• Zach

Don't Be a Slave To The Good Life! Discipline = Freedom


toss 'em!

Five old Georgian men, nails yellow, wracking coughs, appeal to their driver buddy to stop the minibus they're on in order to take hourly smoke breaks while driving across mountains and towns. This is granted, lengthening an already interminable trip. 


Cigarettes: even if you don't die from them, you are their slave. Every few hours you have to stop what you're doing, and sometimes what everyone around you is doing as well, in order to answer nicotine's siren call. 


Most addictions have this sort of impact. They stop what you're doing, while you seek out your fix and answer the demands of your compulsion. This causes you to lose focus and efficiency not only for yourself, but others as well. I speak from experience, having indulged in cigarettes and other vices throughout the years. I've felt the cravings, and for years at a time, been unable to push against them strongly enough to overcome their call. Lately, when I look at people who are stuck being obedient to their addictions, I am very thankful that I no longer feel those same urges, that I have bigger wants than the immediate cessation of superficial desire.  I am free of my compulsions.  


The discipline to not give in to your vices sets you free. 



Jocko Willink's quote to this effect, "Discipline equals Freedom" at first feels like a paradox. How can discipline, which is often NOT doing something you want to do, be the same as freedom, where you get to do what you want? If I am disciplined in the foods that I eat, I might avoid eating buffalo wings, even though I REALLY want them.  My discipline is in direct opposition to my freedom to eat whatever I want.  This idea could be a paradox hinting at a deeper truth, or it could just be wrong, it all depends on your perspective.  


The angle to look at this idea to unlock it is focusing on a larger goal, a higher plane of desire more than the immediate.  In order to achieve long term, serious life goals, like health, wealth, relationships, and lasting happiness, it requires the discipline to avoid short term pleasurable actions.  Those long term life goals can easily be a superior freedom.   By having the discipline to avoid cigarettes, I am not a slave to their compulsion.  I am free from the need to constantly stop and smoke them, I am free from the harmful health and financial effects that are so clear but too often ignored. 


At this point, you might be wondering what this has to do with money or Personal Finance.  I promise, I'm getting there!  Financial freedom is a massively powerful and desirable goal.  If you don't like your boss, you leave.  If you want to change countries, just go.  If you want to take a year or more off and just relax, you can.  But this freedom requires discipline.  You need to avoid "financial cigarettes", things that feel good in the moment, but will destroy your long term financial freedom.  


"Financial cigarettes": buying on credit, impulse buying, buying to make yourself look good, purchasing because of emotion, paying the minimum towards debts, retail therapy in general, constantly eating out or ordering in food, spoiling your children or pets.


All of these "financial cigarettes" operate on similar brain chemistry to other addictive behaviors.  We get dopamine and serotonin spikes for both.  There are thousands of ads and actions of our peers reinforcing the consumption of both types of cigarettes.  Both are convenient quick ways to make a problem go away, whether it's stress or unhappiness or not fitting in.  For decades, both were totally socially acceptable, but slowly, many are seeing their way through their addictions.   In my own country, the USA, the Centers for Disease Control reported in 2015 that 10% fewer people smoked than in 2005.  


"Financial cigarettes" are also coming up against powerful and growing movements that help people overcome their addictive qualities every day.  All over the world, more and more people are learning about how to control their Financial lives in the "Financial Independence" (FI) and "Financial Independence Retire Early" (FIRE) movements.  Every day, major publications like the New York Times, the Guardian, and The National right here in the UAE publish articles allowing more people to learn the simple principals that allow them to reach their financial goals.  Groups like SimplyFI here in the UAE give free talks and resources and community to those seeking a way of life that isn't limited to immediate cessation of urges.  


If you want to get out of debt, learn how to live a more sustainable and joyful life, and be in control of your financial destiny, you need to put down the financial cigarettes.  All it takes is education and a desire to change.  You can do it.  


If you liked this post, come join the discussion over at The Happiest Teacher Facebook Group! I would love to have your voice added to the discussion! Also, if you're into that Twitter life, come follow me!

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Currently in Dubai, UAE