Are you truly free?
This question may have an odd ring to it to those of us living in any first-world country. But it’s one we need to ask ourselves, and ask ourselves often. Are you truly free? Am I truly free? Before you answer, let me share a story with you.
I was driving my son to school this morning and had a bag of gummy bears sitting on the center console. They were gone by the time we got to school. But don’t worry. I shared the gummies with my son. I mean, it makes it better that I’m eating gummy bears for breakfast if I share them, right?
Mastery of self and happiness are intimately connected.
I knew I was going to be feeling pretty guilty about that for a while. I knew it wasn’t a wise decision. I knew that not only was I not the-best-version-of-myself in that moment, but I was also not encouraging my son to become a better-version-of-himself. But I ate those gummy bears anyway.
Am I truly free? Apparently not. At least not from gummy bears.
Here’s the reality. We all have appetites and impulses. The question isn’t whether or not you have them; the question is whether or not you can control how you respond to those appetites and impulses.
This is important because your level of discipline and self-control significantly affects the level of happiness you will experience in this life. Mastery of self and happiness are intimately connected.
But how do we gain the discipline and self-control needed to be truly happy in this life? How do we gain that self-mastery that enables us to say no to the things that keep us from becoming better-versions-of-ourselves so that we can give a greater yes to the things that help us become better-versions-of-ourselves.
Achieving self-mastery is a process that takes focused attention and effort, but there is one quick way to foster self-control that will affect all areas of your life in a powerful and positive way.
It’s called FASTING.
Fasting is one of the great practices that has been fostered in many spiritual traditions for thousands of years, and you can use it today to take control of your appetites and impulses for good.
You can fast from anything that causes you to become a slave of your temper, appetites, or impulses.
I’m not suggesting a complete bread-and-water fast or anything like that. I’m not even talking about something like intermittent fasting—now all the rage in health circles. What I am advocating is denying yourself in small ways so that you can regain the self-mastery that makes you free and helps you take control once more of your temperament, appetites, and impulses.
Fasting doesn’t have to involve food. You can fast from shopping. You can fast from criticizing yourself and others. You can fast from complaining. You can fast from procrastination. You can fast from anything that causes you to become a slave of your temper, appetites, or impulses.
I have developed my own little three-step process to become master of my temper, appetites, and impulses. Here’s an example of how I use it, so you can see how to apply it to your own life.
Step 1: Identify Your Opportunity for Fasting
I love books. I’m a nerd. I can’t help myself. Amazon is a huge source of temptation for me. Throw a little stress into my life, sit me down in front of a computer, give me access to Amazon Prime, and watch the book orders pile up. No big deal here, right? I mean, aren’t we supposed to read in order to learn new things and improve ourselves? Sure. But I shouldn’t do anything out of impulse, not to mention something that creates stress on my marriage because of unnecessary book buying.
This is definitely an area where I could use a little fasting to help me gain control.
Step 2: Create a Moment Between Event and Response
Amazon wish lists are a powerful weapon for me in this battle. Whenever I feel compelled against my better judgment to make a book purchase, I’ll just toss the book onto one of my many wish lists. This creates a moment between event and response—I have this urge to splurge on a book, but instead of impulsively clicking the “buy now” button, I can throw it on a wish list.
In the past, I may have seen it and bought it. But now I’ve created the space to ask myself, Do I really need this? I know I don’t, and that moment of awareness and reflection makes that abundantly clear.
This freedom will enable you to give a greater yes to the things that matter most—the things that truly help you become a
Step 3: Re-evaluate
Typically the book will sit for a month or two. After a good deal of time has passed that initial desire for the book fades and I am able to more objectively evaluate my reasons for wanting the book to begin with. Usually I can’t even remember why wanted to buy it.
DELETE. It’s gone from the wish list and out of my life. It is so liberating that I can feel it physically.
It is these small, simple, unseen acts that remind the body that it is your servant and not your master. Don’t do these things to be mean to yourself or to punish yourself. Do them because you want to be free. You want to have control over yourself. This freedom will enable you to give a greater yes to the things that matter most—the things that truly help you become a better-version-of-yourself and lead to lasting happiness.