When someone takes drugs or drinks to excess, it is commonly considered as a moment of someone making a poor choice because they are giving up. Really, it’s an attempt to manifest a more manageable experience, even if it’s only for the moment. If someone doesn’t wake up in the morning to an alarm clock it is because they desire sleep more than they fear repercussions. It’s also possible that they value being rested over having had taken care of responsibilities earlier in the day. Similarly, if someone overeats, it’s usually because they want to prolong the mental satisfaction of eating or because they want to ensure that they won’t get hungry sooner than their next meal.
Each example seems to present a person caving into desires, and thus having no self-control. But people who make these sorts of decisions just place more emphasis on immediate gratification over long term stability. In each waking moment a person is confronted with choices, and when someone chooses immediate gratification it’s only deemed as a lack of self-control by people who value longevity in their rewards, whether that be good health, financial security, or reputation. These rewards can’t be compared to other sorts of experiences because they operate on a more metaphysical level rather than on a primal level. The gratification of doing chores, paying a mortgage, going to work, etc. comes from distant moments where hard work “pays off” resulting in a promotion, new home, etc. The sort of fulfillment that’s brought from drinking until you’re intoxicated is a much more present and obvious gratification, but it comes with numerous direct burdens and hazards aside from the fact that drinking is not productive in itself.
Just a brief side note: I understand that there are mentally ill people that have a limited amount of control over their choices, and I’m really only speaking about a common lack of discipline that exists in many modern day people.
So what is discipline? Discipline is the practice of training to obey a code of behavior while using punishment to correct disobedience. Alternatively, the word discipline can also represent a higher branch of knowledge. When people are deemed to possess self-control, others attribute it to their excellent discipline. In one sense of the word, disciplined people are employing a sort of self-training to conduct themselves in a way that will contribute to a stable lifestyle, while punishing themselves in the way of abstaining from indulgences.
Additionally, this stability is a sort of higher branch of knowledge in the sense that it gets away from the first primal and animal level of gratification reaching into the plane of metaphysical gratification. Discipline makes life more predictable at the cost of doing away with some primal urges. Conducting your life with discipline offers an advantageous view of your life. Rather than to run through the forest seeing only as far as the next tree in front of you, discipline offers you a map of the woods and look above the trees.
People do not scrutinize the lifestyle choices of those with self-control. Taking responsibility for the stability of one’s life was the first baby steps of rising above being a victim of circumstances, one of these circumstances being our personal primal desires.
But still in our modern society, being aware of this binary of living a life of foresight or living a life of indulgence isn’t enough to say that someone possesses self-control. Instead, they need to then make choices that would lead to a life of stability. It’s generally believed that an individual can’t be aware of these varying lifestyles and then choose to indulge, because it is counter-productive and not stable, and an unproductive and unstable life has been dubbed as a life of no control. The expression “self-control” ultimately deprives you of controlling your own life. As if giving into primal desires is not a choice at all just because once upon a time it was the only choice known to our Neanderthal brains until we began to develop plans. Now that we have begun to strategize our lives, we’ve become ingrained to believe anything non-productive is a result of a lack of choice.
Of course living either strictly by calculation and discipline or by recklessness and excess isn’t humanly realistic anyhow, but the way in which we look at decidedly abandoning certain values does not have to be looked at as a lack of self-control. In fact it is an expression of control, albeit a choice that will most likely make one’s future more burdensome, while enjoying their present reality that much more.