financial worries. If we want to have a good marriage or a good relationship, we have to have self-discipline to put some of our wants aside and spend quality time with our love ones.
If we desire good health, we have to take care of our bodies and listen to what our bodies are telling us. We have to have enough self-discipline to eat the right foods, get the proper exercise and have medical professionals monitor our health. Socrates once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” If we don’t take time to stop and listen to what is happening inside us, our emotional life will be all over the place.
If our job is a burden for us, then maybe we have chosen the wrong profession. We have to find work that we have a passion for. If we are just working 40 years or more just to make a paycheck, but we don’t enjoy what we are doing, then it is time to find out what you would “love to do in life” and have the self-disciple to follow our passion even if our paychecks are lower.
If we want to understand our world today, we need to inform ourselves about what is going on around us and our world. If we want to vote intellectually with an understanding of the various issues, then we have to use self-disciple to inform ourselves of the various issues. We need to learn the difference between opinion and facts. Our studying can also help us appreciate God’s creation and the gift of life we have received.
Matthew Kelly states: “Self-control is the ingredient that the products, programs, and experts cannot sell us. Self-control is a gift that we give to ourselves and is the very essence of discipline. We are not born with it; it is acquired. We acquire it by practicing it.”
How do we obtain self-control and self-discipline? Kelly suggests that we try the ancient virtue of fasting. Now he is not talking about a 40 day fast. He is talking about giving up something that you really like to have for something else. If we have a craving for filet mignon, we might substitute chicken. It’s only fuel. If we have a craving for orange juice, we might choose water instead. Our bodies then become of our servant, not our masters.
Kelly concludes this chapter with the words, “Discipline makes us free. It doesn’t stifle us. It liberates us . . . Only to the extent that we are able to wrench ourselves away from the slavery of temper, appetites, and impulses will we be able to love and be loved.” Try it. You’ll like it!