the battle within: respecting the right limits

the battle within: respecting the right limits
Photo by Alexander Jawfox / Unsplash

In the journey of life, we often find ourselves at crossroads, faced with choices that define who we are and who we want to become. It's easy to succumb to the soothing whispers of the little voice inside us, urging us to take a break, to rest when we're tired, and to postpone challenges for a more convenient time.

The voice tells us, "When you're exhausted, you stop. When you're feeling uninspired, you put it off until later. When the going gets tough, you make an excuse." It's the voice that seeks comfort, the path of least resistance. It's the voice that tempts us to settle for mediocrity, to avoid the struggle that leads to growth.

Yet, when that same voice questions our habits—whether it's our drinking, our eating, or our pursuit of happiness—we suddenly become deaf to its advice. Why is it that we selectively ignore the counsel of our inner voice?

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." Our inner voice is a powerful guide, but its impact depends on our willingness to heed its wisdom. When it warns us about overindulgence or prompts us to reflect on our achievements, it becomes a compass for a balanced and fulfilling life.

It’s crucial that we embrace the kind of temperance (an essential Stoic virtue) that is good for us and refrain from following the one that keeps us stagnated.

Building boundaries for ourselves and deliberately limiting ourselves is one of the most freeing things we can do for ourselves, as paradoxical as it may sound. In his book Less Doing, More Living, Ari Meisel suggests setting our own upper and lower limits. An upper limit is a maximum you can’t exceed, for instance, the number of times you can go to the theater to watch a new movie in a month’s time. A lower limit is a minimum that you can’t fall below, for example, the frequency of your gym visits. Both these limits can help us keep a tab on ourselves so that we only spend time on things that are truly important to us, and are able to stay disciplined and trade quantity for quality.

The key lies in taking the middle path and doing the things that matter the most consistently, without taking the refuge of excuses. As Ryan Holiday remarks, “Yes, it’s good to make sure we don’t overdo things…but don’t weaponize that against yourself.”

The choices we face daily boil down to which limits we choose to respect. There are limits that hinder our progress, our personal development, and our pursuit of dreams. These are the limits we must challenge, the barriers we must push past. As Theodore Roosevelt wisely noted, "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." The real growth happens when we venture beyond our comfort zones.

Conversely, there are limits that serve as guardrails for our well-being. These are the limits that prevent us from veering into self-destructive habits and behaviors. It's essential to listen when our inner voice cautions us, "Hey, maybe we’re driving too fast," or "Hey, haven’t we slept enough?" These limits protect us from the pitfalls of excess and guide us towards a life of balance.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, "Strength does not come from the body. It comes from the will." True strength lies in our ability to discern between the limits that hinder us and those that protect us. It requires the courage to challenge ourselves when needed and the humility to respect the boundaries that keep us grounded.

So, as we navigate the daily choices presented to us, let us be mindful of the limits we choose to acknowledge. Let us echo the sentiment of J.K. Rowling, who said, "It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." In respecting the right limits, we shape our character, cultivate resilience, and embark on a journey of self-discovery that leads to a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

I'm happy, excited, and immensely grateful to announce the release of my new book "The Virtue of Temperance: Volume I", the first book of the Handbooks for Stoics series.

"The Virtue of Temperance: Volume I" is not just a theoretical discourse; it's a practical guide to navigating the complexities of contemporary life. In this concise book, I provide actionable exercises and real-world applications that'll empower you to cultivate the Stoic virtues of self-control, discipline, and rationality in a world driven by excess and instant gratification. Through captivating narratives and poignant lessons, you'll discover how temperance is not a restraint, but a liberation—a path to embracing challenges with grace and resilience.

Get your copy here:

(Print book and audiobook coming soon!)