Overcoming Appetites and Passions
In each of our lives, there are powerful restraining forces at work to pull down any new resolution or initiative. Among those forces are appetites and passions.
To overcome the restraining forces of appetites and passions, I resolve to exercise self-discipline and self-denial. Whenever we over-indulge physical appetites and passions, we impair our mental processes and judgments as well as our social relationships. Our bodies are ecosystems, and if our economic or physical side is off-balance, all other systems are affected.
That’s why the habit of sharpening the saw regularly is so basic. The principles of temperance, consistency, and self-discipline become foundational to a person’s whole life. Trust comes from trustworthiness and that comes from competence and character. Intemperance adversely affects our judgment and wisdom.
I realize that some people are intemperate and still show greatness, even genius. But over time, it catches up with them. Many among the “rich and famous” have lost fortunes and faith, success and effectiveness, because of intemperance. Either we control our appetites and passions, or they control us.
Many corporations and cities have aging inventories and infrastructures; likewise, many executives have aging bodies, making it harder to get away with intemperance. With age, the metabolism changes. Maintaining health requires more wisdom. The older we become, the more we are in the crosscurrents between the need for more self-discipline and temperance and the desire to let down and relax and indulge. We feel we’ve paid our dues and are therefore entitled to it. But if we get permissive and indulgent with ourselves – overeating, staying up late, or not exercising – the quality of our personal lives and our professional work will be adversely affected.
If we become slaves to our stomachs, our stomachs soon control our mind and will. Gluttony is a perversion of appetite, and to knowingly take things into the body that are harmful or addicting is foolishness. More people in America die of overeating than of hunger. “I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand,” observed Ben Franklin. When I overeat or overindulge, I lose sensitivity to the needs of others. I become angry with myself, and I tend to take that anger out on others at the earliest provocation.
Many of us succumb to the longing for extra sleep, rest, and leisure. How many times do you set the alarm or your mind to get up early, knowing all of the things you have to do in the morning, anxious to get the day organized right, to have a calm and orderly breakfast, to have an unhurried and peaceful preparation before leaving for work? But when the alarm goes off, your good resolves dissolve. It’s a battle of mind vs. mattress! Often the mattress wins. You find yourself getting up late, then beginning a frantic rush to get dressed, organized, fed and be off. In the rush, you grow impatient and insensitive to others. Nerves get frayed, tempers short – and all because of sleeping in.
A chain of unhappy events and sorry consequences follows not keeping the first resolution of the day to get up at a certain time. That day may begin and end in defeat. The extra sleep is hardly ever worth it. In fact, considering the above, such sleep is terribly tiring and exhausting.
What a difference if you organize and arrange your affairs the night before to get to bed at a reasonable time. I find that the last hour before retiring is the best time to plan and prepare for the next day. Then when the alarm goes off, you get up and prepare properly for the day. Such an early-morning private victory gives you a sense of conquering, overcoming, mastering – and this sense propels you to conquer more public challenges during the day. Success begets success. Starting a day with an early victory over self leads to more victories.