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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 02, 2015

Self-Control: The Ultimate Exercise of Freedom

By Mark Sisson
84 Comments

I’ll admit I’ve come to significantly edit my environment over the years. I work largely from home and have my favorite haunts and destinations as well as a close circle of like-minded family and friends. The nature of my work automatically puts me in touch mostly with those who have similar goals and lifestyles. Even my media is customized (easy to do these days with the way we’re tracked by bots). I never watch television or listen to radio that has commercials. Without thinking too much about it, my environment is for the most part very Primally oriented.

When I’m out and about, however, it can feel a little like culture shock. A few weeks ago I went to a movie and made the mistake (actually accident) of getting there early. I was one of the few without tubs, packages and cups in hand, and I watched as ads for soda and candy flashed again and again. In my boredom, I noticed a curious pattern. Every time there was a shot of cola flowing, everyone with a soda drank. Every time there was an image of a person eating, everyone with food ate. The themes of joy, celebration and indulgence were all the same, and one soda ad actually stated, “Choose happiness.” It’s speculation, of course, but I wonder how many of this people felt emotional affirmation around their “choice” to buy all the junk food they did.

In a culture that worships (and markets to) impulse, self-control has all the appeal of soggy blanket. We see discipline as an imposition and chafe against the curtailment of our will. Cultural messaging and social belonging often hinge on following blind custom or our most unhealthy momentary inclinations. We exercise our autonomy or “choice” through (often market influenced) poor decisions. Freedom is conflated with whim. Any attempt to rein in stupidity is more than just the voice of a killjoy but an act of aggression. We’ve become such a precious, entitled bunch that the mere suggestion we temper our instinctive response feels like an insult. Where does that leave our health? Look around….

If we think thumbing our noses at self-discipline makes us happier in the long-term – OR short-term – we’re wrong. The higher study subjects rated their self-control, the more satisfied they were with their lives. They were even happier when facing temptation. Likewise, other studies show those with strong self-control enjoy happier close relationships as well as more secure attachments within relationships, better school performance, lower rates of addiction, higher self-esteem and healthier emotional responses. But aren’t those with self-control beset with constant struggle against draws of temptation? The research shows those with ample self-control tend to minimize situations that conflict with their goals (a smart tactic that, researchers suggest, helps even the short-term score for happiness).

Nonetheless, we can’t always live in a Primal bubble – my movie theater experience being case in point. In those instances, however, I think we can acknowledge an unhealthy desire/craving/bout of laziness, even respect it within a thoughtful context – as we reflect on its innate purpose within primal history (e.g. sugar used to equal limited availability, nutrient dense fruit for our ancestors). We can understand it within physiological and neurological explanations. And yet we also see it for what it is – an urge that doesn’t serve our interests – and treat it as such.

It’s not about emotionally bludgeoning ourselves for feeling drawn to the dessert cart at a restaurant or appreciating the warm comfort of our beds when it’s time for our morning workouts. It’s about giving all inner “contributors” their due without identifying with the ones we don’t want running the show. Controlling the self (self-control) isn’t ultimately about controlling a singular self in relation to the outside environment but about managing the inner voices that respond to it.

We can achieve this with some proper detachment: recognizing that something “in me” wants that donut rather than “I” want that donut. Instead of ignoring that vexing part of yourself, you can ask what else might take care of it in the moment. Some of us might require more “care” in that regard, and there’s no judgment on that. It’s all useful input – self-knowledge.

Think of a long car ride with young children. (Those of you who’ve had the distinct pleasure probably already know what I’m talking about here….) You pace the drive with their needs in mind – plenty of stops, well-timed meals and snacks, a longer midday break, the promise of pool time at the hotel, etc.. You provide whatever games, conversation, and other activities you can to keep the young ones busy and relatively happy in the meantime. You respect their needs as passengers with certain limitations, shall we say, but you don’t give up the trip, ask them to navigate or let them drive the car.

Likewise, we can attend to our inclinations and perhaps the genuine needs behind them without giving them dominion over our lives and well-being. You’re tired at 3:00 p.m.? Step away from the vending machine and go walk outside for ten minutes in the bright sunlight. If you work from home, take a power nap.

Again, it’s all about learning to identify who we want leading the charge – our thoughts or the bigger awareness of our thoughts. Call it whatever you want, but we all have it. Maturity – and self-control – can be described as the gradual development of a thoughtful, effective filing system for inputs and impulses that organizes itself around healthy priorities. We first have to know that someone/something in us can actually do that filing…. A lot of people never quite get to that point, choosing to (in many areas at least) fly by the next urge that arises, flinging it eventually into a massive pile that never lends order or priority to how they run their days – or lives.

Likewise, self-control isn’t just about what we give up, what we say no to, what we stay away from – in short, what we avoid. Not to be overly simplistic (I’ll admit I usually hate it when people indulge in these word games), but “avoid” breaks down into “a void.” It’s what we say yes to, what fills the space. If we focus our days on what we can’t have, we’re still giving it power over us. We’re still mentally obsessing about the donut even if we never eat it. At any given moment, we can get perspective by asking what we’re psychologically orbiting around.

What’s much easier is focusing on what we want to see happen – what we wish to prioritize. We can either live in response to our environments or live with direction toward our greater visions. I’ve said before, true discipline isn’t about self-restraint but self-possession.

In this way, self-control opens the door to intentional living. Our goals are next to impossible without self-control. The fact is, self-control allows the fruition of our intent by giving it space (that “void”), which would otherwise be subsumed by momentary whim and distraction.

At it’s best, self-control doesn’t revolve around deprivation, denial or chastising but clarity, intention, and attunement. We don’t disown elements of ourselves but get clear about what role we want them to have in our decision-making. We don’t punish ourselves or take pride in how little we can force ourselves to live with. We create an over-arching vision for our lives and make choices that take care of our needs in ways that also serve that plan.

In that regard, self-control is the ultimate exercise of freedom – a freedom that comes from self-determination of one’s life unbound from both cultural norms and lesser impulses. What we call control is, in fact, the alignment and actualizing of our higher will.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Share your thoughts, and have a great end to the week.

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84 Comments on "Self-Control: The Ultimate Exercise of Freedom"

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Erica
2 years 4 months ago
This reminds me of one of my favorite debates we have in my gen psych class. Having an internal vs external locus of control. I learned early on I couldn’t date/be friends with people who had an external locus (everything that ever happened TO them was someone/something elses fault.) My parents raised me that I have the power to do anything I want (if I want it bad enough.) If I’m in a shitty job, my choice. If I’m in a horrible marriage, my choice. If I’m overweight and binge drinking (as I was) my choice. Thankfully I woke up… Read more »
givemeabreak
givemeabreak
2 years 4 months ago
Yeah, except, if it wasn’t for a whole bunch of people – who chose not to be a teacher at a government school or a soldier – having a particular “choice” made for them, then the people who did choose to become those two things wouldn’t necessarily have the same success with them that they do. But go ahead: pat yourself on the back and think that you just made better choices, and that’s why your lifestyle is what it is, but the truth is that without the government forcing people to ignore their choice not to pay taxes, most… Read more »
Groktimus Primal
2 years 4 months ago

It’s very Primal to jump to fill our immediate perceived needs. It’s evolved to be able to suppress that urge knowing the long term results will be more meaningful. The marketing folks definitely know that.

Julie
Julie
2 years 4 months ago

This is a great and timely article. I have had these conversations with people online where basically I’m accused of fat-shaming for suggesting self-control. They don’t realize that the changes they are railing against will bring so much more to their lives. When I exhibit self control in any area of my life, it just gets better.

Susan
Susan
2 years 4 months ago

It’s a delicate situation. I know personally my mother discussing any kind of diet with me is off-limits because of the emotional baggage I have with her, so who knows what kinds of triggers you are hitting when you have these online discussions with others. There’s a lot of societal shame in being fat, and there is no shortage of critics. Just hope that they find what works for them.

Paleo Bon Rurgundy
2 years 4 months ago

All the more reason to allow market place insurance prices that takes into account self controllable health factors, such as diet, exercise, smoking habits, etc. Life insurance does this already. More bad self choices means a higher price, skinnier wallet. The more good self choices, fatter wallet. I could be fat shamed into having a fatter wallet.

Zach
2 years 4 months ago

But then they ding you for high “unhealthy” saturated fat consumption…

His Dudeness
His Dudeness
2 years 4 months ago

Not so sure about that, Zach. Insurance companies are in the business of making money. Unless actuarial statistics show conclusively that eating saturated fat causes more claims to be paid out, there would be no reason to charge people more premium for doing so. For health insurance, at least, the monthly premium is one of the main competitive advantages insurance companies can have over each other. Not charging extra for something not proven to lead to more claims paid is good business.

Julie
Julie
2 years 4 months ago
It’s not even that we were discussing diet. It was a debate in which the OP stated that their ankles were swollen from gaining too much weight during pregnancy. I replied that I had gained too much weight from pregnancy also. That I had let emotional eating get the better of me and I had gained about 25 lbs more than necessary. I stated what the healthy limits are for weight gain recommend by the Institutes of Medicine. That there are serious consequences for gaining too much weight. This was called fat shamiing. I was just stating scientific facts. The… Read more »
Shary
Shary
2 years 4 months ago
True, lack of self-control plays a big role in obesity, but obesity isn’t stupidity. Most fat people probably DO realize they could improve their lives, and some even know where to find help and how to go about it. That they don’t is complicated. There are multiple factors going on that drives obesity. They can include health issues; lack of nutritional knowledge; lack of desire stemming from low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and feelings of unworthiness (for whatever reason); difficult or unhappy lives compounded by too much criticism from all directions; and of course the deeply ingrained feeling that weight loss,… Read more »
Stacie
2 years 4 months ago
You’ve hit the nail on the head. I think Mark’s post is more about people who have found their way, or are at least on their way there. I always hated when people talk about a lack of self control being the driving cause behind weight problems, regardless of whether those people have dealt with weight issues themselves or not. Weight can be so emotional–I know it used to be for me–and telling people that they don’t have “self control” can be so demoralizing, especially to someone who is following conventional wisdom and thinks they are doing everything right! In… Read more »
jez
jez
2 years 4 months ago
Shary standing ovation..excellent response! Should be pinned at the top! I became obese from a greedy/lazy lifestyle combined with an awful weight promoting med (Effexor). I was miserable and the comments/reasons for my difficulty in losing are so beautifully explained in your second paragraph – exactly how I felt. I felt resigned to the fact that I was was incapable of losing weight. I couldn’t imagine a life without my crap food, I lived to eat to feel better. I managed to lose 100lbs and have kept it off for many years with a complete lifestyle change, elimination of problem… Read more »
Julie
Julie
2 years 4 months ago
So Stacie, you’re saying you developed self-control. A muscle that needs exercised like the rest of them. Its not preaching if somebody asks you about it. My family’s children are grossly obese and asked me to help them. Their parents can’t face it so they have to call me every name in the book for proving that their kids can lose weight if given the proper food. So I don’t feel sorry for people’s emotional triggers, especially when they are making their children fat and miserable. To me it’s obliviousness to the point of abuse. That’s why I don’t really… Read more »
Shary
Shary
2 years 4 months ago

Jez, my congratulations to you! Losing 100 pounds and keeping it off is indeed an achievement to be proud of. Your comment will no doubt help others to see that it can be done.

Angel
Angel
2 years 4 months ago

Julie, it is painful to cut off contact with family who’s values are radically different from your own AND who relentlessly criticize you for it, but that separation is also, unfortunately, sometimes necessary. My decision to cut off contact with my family (not for diet/lifestyle reasons) was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, and also one of the healthiest.

ender
ender
2 years 4 months ago

such a sensible respons shary 🙂

Pam
Pam
2 years 4 months ago

Stellar!! I think I will re-read this one.

Cicely
Cicely
2 years 4 months ago

+1

jake
jake
2 years 4 months ago

very eloquent and well written. i’m not 100% sure self-control actually exists but a beautifully written piece nonetheless.

John
John
2 years 4 months ago

I wasn’t going to reply to this comment, but I couldn’t help myself!

John
John
2 years 4 months ago

You buried the lead: What was the movie?

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
2 years 4 months ago

Does it matter?

Colleen
Colleen
2 years 4 months ago

I wanted to know too!

Stacie
2 years 4 months ago

I also found myself wondering what kind of movies Mark goes to….

Kelda
2 years 4 months ago

I’d like to know as well!

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 4 months ago

I’m guessing he went to see “1,000,000 Years BC” with Racquel Welch.
A classic if there ever was one. Her diving into a creek and coming up with a fish in her mouth was awesome…

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
2 years 4 months ago

This is why I have ad blockers and pop-up killers installed on my computer, and why my own blog (when I had it) was a strict NO AD zone, in spite of some pretty big money being waved at me. I like to think I’m marketing-proof, and wanted my readers to learn to become so.

Susan
Susan
2 years 4 months ago
This was the hardest part for me to break. I used to go to the movies every single week until I realized that I wasn’t going for the thrilling Hollywood blockbuster or people of various ages ruining my $12 experience with cellphones and rude behavior, but for the nachos. I didn’t even know I was doing it until the day they didn’t have nachos available and I was like, “Huh?” I didn’t know what to do. I can’t enjoy the movie without my starch and sugar! Now I go less frequently and maybe once every other month I’ll “treat” myself… Read more »
2Rae
2Rae
2 years 4 months ago
I just had a conversation about this with my 12 year old. He’s wishing he had a phone, well, apparently he is “the only kid in the whole universe” (you parents know what I’m talking about) that does NOT have a phone. I told him that I wanted him to have one but his actions show he is not yet responsible to get one. What followed was a conversation about what responsible people do, why they do what they do in a responsible manner, what they do to motivate themselves. He wants to use a “goal” of getting a phone,… Read more »
Brian
Brian
2 years 4 months ago

About doughnuts. I once heard a comedian joke about how you wouldn’t bring in a bottle of booze when a lot of your co-workers are alcoholics so why bring in food (carbs & sugar) when they can’t resist. It got me thinking.

Chris
Chris
2 years 4 months ago

In my past experience at the office-most people won’t even show up to a meeting or gathering if there isn’t’ sufficient swag and swill.

Catharine Slover
2 years 4 months ago

I’m just waiting for junk food to be banned in common areas of the workplace. I bet it’s coming and will be welcomed just like the smoke free environment was.

Shary
Shary
2 years 4 months ago
Another point of view regarding the phone… IMO, in this day and age, all kids should have a cell phone if they’re old enough to be out on their own without constant supervision, both for convenience and in case of an emergency. That doesn’t mean it has to be a smart phone. You might consider giving your son an older-technology phone to be used solely for the purpose of making and receiving calls. New and used “dumb” phones (or burner phones) are readily available on Amazon, Ebay, etc., usually under $25. Demonstration of greater personal responsibility could eventually lead to… Read more »
2Rae
2Rae
2 years 4 months ago

I agree Shary, “stupid phones” are better for kids than the “smart” however, he doesn’t share my opinion. I know, a surprise to all people with kids.

He’s not left alone much so really doesn’t need a phone. If we leave him home for a few minutes there is the land line. He’s in a bit of hot water presently due to normal kid behavior that proves that he is NO WHERE near getting a phone. No big rush, he’s a kid and will survive without a phone somehow, no matter what he tells you.

Virginia
Virginia
2 years 4 months ago
Great article. My husband loves going to movies and I used to automatically get a diet soda and candy (and steal some of his popcorn). Wouldn’t matter if we’d just been out to dinner, it was just “what you do” at the movies. Enter my primal/paleo transition over the last few years. I have to admit that I get a real bump in confidence as I sit in the theater now, without any snacks. I try to focus on it and remember how great I feel when I exercise my self-control. There are still occasions when I do indulge, but… Read more »
Brian
Brian
2 years 4 months ago

My parents and my siblings come from Britain and think that it is “weird” that Americans cannot watch a movie without popcorn,candy,soda or lately pizza,coffee,burgers,fries.

How it relates to this articles is that they are not really denying themselves or practising great self-control they simply do not want them even if there is a great smell (cinnabun uses this).

Paleo Bon Rurgundy
2 years 4 months ago

One reason I love Asian/eastern culture are their snack alternatives. Fried chicken feet instead of popcorn? Yes. Squid flavored “chips”, sign me up.

Jax
Jax
2 years 4 months ago
This was a tough column for me to read. People can be so cruel to overweight folks, which usually comes with some nasty comments surrounding willpower and self control. Mark frames the post from positivity but that 16-year-old self is still hearing the cruel chants from the “cool” kids who didn’t have the weight problem. Even though I ate the EXACT same diet as my family, I was always the one with the weight problem. I didn’t realize until I found the primal way of eating that I could be thin (which my family still berates me for because they… Read more »
SB
2 years 4 months ago
I think re-framing those “trigger words” in our minds is helpful. As a Christian, there is a similar concept in that we are free *from* legalism and bad actions and free *to* do what God commands us to do – which ultimately is better for us. It is hard to get away from the negative connotations of certain words, but again, there is value in separating the desire and action from our inner being. We “have” urges, and if we have something, we can keep it or get rid of it. It is not an inherent part of us.
Beth
Beth
2 years 4 months ago

My junior high self hears ya.
Healing your emotions takes awhile too.
You’re worth what YOU think of yourself, not what other people tell you about yourself. Sure, their affirmation is nice, but at the end of the day, they don’t have to be you. YOU have that distinct pleasure.

Martha
Martha
2 years 4 months ago
I’m so glad you wrote this post. I am *still* haunted by an article I read in the New York Times about the impossibility of maintaining meaningful weight loss. (I’m doing it, anyway.) The author interviewed a number of people from the National Weight Loss Registry — people who HAD successfully maintained significant weight loss — and she managed to make them sound as if they had sacrificed all pleasure and spontaneity in their lives to hours of grueling exercise and micromanaged diets. I look at my long walks, dance sessions, and gorgeous meals and think, what is the matter… Read more »
KariVery
KariVery
2 years 4 months ago

+1! I (smugly, but to myself, of course) think I get a lot more fun and pleasure out of life than my sugar/junk food-face-stuffing, inside-exercising cohorts for sure!

jez
jez
2 years 4 months ago

I’m like you Martha, those comments of 95% or whatever it is of regaining weight loss is depressing but I’ve managed to do it. I do exercise at least hour per day as often as I can but I don’t eat breakfast or count calories as the people on the NWLR do. I am mainly and omnivore with some full fat dairy but I have to stay LC due to my blood sugar and I have completely eliminated sugar/starch etc. I don’t feel deprived in any way.

Judy
Judy
2 years 4 months ago
Great article…I have had these feelings of….it is like looking in from the outside when everyone else is enjoying their choice of food while I am not particularly hungry or it is not the kind of food I eat so I abstain. Though I am aware, I try not to notice these things as I don’t want to come across as judgemental which has never been an intention of mine. I am so grateful that my path has lead me here. That being said everyone has their own path to follow and the best we can hope for is that… Read more »
wildduck
wildduck
2 years 4 months ago

Very helpful and nicely timed right before Easter. Always a been a triggering day for me.

wildduck
wildduck
2 years 4 months ago

Very helpful and nicely timed right before Easter. Always been a triggering day for me.

Rémy
Rémy
2 years 4 months ago

Wise words! This really synthesises a lot of Western / buddhist psychology: we only have self-control when we know our limits, and when we act with intention.

Granny Gibson
Granny Gibson
2 years 4 months ago

Great topic! Much “food for thought”, everyone. 🙂

JIMinSealBeach
JIMinSealBeach
2 years 4 months ago

“true discipline isn’t about self-restraint but self-possession.”

I’m going to owe you royalties for how often I use this quote. Great article. thanks.

Kim
Kim
2 years 4 months ago
Part of buying food at a movie theater is habit, going to the theater is the trigger for wanting the food. After college, when I could afford to buy movie theater food, I realized I didn’t want to start that habit. That was over 20 years ago. I’ve never purchased movie food for my kids either because as any parent knows, once you do something once, they’ll bug you about it incessantly in the future. I’ve never bought food/candy from a grocery checkout for that same reason. I’m not a food nazi with my kids, but I try to teach… Read more »
Doug Brunelle
Doug Brunelle
2 years 4 months ago

Ah yes, that trigger. When you walk into the theater lobby, you get hit with that butter/popcorn aroma that goes straight to the lizard part of your brain and turns the best of us into popcorn-crazed, butter-seeking zombies. And it’s not even real butter! I don’t know what chemicals they put in that golden liquid stuff, but it is like crack cocaine. It should be a controlled substance under the ATF. And, of course, the popcorn bucket also needs to be showered with about 1/4 cup of salt! 🙂

Larry
2 years 4 months ago
Could not agree more with this article about many aspects of life. BUT with food I feel eating Primaly is kind of the ultimate in not needing any control. At least this has been my experience after, coming up on two years now. BEFORE needed control every day. I was so dang hungry ALL THE TIME on the SAD diet it took all my effort to stop at say 3,800 calories a day instead of 4,000. I could always eat more. AFTER (and this is very important) a transition period, I don’t need any control on this at all. I… Read more »
caroline
caroline
2 years 4 months ago

I feel exactly the same, Larry!

Grace
2 years 4 months ago

Mark, I agree with you 100%! Especially what you said about the distinction between self-restraint and self-possession. That’s a great way to put it.

I wrote a very similar blog post a few months ago about commitment and how it’s often misunderstood as being stifling: http://gracefullyprimal.com/is-your-freedom-holding-you-back/. As you say, it’s not about restriction at all! It’s just about tuning into your true intention and pointing yourself in the right direction. Thank you for sharing.

Danae Moser (@danaelmoser)
2 years 4 months ago
I think that going primal was a lot of self control initially, but as you continue to adapt to the change it is no longer about self-control, and more about just living normally. I recently read a book for a business class called “Switch” by the Heath Brothers and they were able to identify that in each person there is a Rider (logical) and an elephant (emotional) and they were able to explain why people have a hard time with self control and self restraint in many areas of their lives including with diets or with eliminating things from their… Read more »
Marge
Marge
2 years 4 months ago
Danae, I like the Rider and Elephant metaphor! I have a big elephant, and am occasionally an unattentive rider. That seems to sum it up well. I have occasionally fallen right off the wagon, and let it run me over. But when I do this, I make sure to pay close attention to the experience, and get my fill of it for a while. And I don’t ever want to have an ABSOLUTE rule that I cannot indulge my sweet tooth ever again even for an instant! I practice self control most of the time, but I do love to… Read more »
Jack Lea Mason
Jack Lea Mason
2 years 4 months ago
Great post! I see the mindful use of self control as resisting the spiritual poverty of mass consumerism. In the movies there is little that qualifies as food yet people go to gobble it up. Does anybody ever ask what that thick yellow grease that is ladled onto popcorn is made of? It’s not only the food but the trash. Every overpriced indulgence has plastic and cardboard packaging strewn about as if the whole place is a trash can with a sticky floor. And lately it seems that moviegoers compete to see how they can out-rude each other. In my… Read more »
John
John
2 years 4 months ago

There’s a spiritual quality to this post, Mark. True freedom is the ability to be able to ignore base impulses in search of a higher purpose or cause. It was very interesting to read this from my own Catholic perspective.

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 4 months ago

And the opposite spectrum of that would be that true slavery is: going with all of your base impulses. Many folks that think they are free are truly are really just slaves…anyway, great point John.

Alexander
Alexander
2 years 4 months ago
This article through a Catholic lens is precisely how I viewed it as well. This summary was very well written. We are all slaves to something, but it is in choosing our slavery rather than being subject to our impulses that we find the greatest freedom. Choosing to deny ourselves may seem like a detriment, but its effects have the ability to work great good in our own lives and those around us. We are all slaves to food to some greater or lesser extent. We need it to survive; however, in turning our will toward the choice of how… Read more »
Merky
Merky
2 years 4 months ago

Hmmmmm wishing I would have read this before lunch… :/

John Caton
2 years 4 months ago

Yes, me too.

Lisa Wolfe
2 years 4 months ago
This article aligns very nicely with my approach as a psychotherapist. I practice something called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which is all about developing willingness to experience discomfort in service of living a valued life. Our instincts tell us to reflexively move away from any discomfort, so the coping strategies we develop that become habits tend to involve experiential avoidance. The problem is that, unless there is a genuine threat we are protecting ourselves from, this tends to backfire on us. The work, then, involves building greater self-awareness so as to be able to make conscious choices to transcend… Read more »
Chris
Chris
2 years 4 months ago
I watch people live the trance everyday. Just like denial, they have to be aware they’re being manipulated first… I was having a conversation with a lady in line about how food can affect mood and energy levels and the cashier remarked,” Food can have an effect on the way I feel?”. Overlay that lack of awareness on top of all the external input in our everyday lives that steadily grooms us to look outside ourselves for completeness and guidance, and you have to question whether any thought and desire is valid. I constantly have to ask myself, “What’s driving… Read more »
Sian
Sian
2 years 4 months ago
Overall I think this is an excellent article, which makes some excellent points however I think one point was amiss and not up to Mark’s normal high standards of unbiased scientific analysis. The statement “other studies show those with strong self-control enjoy happier close relationships as well as more secure attachments within relationships, better school performance, lower rates of addiction, higher self-esteem and healthier emotional responses.”, whilst not actually stating causality implies it. This is I suspect only a correlation not causation. For example, someone who grows up with a neglectful alcoholic parent would have difficulty with relationships particularly secure… Read more »
HB
HB
2 years 4 months ago

It’s not a given that a difficult childhood means a person cannot have self-control. While what you say may be a common situation, it’s by no means inevitable. I grew up in a horrible household, but have learned a lot over the years. It’s possible for all people to learn and develop self-control. If we could not learn and develop there would be no point Mark writing about it.

Beautiful prose, Mark, love it.

Sian
Sian
2 years 4 months ago
I agree, I was in no way suggesting it was inevitable just that Mark was using the study in a bias way to support his argument, which isn’t usually his style and why I respect what he has to say so much. I was simply giving an example that made my point that the study was most likely correlation not causation. There are probably a 100 other ways in which a person’s circumstances could undermine their self control and their self esteem, secure attachment, relationships etc simultaneously. I was also making the point that developing self control does not improve… Read more »
HB
HB
2 years 4 months ago

I’m sorry that you have had a rough life Sian. I’m not a psychologist, so couldn’t speak to a comprehensive knowledge of the science. I know I’ve developed more self-control as I’ve dealt with issues from my childhood. And with it, better relationships etc.

Sian
Sian
2 years 4 months ago
HB, I’m still here and still learning which is always a good thing. You stated that you worked on the underlying issues and as a result developed self control AND better relationships etc. Which is in my experince the way it always happens, regardless of the underlying cause that undermines self esteeme, confidence, self control, secure attachments etc. You didn’t work on the self control and as a result develop better relationships/resolve your past issues etc. Which is exactly the point I was making, the relationship between these things is correlation not causation as was implied in the article. My… Read more »
Catania
2 years 4 months ago

I love this post. Recently, with shifting to a primal lifestyle among other things, the thought that comes to my mind is that we people are agents to act rather than to be acted upon.

Self-mastery IS ultimate freedom – freedom FROM addiction, advertisers, etc. It isn’t an easy quest, but it is so valuable!

mattoomba
mattoomba
2 years 4 months ago

Sci-Fi author, Frank Herbert, had an excellent quote that sums up the freedom found in self-control: “Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.”

HB
HB
2 years 4 months ago

+1

ShaSha
ShaSha
2 years 4 months ago

+ 1

Evan Brand
2 years 4 months ago

Amen. The movie theater is a weird place for me anymore.. it’s like I’m watching aliens exist in a different dimension of reality separate from ours. It’s not to say that I’m better, but it’s an undeniable feeling.

Hope to get you back on the podcast soon to talk more about looking at society in this way.. it’s something that everyone has on their mind and no one talks about.

Chel
Chel
2 years 4 months ago

Self-control can be trained, just like a muscle. Check out the self-regulation literature (Muraven & Baumeister, 2000). It’s a limited resource that takes time to develop. You overuse it, and the resource depletes. The more healthy habits you make, the more automatic the process becomes, and the less self-control you have to exert. Healthy habits then become like self-control muscle memory!

Marge
Marge
2 years 4 months ago
I have been following a primal lifestyle – and diet – for close to a year now. But, after many years of eating, well, EVERYTHING, I still have clear memories of the great pleasures of eating the giant gourmet doughnuts sold at Mrs. Murphy’s (Southwick, MA), or ice cream at The Scoop (Granville, MA), the incredible pleasure of an Edie’s strawberry fruit bar, a Ritter’s chocolate bar studded with whole hazelnuts, a cinnamon & walnut coffee cake, etc., etc. Maybe just possibly there is more to this than a physical craving for sugar??? In short, I don’t buy it that… Read more »
Time Traveler
Time Traveler
2 years 4 months ago

I am not a Borg and I will not be assimilated, no mater how tempting the food commercial is. And if someone thinks that I am like a Salmon who swims against the stream, so bit it.

Time Traveler
Time Traveler
2 years 4 months ago

so be it not bit it

Clay
Clay
2 years 4 months ago
Growing up I was the party pooper. I had a vision, a credo that I lived by. I was disciplined and focused. I thought my life was fun and full of joy and satisfaction. However, other people would often ask “what I did for fun”. I didn’t really have an answer for that because I never really classified things as fun or not fun. I was concerned about following my passions and achieving goals – which I found supremely satisfying – which is the next step beyond fun, Fun is transient in nature. A roller coaster is “fun” but not… Read more »
Catharine Slover
2 years 4 months ago

Well written and well thought out article as usual. My favorite part:
“In this way, self-control opens the door to intentional living. Our goals are next to impossible without self-control. The fact is, self-control allows the fruition of our intent by giving it space (that “void”), which would otherwise be subsumed by momentary whim and distraction.”
A lot of people have the wrong idea about what freedom is. And it is kind of a paradox, when you look at it that way…

ender
ender
2 years 4 months ago

thank you mark, i needed to read this, think i’ll read it a couple of times more to let it really sink in.

Darya
2 years 4 months ago

Mark, I think this is my favorite post you’ve ever written. I am always telling people not to rely on willpower, but this reframe of it as self-actualization is spot on. Bravo.

Jenna Felicity
2 years 4 months ago

+1
Absolutely agree

Adam Thomas
2 years 3 months ago

I really enjoyed this. I have stumbled on this lately, the thought that self control is freedom, the freedom to focus on what you want, when you want, and how you want it. Knowing whats important and having the self control to go after it.

The hard part is building it 🙂

Thanks for the article.

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