The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and, if they can't find them, make them.
I grew up in a family that followed the tenets of Christianity. I recall my dad once giving up meat for Lent (a big step for an Australian farmer who had a plentiful supply of quality fresh beef and lamb!).
I believe that all major religions have the notion of giving something up for a particular period of time. It helps us develop greater strength through discipline and self-control. Fundamentally, it is about affirming that the spirit is able to rise above the material plane. We get to demonstrate a greater power by proving that we can say no to something that our physical bodies (or ingrained habits) might normally choose.
For me this is very salient right now.
I struggle with self-discipline in certain areas and find that part of me rebels against it because it implies giving up my "freedom." One of the attractions of setting up my own business was that I could be a "free spirit." I could choose the branding and focus of activities without having to negotiate with people who had a different opinion. I could work when and how I wanted to without being answerable to anyone (as long as there was sufficient income to satisfy my wife and creditors!).
Ironically, any "freedom" can become a trap if we don't have the right structure and disciplines in place. When we don't feel like we have to answer to anyone or anything, there is a dark side of us that can take over.
One area for me is in keeping my home and workspace tidy and organised. Only when I know someone is coming into that space, will I make an effort to make it presentable. Notice the word "presentable" which implies wanting to "look good". In truth, a tidy, organised, uncluttered space is functional and gives one more opportunity for freedom.
My resistance to being organised comes from the desire to be free of "boring and restrictive" activity. Ironically, I then get trapped in boring and restrictive activity on a regular basis. For example, I spend an inordinate amount of time looking for things. I then have less time to do enjoyable and creative things.
So when I avoid self-discipline, am I really free? No!
Now, I'm not actually giving up "being untidy" for Lent (although I am committed to progressively improving in that area).
The thing I've decided to tackle is my addiction to sugar. I regularly accuse my son of eating too much of it, but that is classic "projection" in psychological terms (i.e. focussing upon the sins of another so we don't have to admit our own!). It is also hypocrisy.
I've decided to not eat any sweets, chocolate, desserts, or other products with high sugar content. I won't add sugar if I have a cappuccino and won't have any hot chocolates (sigh!). I realise that so many processed foods have some sugar, so I won't totally avoid it, but just stopping in these other areas represents a big step for me.
Intellectually, I get that too much of it is bad for us. Emotionally, I have too often chosen to have it anyway. This is about making a different choice and ultimately finding a greater freedom.
It's 10.00 AM on Day 1. So far it has been really easy! Let's see how I go in the next 46 days ....