As kids, there is this life goal of being able to eat dessert before dinner. Sugary, sweet, delicious desserts are so much more tasty than dinner. I’ve never met a six year old that would choose broccoli over cookies. Or any vegetable over any dessert for that matter. At a certain age, we get the ability to choose for our selves when we eat dessert. We get to choose how much, how frequently and what kinds of dessert. Most adults, though, don’t eat dessert before dinner. The lofty goal of our inner kid-self fades into the background when we realize there is more downside to upside to eating dessert for dinner. We change our mind on the goal and eventually settle on a rule not dissimilar from our parents’ rule – don’t eat dessert before dinner.
Dessert before dinner is a window that lets us peak into one of the unspoken rules of growing up. We write our rule book. We get to decide what rules we play by. We get to decide how strictly we follow those rules and when to break them. We get to decide what happens if we break them.
I’m not talking about societal laws here, but the code we live by in our day to day lives. What time we wake up. What time we go to bed. When we go out and for how long. As a kid, hanging out with friends was a weekend thing. As an adult, it’s whenever I want (or whenever I can plan it, really). I can stay up late and drink a ton of coffee in the morning. I can order delivery food and never cook. I can choose if I want to drive a mini van, a truck, an SUV or any other vehicle (no, not literally).
We get to choose when we break our own rules. E.g. Alcohol consumption. If someone has a rule that they only drink 2x a week or only goes out on Fridays, there will always be a temptation to break the rule. A Tuesday birthday. A Sunday football game. Will you really tell your best friend no on their birthday if they want to go out? Whatever the rule we play by is, there will always be temptation.
The looser we are about enforcing our own rules, the more we will see temptation. The more we give into the temptation, the less relevant the rules become. The faster we lose hold of our own rules, the faster we become someone we did not intend to become. Holding tight on your own rules requires a significant level of discipline. The better our discipline, the better our lives.
In fewer words, “Discipline equals freedom” – Jock Willink