Like computers, everything in life runs according to the rules of its operating system. There isn’t any area of our lives that is inexplicable or that lacks an “owner’s manual.” And if we will embrace the rules that run the particular system in which we are pursuing excellence, we will reach our goal every time.
Many people run their lives on faulty operating systems. They have the idea that opportunities for promotion in life just happen. This is one of the first myths we must throw out of our minds, on our way to building a foundation of character. The truth is, doors of opportunity are sometimes slammed shut because of failure in character.
Someone might seem like a person of good character on the outside yet show a completely different side of himself when he goes home. No matter how he may appear to the outside world, this person’s life will not produce the open doors he needs for success. You see, when a person is one way on the outside and another way on the inside, he has no integrity. It’s only a matter of time before his faulty operating system will crash.
We now know that character is the foundational bedrock of a life of excellence. We also know that relinquishing our past and choosing to be new people are the first steps in building that foundation. But is there a character key that unlocks the operating system—a character quality that governs and directs every other quality of excellent character?
Yes, this key is self-control. The word “self-control” means to be strong, controlled, and restrained. A person with self-control has mastery over appetites, desires, physical urges, and emotions. Without self-control, we will find ourselves continually falling short in the pursuit of character. Why is this? A lack of self-control speaks of our unwillingness to hang in there and endure for the long haul.
Far too often, we discard difficult relationships or abort challenging situations right at the point when we are about to win. Why? Because we govern our lives by an operating system of failure. In building foundations of character, most of us quickly discover that, if we have an issue with anyone, it is with our own tendencies toward failure. The greatest giant one will ever face is oneself!
Keep in mind that in any race, there are many runners, but only one person gets the prize. We must run in such a way that we will win. How? By employing self-control. All good athletes practise strict self-control. They run straight to the goal with purpose in every step.
We can’t afford to be like boxers who miss their punches, or baseball players who can’t hit the ball. We must discipline our actions like skilled athletes, training them to do what they should. Otherwise, we may find that, after helping others to win, we ourselves might be disqualified.
Mediocrity shuns this idea of restraint; but those who strive for the mastery practice self-control. They know that a lack of control is the greatest enemy to the pursuit of excellence. Therefore, they live in the highest regard and respect for their inner conscience and the principles that guide it, while demonstrating love to those around them. They consider every thought, every word, and every action, evaluating how it will affect others and how it will enhance or impair their productivity and their own sense of personal peace.
Even after discovering that we don’t have to stay the way we were, we still have to find out what it would take to get us in a position to be changed. Initially, we don’t need an exhaustive, line-by-line analysis of principles. First, we have to stop drowning in the whirlpool created by our own operating systems of defeat. Then we will be ready to hear more.
What do we have to do, in order to have our lives changed and re-arranged? Like athletes, we exercise self-control; we train and discipline our bodies. In other words, every time our selfish natures want to rise up, we slap them back down and say, “Get back down! You are not starting that mess again! All of that is over in my life.”
So how do we establish the pillar of self-control and unlock a new operating system in our lives? First, a person must recognize that his outer flesh and his inner conscience are at odds with one another. His outer man wants to act and respond in ways that his inner conscience knows is wrong. This is a constant inner struggle.
How can one make sure that the moral center of one’s heart prevails in this daily struggle? Persistent meditation upon wise principles will give the inner man the incentive, strength, and tools to consistently win this ongoing conflict. But there will always be a struggle. One’s outer man will come up with all kinds of ways to persuade him to neglect the very thing he needs most.
“I think I’ll just wait till later to read and master a new principle.” “I am just too busy, today, to study these precepts. I have so much going on right now. I know what I will do. Tomorrow morning, I will set the alarm for four o’ clock and read two days’ worth of that self-improvement book!” It happens every time: Our outer man tries to convince us to continually out off into the future, what we know we need to do in the present… I will take this crucial issue further next week Monday.
See you where leaders of rock-solid character are found!
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