“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”Marcus Aurelius
Buy the car. Get these clothes. Use this hair product. How often does one get bombarded with ads whether online, on the phone, or on TV? The answer is likely more than twice a day if someone is engaging with modern society regularly. Consumption of the latest product, thrill, or trend almost seems like it’s a part of the dominant culture. With this in mind, is any of this endless consumption truly worth it? Is consumer culture just a way to exploit citizens in a society to keep them under control? Is there a better way to live that doesn’t revolve around endless consumption?
Unfortunately for most, endless consumption of the latest consumer product is how they will live out their lives. The reason that consumption is such an addictive drug is because it exploits a chemical in the human body called dopamine. Dopamine helps motivate human beings to go out and find food when they need to eat or helps people get things done with the expectation of a reward. Consumption is normal in the human body. Consumption becomes an addiction when it starts to interfere with a person’s daily activity. If someone simply likes to do something, they will do it from time to time but still have that capability of completing necessary tasks. An addiction will interfere with the completion of any and all tasks to the point where it becomes the priority in the addict’s life.
Today’s culture encourages addiction. There’s always a new study or resource online willing to tell the public that porn consumption is okay. There’s always a new pill to lose weight. A new drink that can make someone feel good for a few seconds until they need the next pill. It just goes from one cigarette to the next. One pill after the other. One more video. Next thing you know, the day is over and it was spent binge watching the latest Netflix exclusive show. No passions were explored. No ideas were made manifest. No task of any value or personal benefit was completed. So what is the answer to combat a life of endless mediocrity while throwing away the most valuable resource someone has in their own time?
The answer to this question is simple to say but difficult to accomplish. In order to live a life that one can be proud of full of joy and tangible accomplishment requires self-discipline. Self discipline, in simple terms, is the ability to resist the temptation of momentary thrill to accomplish something far greater. One would basically need to have the ability to say no to themselves in the short term to accomplish a long term goal. Writing this post, for example, is an act of self-discipline because it requires that instead of paying attention to the gossip of the current news cycle or watching the newest porn video uploaded on Pornhub that I fully devote myself to writing each and every paragraph, look for any grammatical errors, and get a solid point across for this to be a thought provoking, engaging post. Self discipline requires focus on a single task despite how distracting the modern world can be.
Self discipline is not some new age lingo or religion. Self discipline is the most basic requirement to accomplish anything difficult. Self discipline requires the ability to either remove something from your daily habits or add something that will get you closer to accomplishing your goals. Self discipline is one of the key fundamentals of every single religion or philosophy in existence. Every workout program, martial art, or task requires self discipline just to get any better at it. So what does someone need in order to gain self-discipline?
“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?”Epictetus
The first step to utilizing self discipline is to have a goal to accomplish or an ideal to attempt to live up to. If you want something badly enough, you’re going to try and figure out how you can do it once you’ve figured out why you want it. The next thing you’re going to end up doing is just making accomplishing that goal into a priority by creating daily habits that push you closer to said goal or ideal. Nothing worth doing is done in a single day, so habit will be a key ingredient in accomplishing any goal no matter how small. Forming good habits require the self discipline to put aside bad habits. Eventually, you may get exactly what you want when you push yourself to focus on the goal and the tasks required to accomplish it instead of distracting yourself with consuming the latest product.
The great thing about self-discipline even in this empty culture of instant gratification is that ANYONE can gain it. One doesn’t need to be a monk, scientist, or priest to be disciplined. You can simply ask yourself some questions. What does avoiding your goals do for you? How has empty consumerism and addiction ever improved your life in any meaningful way? Once you figure out that it hasn’t, go out there and accomplish your goal. Demand the best for yourself. Don’t settle for mediocrity. There isn’t much room left in this world for yet another empty consumer.