What endangers my personal willpower challenges the most is the social pressure to “have fun” and “enjoy myself.” The problem is that this is excellent advice most of the time. The majority of people, particularly as they grow older, are too uptight, too rigid, too serious. On the other hand, it’s also bad advice because telling someone to “have fun” when they’re stern is like telling someone to “be cool,” “be confident,” and “be yourself” when they’re nervous, anxious, or freaking out.
When people tell me to have fun, they want me to enjoy myself. And I get it that self-discipline can be poisonous in social settings. It makes others feel uncomfortable around me. My mere presence pressures them to exert willpower themselves, even though they don’t want to. What they want is to have a good time. “Girls just want to have fun,” especially when they’re being girls, and most men actually want the same, especially if they lack entrepreneurial ambitions, if they aren’t Type A personalities.
But what’s wrong with having fun and enjoying oneself? People sense that there’s something wrong with you when you don’t subscribe to their hedonistic lifestyle. And the problem is that they’re often right. There’s usually something wrong with people who have no time for fun because all they do is achieve, achieve, achieve. They’re often hiding something or suppressing something.
Well, this post is no fucking therapy session, and I’m definitely not going to tell anyone that there’s something wrong with them. Instead, I want to portray a perspective beyond hedonism (all fun) and stoicism (all discipline). It’s called “do your True Will“—not a new concept, I know, but an ever-important one.
When you do your True Will, you are free. You are neither a slave to fun and pleasure, nor a slave to rigorous principles. When you do what you truly want, you will automatically move toward an overall fun-discipline balance. You will have phases of fun, of motivation, of passion, of restraint, of austerity, and of perseverance. You will live the total human experience. And you can take a step back to look at the process as a whole and see how it brings you joy and fulfillment, how it represents the virtue of moderation, and how it is fundamentally good.
You may ask, “How do I know that I’m doing my True Will?” Well, if you never gain joy from self-discipline, then you’re probably using your willpower not to thrive into greatness, but to cope with bullshit, sadness, misery. Doing one’s True Will is an end in itself, but discipline is not! Discipline is good only if you use it to achieve a goal that is important to you, to accomplish a mission you’re passionate about, and to do your True Will, ideally in a state of flow. But if you’re using willpower just for the sake of staying true to some life philosophy you’ve picked up from a book or an online blog, then I wouldn’t praise your discipline, but laugh at it.
- Alan Watts on Self-Discipline and Self-Acceptance
- Why Every Life Philosophy Is A “Feel Good” Philosophy