One who cannot control himself or his inner impulses cannot control anyone or anything outside himself.–Sudha Mani.
One day a mother, along with her son, underwent so many troubles, walked, hitchhiked and went hungry for days came to Mahatma Gandhi. She said, “Sir, this is my son. He is nine years old. We are poor, and his dad & my husband left us when this boy was only two months old for another woman. Please tell him to stop eating sweets, which I make for my customers. He listens to you. I know because he used to be lazy and sleep till 10 am when he heard you wake up early in the morning and go for a walk before starting work; from the very next day, he started doing it. It amazed me. That is why I brought him here.”
Mahatma Gandhi went silent. He said to the mother, “Sister, I can’t say anything that you ask me to do to your son today. Bring your son to me in 30 days from now.”. The mother was sad and left. After 30 days, the mother came back with her son. This time Mahatma said to the boy, “You must stop eating sweets; it is bad for health and mind. Will, you do that for me?”. The boy nods and promises his leader.
The mother is furious and asks Mahatma why he could not say what he said today to her son 30 days ago. For that, Mahatma said, “Sister, I was eating sweets three times a day, even my wife about this habit. I could not ask your son to stop eating sweets when I was doing the same thing. After you left, I stopped eating sweets, and I have never touched sweets since you left apart from Prasad. Now, I can ask your son not to do something which I was not doing.”
The moral of the story is that if you do not do what you want others to do, you are a slave to your impulses and habits.
One strength of a leader is Self-control.
Self-control stems from self-awareness.
- Finding out your strengths, weaknesses and triggers
- Write your management strategy for every trigger significantly negative one.
- Meditate on your negative triggers. For example, if someone cuts you off on the highway and you either cuss or rev up. Catch yourself in action and ask why?
- When you are not driving or engaged in action, go home or meditate on that situation, triggering an adverse reaction. What was your emotion when someone cut you want off? Were you angry? What did that thought before that happen?
- Please write your triggers down.
- Make a mental note on how you will react when the same thing happens again from this point forward. When that happens, see how fast you can respond to that. It will take time, but you will get there.
Another tool I use for self-control is putting certain things off for some time before acting on them.
Before I close, I would like to tell you another story. In a small village, a hard-working farmer has to start his day early in the wee hours; he will have his shower before going to be so he doesn’t have to shower before he starts his day to walk 10 miles his work. He used to pack his breakfast, lunch and snacks the night before. Along with it, he will also add two cigars for the day. The farmer prides himself as a creature of habit and thinks he will have the power to control his impulses. Everyone in the villages comes to him to get his advice on the very same subject.
One fine morning he has walked about 5 or 6 miles to his work and realizes that he forgot his cigars at home, so he walks back to his house to get them.
When he was walking back, he meets with his friend and his 5-year-old grandson. The farmer explains to his friend he is walking around o home because he can get his cigars from home. The little boy asks, “Can you not spend a day without cigars? What is in it that makes you want to smoke the cigar? is it good for health that you are walking back to get them?”
These questions made the farmer realize that he lacks self-control with cigars; he realizes that he is the slave to this habit. He says to himself that he will intentionally miss cigars for the next 30 days from that point onwards. The farmer kept that challenge at all odds and mood swings. The cigars never controlled the farmer from that day forward, and his health improved because of that.
I feel self-control is the first step towards self-leadership. If you cannot lead yourself, then you cannot teach anyone. For some, self-control is about self-discipline; it doesn’t matter what the phrase is; self-mastery over impulses is more critical for our lives, balanced mindset and eventually lead to personal & professional success.