Are You In Control of Your Life?

Well, you should be!!

Heart to heart

I am pretty psyched because today’s post is yet another post that was not pre-planned. It just kinda happened. So today I had the chance to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with someone. As the conversation flowed we eventually got to a point in the conversation where we began to discuss the idea of self-control. The conversation went a little something like this ( I paraphrase and add a little spice to it):

“You know we are the most educated lot of people in human history. But we still have such little self-control and self-discipline. People know how to classify themselves as emotional eaters, passive-aggressives, ADD/ HD but very few people actually know how to and actually live a life of self-control.”

There are some areas that we, after the struggles our forefathers have gone through so that we can have the levels of education and opportunity we have now, should have completely mastered. There are certain areas where we should have full control and in fact a lot of the time we know we should have self-control in these areas. But we don’t. Some of these important areas are:

1) What We Eat

2) What We Put into Our Bodies (Substance Abuse)

3) Sex and Our Sexuality

4) Our Emotions

Couple kissing

5) Relationships

6) Money

As this is a distinction that I came to today, forgive me if I meander and digress a lot as I feel I have a lot to say. Feel free to just scroll through the headlines and read the headline areas that matter most to you as I try to breakdown my ideas in each of these areas.

What we Eat

I have already discussed how I think that we as a society really messed up in making eating a recreation activity first and a nutritional activity second. My personal belief is that a shift in attitude to where eating becomes a nutritional activity first and foremost and ‘food as entertainment’ is only a by thought is one of the best ways to get rid of all the food related problems we suffer as a society.

However, we all know that that is a little too out of reach for a lot of us- myself included at present, though I will change that in future. Therefore let’s discuss where we are now in terms of eating and health and nutrition.

Every African Woman is On a Diet and Every Man is Competing for the Pot-Belly of the Year Award

The way things work back in Africa and here in the diaspora is a little something like this.

Women: I need to lose weight. I have just five kilograms (seriously? just five, woman, be serious, just five?) I need to lose. You know what it is. It was my birthday last week and I ate a little too much cake that’s all (How many birthdays have you attended in the last couple of weeks?) and on and on and on

The female way of doing it tends to be:

First: Create excuses as to why they are the way they are

Second: Try to delude themselves into thinking it’s not that bad and

Third: Postponing doing something about it by pretending to have brainstorming sessions.

Some ladies actually go the extra mile and do something like getting a detox kit or joining the gym but usually quit as soon as they get to a weight they are comfortable with only to rinse and repeat.

Gym membership

 

Men: I love to eat. I don’t want a six-pack unless it’s a six pack of the coldest brew. Me I love my belly-so-big-that-it-gives-me-dicky-do-disease-where-my-belly-sticks

-out-more-than-my-d***y-do and I am sticking to it.

Men, it’s pretty bad. There are some men who are quite dedicated to health and fitness and vitality (as there are women) but when a man does not care, he simply does not care.

So What Does All this Have to Do With Self-Control?

I think at the core of this mess, a lot of us want the result. We may not all want to look like Shemar Moore and Halle Berry (well maybe we do) but all of us want to wake up feeling healthy and vibrant and not suffering from minor ailment after minor ailment.

I think there is no doubt that we all want the results of great bodies, health and vitality but none of us seem to want to do the work. Instead we will create all sorts of stories, fables, riddles, mythologies and odd facts that justify us staying where we are.

The Pastor G Story and Other Excuses

I have shared this story before, but I think it’s so quirky and special that it’s worth sharing again. Pastor G’s philosophy to health and nutrition went a little something like this:

Didn’t God make me? Didn’t God make everything? Well doesn’t that mean that I can eat anything?

Other ways that people justify stuffing their faces and not taking care of their bodies:

Junk food

1) X food just tastes too good, I just can’t leave it – Can’t leave it or won’t leave it?. Especially if you are not struggling financially, do you want to tell me that you cannot find some way of satisfying your taste buds? You can try healthy or vegan or vegeterian cooking classes. You can go and speak to nutritionists about alternatives to the foods you currently enjoy. You can try new recipes with new ingredients you have never tried before.You can even go to foreign restaurants to sample exotic cuisine among a host of other options.

2) Exercise sucks! It is painful and it’s boring – Really? You cannot find a way to move your body that you enjoy and can do long term. You can try running, pillow fighting (this should become a sport), wrestling, boxing, kayaking, hiking and walks, weight training, dodge ball, dancing, trampolining, gymnastics, martial arts, theatre or you can hire a personal trainer who can help you sample various ways to move your body. The ways to move your body on a regular basis exist. If all else fails, get up, shut the fridge and just walk somewhere.

3) I am an Emotional eater: I don’t even know if a lot of men will know what this is. As a result of watching a lot of Oprah, I have a pretty good base level understanding of what this is. Bottom line: We are ALL emotional eaters. All of us eat to fulfill an emotional need or as a result of a particular emotional urge.

Junk food: Ice cream

Emotional eaters are usually distinguished as people who eat in order to mask pain of some sort.Well that’s surprisingly common to. I don’t think I need to tell you, that a tub of ice cream after your relationship ends will not mend your heart as much as it will clog it. Find alternative ways of filling that hole: If you are a woman of faith, put the cookie down and look skyward for some intervention.

If it’s pain as a result of someone who hurt you, study how people have forgiven people and moved on from the wrongs of the past.

An Important Digression

You must listen to this podcast on how the Apartheid freedom fighters forgave the Boers and the Brits who victimized them. Powerful episode of a great show:

All in the Mind episode:The Psychological Power of Forgiveness in South Africa) .

Based on the book below which I have never read. If you have read the book and have some thoughts on it, contact me

 
icon for podpress  All in the Mind - the Psychological Power of Forgiveness [30:07m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Digression Over

I know I am telling you nothing new. Food will not fill a hole. It may stuff it or even clog it up, but the wound will still be there. There are far too many tools that can help you master your psychology in this day and age, use them. I know it’s not easy, but is eating yourself into early death a better alternative?

What We Put In Our Bodies (Substance Abuse)

I love to put forward challenges to myself and others that force us to lift our standards and think about how high is high. A few months after I became a teetotaler, the temptation to go back to drinking started to come back strong. I realized that to a large extent I was a pretty empty vessel without the alcohol. After all:

a) Most of my happy moments throughout the year 2006, if not all, involved alcohol in some way shape or form.

b) Almost all of my recreational time was spent drinking.

c) Almost all of my social interactions were over alcohol or involved alcohol in some shape or form.

I know for a lot of you, especially in the diaspora this is the case. So I wanted to go back because I had no excitement or nothing much happening if the drinks weren’t flowing. It is then that I created a standard for myself that pretty much stops me from going back:

Alcohol

If I am not man enough or strong enough or clever enough to be able to create the same emotional experiences alcohol gave me without having a drink, then I really don’t deserve to drink. Once I can live the same type of vibrant, exciting life that I lived in my drinking days without depending on a substance, then I deserve to drink.”

A declaration such as the one above is definitely a declaration of self control. You are declaring that YOU are in control of your emotions and how you feel. When you get “stressed out”, you are saying to yourself, ” I am willing and able to take on the challenge of solving the problem on my own rather than paying $250 a weekend to run away from the problem.”

The main tip I would give anyone, especially if you are new is don’t drink when you are stressed. You are a child of Africa:It is sad, but true that before the day you die, you will experience A LOT of stress. Learn how to deal with your stress in a constructive way that will move you forward rather than alcohol.I have seen way too many people, depressed, walking-dead or deported because of the poisonous brew.

Sex and Our Sexuality

This one is for the gentlemen in da house. Here we need to step up QUICK. I am not talking about sex education, in the way that we currently understand it. I am not talking about knowing what the vas deferens or the birth canal are, far from it.

I am actually talking about learning how to and teaching each other and our younger Africans how to take control of your sex drive. It saddens me how whenever there is some tragedy somewhere in the world, rape always occurs as a consequence. It’s sad that even when a man has nothing to lose, he will disgrace himself by violating a woman.

Why haven’t we began a dialogue about just how we can fully control our sex drives even when we are stressed or downtrodden or beaten down. Why haven’t we began to discuss something that is so key to maintaining the dignity of the male and the female in this day and age and forever more.

Sexual couple

Let’s look at the more humorous side of this equation: How many women would you have slept with, dear sir, if you had control of your sex drive? How many times would you have saved yourself from leaving the club with the offspring of a rhinoceros and a warthog (and that’s just the personality). How many hours would you have dedicated to worthwhile pursuits, academia, sciences, mental stimulation, if you were free from having to scheme and think about how to pick up that girl who you really don’t like but still wanna shag?

It’s odd how something so quintessential and key to the human experience as sex has gotten reduced to a simple ABC (Abstinence, Be Faithful and Use a Condom) without the far more crucial discussion of how to make ABC happen. How does a man stay faithful? What skills does he need to abstain from sex? What are the pitfalls to avoid?

Seeing as almost no man I know will ever be willing to actually experiment to figure out how this stuff works ( btw if you have or know someone who has, please share, I will gladly distribute the information) I have decided that that is one of the areas I want to experiment in.

How does one take full control of their sex drive? What skills do you need? What pitfalls should you avoid? What role will sex play in your life if you are not guided by the hundreds of erections and sexually stimulating images we are typically exposed to a day?

Remember how I spoke about it being hard to focus on what matters, how hard will this experiment be. And how much more will it be worth it, when it actually works.

Our Emotions

Gray emotions

I have alluded to how important it is for us to really take control of this area already. However, I definitely think it is worth going deeper on.

As a society, in my humble opinion we are a society of backward rationalizers (trust me, I cannot say that in one mouthful). What this means is, we will make almost all of our decisions on an emotional bent and then create logical reasons, justifications, as to why we did it ( the marketers in the house know what I’m saying).

This is true for when we overeat a, it’s true when we drink and it’s true for a whole host of destructive behaviors.

The Way I Lost My Virginity

Classic example of this, is the way that I lost my virginity ( I am going to go back and reclaim it, why lie) . Now the girl who I slept with, slept with me for basically three reasons:

1) She was a nymphomaniac ( I was one of many at the time)

2) She was trying to make her boyfriend jealous so he would come back to her ( He did).

3) She was stressed at ‘ the anguish’ of what she was going through with her boyfriend.

Now, the first two, I don’t mind, but I must say the third reason I do mind. I don’t tend to get angered by anything, but nothing angers me like people who feel entitled to lashing out at the world because they are going through some problem.

Now, I must admit that at the time I lost my virginity I really did not care about her or her emotional mess and so didn’t care enough to even understand why she slept with me. It’s actually many months later as I was thinking back to what we did that I began to think:

Condoms and sex

She was always quick to tell me how she was stressed and how this was bothering her and how that was. She was also quite quick to use these as justifications to do all sorts of destructive things.

Now, for those who may be wondering, I don’t hate the girl. She is actually quite a sweet girl and I adore her…………

BUT how many people do you know who are like that? Who use any problem they have as justification to do all sorts of things? This is especially true for the women. Once the MASC has been reconvened, men of the world beware, the women will suck you dry and dump you in a dry heap faster than you can count two quarters to the fifty cent.

I Told You I Would Digress, Back to the Matter at Hand

When you have an emotional problem, you feel sad, depressed, lonely, sad, bitter or solve what is at the root of it. It may sound like elementary logic but sadly elementary logic isn’t always available or applied. Solve what is at the root of any of your emotional problems. Nine times out of ten, you have played a role in causing the problem. Ten times out of ten, you have power over how you will go about solving the problem or how you will learn from it or even use the problem to your advantage.

Relationships

I was thinking today as I was sitting down to write this post. We are pretty damn lucky. We have hundreds if not thousands of years of recorded history about millions upon millions of marriages. We have documentation from a wide variety of cultures about the different types of marriage set ups that exist: arranged community wide marriages, marriages for love, marriages for the sake of citizenship documentation and so on and so on.

Si the dude is happy to be getting married?

We know the advantages and disadvantages of each type of marriage. We know how arranged community marriages tend to last more than marriages for love with one of the reasons being the fact that the woman didn’t just marry the man; she married a clan and families have become blended and parts of each other’s lives. We know how marriages for love are fantastic because you actually get the chance to marry your best friend not just a partner. We also know how the clubbing culture is fantastic in teaching people how to flaunt their sexuality and make things sexier and more seductive (sometimes).

Why aren’t we mixing and matching and experimenting more in this area? We were so quick to throw away our old ways of doing things and go with the flow to marry for love. Why didn’t we, or don’t we stop and look at what is great about different types of relationships and try mixing and matching to create the perfect type of relationship?

Why do we allow our emotions to sway us so? I can tell you with my love sickness right now, if I had no sense of self-control, Lord knows what I would have done. We really have such an opportunity to make this area of our life splendid? Why don’t we take control of that opportunity and leverage it?

Money

Money

Do you get a high from buying things? Does the thought of saving, or investing, bore you to tears? Do you then make decisions on the basis of these feelings as opposed to your long term prosperity?

In the West, you are exposed to 3000 advertising messages a day. It’s infinitely easier to spend a day buying when you have money than it is to not buy and even harder to then put this money away or invest it. Are you in control of your financial future or is the marketer?

I hope this has been food for thought for you as it has been for me. It is great that I actually get to write something that you read so thanks for stopping by. Need to get something of your chest: comment below or send me email.

Be blessed and bless others,

Mwangi

No Comments

  • By Evan, February 23, 2008 @ 6:31 am

    Hi Mwangi,

    I think we haven’t learned because we go the wrong way about it.

    If we view discipline as punishment we learn (quite well) that it is unpleasant and so, quite sensibly, don’t want any part of it.

    Instead we can respect our feelings and desires as well our thoughts and ideals. Then we can find ways to satisfy all of who we are. Little discipline required usually when what we are doing is enjoyable. On those occasions when discipline is required it is much easier to find.

    To quote a guru (from a couple of millenia ago): my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

  • By Mwangi, February 23, 2008 @ 7:06 am

    Thanks Evan for the refreshing perspective. I forgot to talk about how a lot of the time self-discipline can be difficult particularly in the beginning.

    “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”; I am not clear on what that means. I would have expected the expression to be: My yoke is easy but my burden is heavy.

    I guess silly old me is asking, “Just what does that quote mean?”

  • By Tom Stine, February 24, 2008 @ 6:29 am

    Very cool post. I particularly related to the part about having your sexual drives under control. I don’t want to think about the thousands of hours I’ve wasted in life in the pursuit of a shag. Bummer. But, that is who is WAS, so its all good. Recently I saw through the whole mess, saw how we are tricked by the promises of great pleasure to pursue what is way too ephemeral. We can enjoy sex without being led around like a dog on a sexual leash. And too many of us are (or were). Keep up the good posts.

  • By Mwangi, February 24, 2008 @ 6:34 pm

    Thanks for the kind words Tom. I don’t think there is a man alive who can’t relate to the ‘dog being lead on a leash’ metaphor. After all, the nightclub industry wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for that.

  • By Susan Sabo, February 24, 2008 @ 11:34 pm

    Engaging post…there are so many benefits of self-discipline that it should be a term/characteristic everyone embraces. Your insights into how we really operate today is a breath of fresh air.
    Susan from the Productivity Cafe

  • By Mwangi, February 25, 2008 @ 12:43 am

    Thank you Susan. I have just checked out your blog and if I may say so, I one day hope to be at the same level as your blog, it’s absolutely fantastic especially in terms of what you have done with the design above the fold.

  • By -Jim-, April 17, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

    very interesting read. I had few Lol while is was reading it.

  • By Mwangi, April 17, 2008 @ 1:58 pm

    Jim, bwana, you finally stop by my house. Karibu! If you need some tea and some chapati just give me a yell…..

  • By -Jim-, April 19, 2008 @ 12:18 am

    Seems like i’m gonna be a regular from now on. Chapati will do :)

  • By Mwangi, April 19, 2008 @ 12:21 am

    @Jim: Done! You bring the KETEPA and I will prepare not just the chapo but the stew and the salad on the side….

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