Thus, the best course of action is to find ways to impose control from within the situation. For example, decide in advance when you can have ice cream, how much ice cream you can have, and where youíd best like to have it. All of this must be decided while there is no existing drive to eat ice cream, or whatever it is youíd like to keep in check.
These "guidelines" are the first step in becoming detached from the objects of oneís desires. They create barriers, which allow you to objectively view a situation in order to keep control of your desires. However, barriers can be broken down if the "wall" is not strong or high enough.
CREATE REALISTIC INCENTIVES THAT REINFORCE
How about, "If I eat more than one scoop of ice cream per sitting, then I will donate $100.00 to my favorite charity!" A hundred dollars?! Ouch! That hurts. How long can I go on like that? Soon I wonít be able to buy any more ice cream!
Such "incentives" are called "reinforcements". They serve to shift the focus of the desire to something more meaningful. If your desire "knows" that youíre serious about the $100.00, itíll say, "This ice cream doesnít taste that good."
But there is still a better way to achieve detachment. After all, who wants to treat oneself like a child? Sometimes there may be no alternative but to do so, but in the maturation process, there is a far more noble way of growing up.
BREAK DOWN THE DESIRE INTELLECTUALLY
What is ice cream? It is milk, and sugar - lotís and lotís of sugar. Food value? Not too much. And after youíve eaten the ice cream, how do you feel? Well, there is satiation, but it is usually overrun by feelings of remorse, if eating the ice cream was unnecessary. And you certainly have little or no recollection of what it tasted like ten minutes after it was consumed.
Thatís the problem with physical pleasures - they leave little memory of themselves. They come and go and leave behind very little to cherish. What makes physical pleasures so wonderful is when theyíre enjoyed within a meaningful context.
When eating is simply for the sake of eating, then after youíre finished, the food means little to you. However, if the eating is done at a special occasion, then it becomes part and parcel of that occasion, and the "good taste" lingers on in the memory of the meaningful moment.
A person has to ask himself, "Am I eating to live or living to eat?" Anyone who eats to live is going to only desire that which is good for him, in amounts that are good for him, and eat when it is right to eat.
Such a person will naturally detach himself or herself from overeating, or under-eating, and from foods which are not healthy to eat. And if desire overcomes such people, then they build ďfencesĒ to strengthen their resolve.
Does it ever feel good being master in your own house.
CLEAN UP YOUR ACT
Remember the time that you did a favor for someone, a favor that was totally unsolicited? The person looked at you with a mixed look of surprise and gratitude, and those who witnessed the act praised you. How did you feel then? Anything less than great?
A large part of that feeling of greatness was a tremendous sense of wholesomeness. We feel best about ourselves when we feel wholesome.
Of course much of marketing and advertising tells us that life is most thrilling when weíre acting in less than a wholesome manner. Promiscuity in one form or another has become a symbol of indulgence, and ultimately denies us the very thing we seek: peace of mind, sense of self, and growth.
Not for a long time has society been so open and free, accepting that which previously was morally unacceptable, promoting that which was once taboo. Yet for all our openness, the divorce rate and suicide rate, both of which are growing in alarming numbers clearly indicate that ours is not such a happy society.
The sweet innocence of yesteryear that we came to mock and criticize plays a very major role in creating a strong sense of self. Wholesome does not mean "naive", nor does it mean denying oneself the physical pleasures of life. It means behaving nobly, taking only that which is rightfully yours, and even more so, only that which is "good" for your self-development.
Human beings are meant to act nobly. We may have a tendency to act far from it, but, thatís what makes it possible to be so noble in the first place. The "spice" of life is not acting like an animal, but acting more like a "saint" when we could have more easily acted like an animal.
The beginning of wholesomeness in action is purity in thought. When we think of good things then our actions eventually fall in line. The opposite is the inherent danger of movies, books, advertisements, etc., that put not so "clean" thoughts into our minds. Eventually our acts may resemble those thoughts, though in a more subtle manner perhaps.
If you imagine that your mind is like the boardroom of a very large business, then you can see how the above is true. In the boardroom, ideas and words are thrown back and forth and, although very little is put into effect in the actual boardroom, the conclusions eventually are filtered down into the area of production. The boardroom decides the policy that affects the direction of the company.
And so it is the case with "Me Inc.". In our boardroom "upstairs" in the executive suite (the mind), opinions are being thrown around that will eventually become our "companyís" policy. Once they do, the employees (the body) will have to act according to that company policy.
The reverse is also true. In order to purify the mind, one can begin by acting in a pure way. Most of us know what the noble thing to do is. The trick is to act that way even though we donít yet feel that way. Eventually the thoughts line up with our actions.
Crisis has a way of raising us above it all, making people perform in ways that even they never knew they could. The truth is that every moment of life is a crisis. After all, what is a crisis but a moment of truth with real consequences that cannot be reversed?
Life is one life-or-death decision after another. Should you be aware this moment, or space out? Should you do a more noble thing, or shouldnít you? In the end, you will either add to your life, or subtract from it, depending on what you decide to do. And you never get the moment back again. It kind of makes one feel as if theyíre "living on the edge"!
IDENTIFY WITH GOOD
Did you ever help an elderly person across the street? After doing so, you beamed. Helping the lady may have made you late for an appointment, but you still felt great about helping her out. As you walked away you said to yourself (albeit, sub-consciously), "I am so-and-so, the one who helps elderly people across the street. Iím a good person."
The image that you created in your own mind as you walked away lingers on, and even improves your behavior elsewhere. "After all, would a person who helps elderly people across the street act rudely to people?" No, of course not.
What do you believe in? What are the axioms of existence that you cherish, that are the foundation for your approach to life? What are the principles that act as your guiding light in all that you do, and where did you get them from?
If you ask people in the street if they consider themselves to be good, without exception the answer is, "Yes". If you asked them, "Do you choose to be good?" again they will answer, "Yes."
However, if you also asked people "Do you ever cheat on exams, or tax returns?", the answer quite often is also "Yes." And the reaction after that is usually a squirm, redness in the face, and a rationalization for why they did it, and how it doesnít take away from their goodness.
Why? Because people like to do the right thing, and to know they are doing it. Deviations from "right" leave us less respectable in our own eyes, which is worse than being less respectable in the eyes of others. We can live somewhat without the approval of others, but we are miserable when we do not have our own self-approval.
It is good to be motivated in life. It is good to maximize oneís effort when doing meaningful things. It is good to be concerned for the welfare of others, and to even think of them before thinking of ourselves, at least sometimes. We know this, we accept this, and we feel good about ourselves when we behave this way.
If we consciously identify with this way of life, then we will constantly look for opportunities to live this way. We will then see ourselves as being caring and concerned people, and as being giving people.
Obviously the first step in identifying with good is finding out what is the "good" with which we should identify. Some ideas of good are obvious, like not cheating or harming others. Other principles are not so obvious, and need to be discovered and learned.
There are many books that theorize about the nature of good, but they all come down to opinions in the end. A good source of good traits is the oldest source and most popular book in the history of mankind: The Old Testament. In our modern and fast paced society, we balk at the idea of looking into a book that seems so antiquated.
However, whether one believes in the Old Testament as being Divinely created or not, one will have to agree that the stories inside it are beautiful and heartwarming, and for the most part inspiring. Even the commandments seem to yield some insight into human behavior.
BE HUMBLE AND OBJECTIVE
Many people, when thinking of a humble person, imagine someone who is socially inept. The truth is that the humblest people tend to be quite confident, and even charismatic. Itís just that theyíre never over- confident, and never over-bearing.
The opposite of humility, of course, is arrogance. Arrogance is what one feels when one attaches more importance to himself or herself than is appropriate. It is important to feel a sense of self, but deep inside we feel uncomfortable acting overly proud. We usually find acts of humility to be more uplifting.
So why do we choose arrogance over humility?
People feel worthwhile when they do worthwhile things, especially when they donít take credit for doing them. Human beings want to know that they are "good" people. We human beings like to feel that we exist, not just know that we do, and feeling good helps us to do that.
However, if we donít think that we are "good", then our drive for a sense of self demands "outside verification". This is not always forthcoming and must often be solicited, which is the job of our pride. But the net result is a feeling of having demeaned oneself, because we have attracted too much attention, attention that doesnít feel authentically our own.
DONíT TAKE AVOIDABLE ERRORS LIGHTLY
Being afraid of making mistakes is a leap in the direction of making life a thrill. First of all, any term that includes the word "fear" sends chills up and down a personís spine. The truth is, some fears we find exhilarating, and even pay good money to experience them.
Willingness to make mistakes in order to learn from them reduces oneís ability to enjoy life. True, it is inevitable that weíre going to make mistakes along the way, and we ought to learn from those mistakes. But making avoidable mistakes is simply foolish, and a waste of valuable moments of life we never get back.
After all, people donít choose to fail in school to learn how to do the grade better the second time around. In the business world, we dread financial errors like the plague. So why donít we dread making mistakes in life?
Part of the reason for this inconsistency is we donít take to heart the shortness of life. It is this belief that takes away all sense of urgency, and thrill. It makes life mundane.
Living life with a "gun" to your head is not the most comfortable way to live, but it sure isnít boring - adrenaline flows, the mind becomes sharp, and you feel alive. The sense of impending death makes one feel alive, and excited because real life is really exciting.
Remind yourself daily that we havenít yet discovered the fountain of youth. The clock is ticking every moment. Sleep guarantees that youíll only have two-thirds of your life left to accomplish anything significant Eating, and drinking, and taking care of personal needs will also greatly reduce your time to accomplish.
How many years remain to leave a mark on society? How many years remain to guarantee that when you leave this world, there will be plenty of good things to say about you?
Tick, tick, tick... Isnít reality thrilling? It certainly is too short to waste life by making silly, avoidable errors.
BE CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU KNOW AND DO
Whoever said "ignorance is bliss" probably was expressing more a hope than dispensing wisdom. Animals live blissful lives, but there are very few people who truly envy their lifestyles, if you can call them that.
The thrill of life is reserved for those people who truly rise above it all - intellectually. Ultimately, what holds people back from feeling the joy of life, even in the face of tragedy, is incorrect perceptions of reality and the opportunity of life. Life has many faces, and not all of them automatically invoke positive reactions from us.
True joy and excitement in life comes from knowing clearly what counts most in life, and how to achieve it. Anything we have intellectual clarity about usually feels like an effortless task to achieve, and provides us with a reward that we can truly appreciate.
In fact, the greatest pain and source of debilitation is doubt, which is the result of intellectual confusion. Its effects are long lasting, and the damage to life it can do is incredible. How many people today, especially younger people, are wasting away life, experimenting, doing things that adults know only too well are regrettable mistakes?
And how many people suffer because theyíre unsure about what matters most in life, because the society in which they were raised isnít quite sure itself. Define, define, define - clarify, clarify, clarify. You will constantly be surprised how much of your life and what you do is built upon assumptions and opinions that, in the end, may prove to be baseless.
Ultimately, intellectual clarity contributes to a thrilling life as a mechanism for living a life of limited resistance. Clearly knowing what matters most in life gives a person the wherewithal to face temptation and say, "Are you kidding? And ruin my opportunity to grow for this? Forget it."
You donít have to be a genius to have intellectual clarity. In fact, sometimes itís the "geniuses" who never achieve it. You just have to want to know what matters most in life, and be willing to find out even if it means having to think a lot, and deeply - something that is bound to be time consuming and even a bit strenuous.
But being an intellectual is the final gate one has to walk through to overcome the obstacles that block the flow of good feeling pent up inside of us. All else that is necessary to make life a thrill becomes apparent for the intellectual. Once an intellectual, youíll wonder how you could have lived any other way.