I know this because sometimes I thought things would never work out, but they did, and it was because I persevered. All it took was to make a plan and then stick to it until it had been accomplished.
Fine, so I succeeded in achieving some goals and I have made some progress in life. What remains?
Well there was this one question of how to grow up, by which I mean the question of when I would stop feeling like an adolescent and start feeling like a man. I grew a beard, gave up video games and took up exercise and dancing, I started wearing shoes instead of skate shoes, shirts instead of t-shirts, tucked in instead of letting it all hang out. Dress like a man, get treated like a man, act like a man; that was the theory.
Did this make me feel more like a man? Did cognitive dissonance take over? No; I looked more like a man, and I was fitter better looking than I ever had been but this was only skin deep.
So what was it? Giving up things that were fun? Being disciplined and productive all the time? Being responsible the whole time, conforming, becoming the best example of a scholar and a gentleman that the 19th century could ever produce?
No, and besides, I’m not from the 19th century. They may have had cool moustaches and waistcoats, but I’m not like the gentlemen of the 19th century.
They had something else though, besides a smart appearance; they had principles. Not just principles, but knowing when to exercise them. Over the past weekend, I learned the most powerful and fundamental of them all – self-restraint.
Self-restraint is something that a man can and should apply to many things in his life, such as:
- Anything intoxicating: even the wisest of men can be reduced to gibbering fools.
- Unnecessary spending: if you don’t need it, why spend money on it?
- Spending time on things that bring no real benefit: if it won’t produce anything useful or if you’re not enjoying it, then why waste time on it?
- Displays of affection or intimacy: some women like public affection, and this can vary by culture and age, but by and large women seem to prefer doing things behind closed doors and keeping intimacy as a shared secret, a private adventure, rather than displaying it publicly (at least initially). Gone are the days of girls parading their beaus in front of their friends and then kissing them passionately in order to take very public ownership.
- Dancing: just like typing in all caps when writing messages or comments, big dance moves are showy and take up a lot of space and are therefore considered to be the dance equivalent of shouting. It’s all very well in small doses, but too much of it becomes boring very quickly.
- Leading during dancing: there’s no need to hold on to your follower, to grab push or pull them. A tap on the back, the shoulder or the arm is sufficient as a signal to tell your follower where you want them to go when combined with a shift in bodyweight; in fact sometimes the shift in bodyweight and posture is enough. So long as there is a connection, a leader can simply use one arm rather than using two; theoretically touching or guiding can therefore be kept to a minimum.
- Talking too much and too loudly: my voice carries, especially when I get passionate about something I’m talking about. The secret here would be to breathe and then ask myself if what I want to say would really add anything to the conversation. If in doubt, leave it out.
- Criticising – not so much self-restraint here, mostly avoidance. Never criticise anybody in public, full-stop. It’s unnecessary and ultimately reveals how insecure you are about yourself.
So what’s my advice?
If I could give one single piece of advice to myself at an age that would matter, it would be that self-restraint is the difference between an adolescent and a man, between regret and self-respect. Self-restraint might seem boring and self-righteous at first, but it will pay off in the long run.