I recently read a book titled Discipline Is Destiny by Ryan Holiday. I bought it because it was on the New York Times bestseller list and, as I make my way through the fourth quarter of life, I found its title intriguing.
Holiday observes that modern people are terribly unhappy and the reason is we mistake liberty for license. True freedom is found in the opportunity to demonstrate self-control. Otherwise, we find ourselves adrift, vulnerable, and with a great deal of disorder in our lives. I am not sure people realize how we are responsible for ourselves.
The ancient philosophers had many words for what amounts to a timeless law of the universe: we must keep ourselves under control or we risk ruin. We must master ourselves unless we would prefer to be mastered by someone or something else.
Self-control is not deprivation but is command of oneself physically, mentally, and spiritually. It is demanding the best of oneself even when no one is looking. Holiday says it takes courage to live this way, not just because it’s difficult, but because it sets you apart. To lack self-control puts you in danger, because it colors who and what you are as a person.
Dwight Eisenhower’s mother drilled in his heart the words of King Solomon in Proverbs 32:16, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” She sought to teach him that great leaders are those who have themselves under control. Holiday says, “And so it goes that Eisenhower quite literally conquered the world (In World War II) by conquering himself first.”
I think there are times when we envy those who seem to get away with more and hold themselves to lower standards. You may see this in the life of the rock star or the famous. Life for them seems evasive and more fun. No, it is an illusion. You will always find that no one has a harder time than the lazy and no one experiences more pain than the gluttonous. Talent without self-control is a path that leads to ruin. Failing to realize your full potential in one sense is a waste of life.
Holiday contends the most difficult area of life to control is the body. The challenge is to master the desires of the body and bring it to its full potential. But also, as we age we must do everything we can to arrest its decline.
What are you willing to put up with?
What can you do without?
What will you put yourself through?
What can you produce with it?
Will you be able to conquer your body before it conquers you?