Abstinence is Not the Only Form of Self-Control

When it comes to the Stoic virtue of Self-Control, our minds often turn to its most harsh form.

Abstain from this. Cut off that. Completely avoid this. Abandon that.

Often this advice has its merits. However, for those of us just starting on the Stoic journey, or who are working our way back from very ingrained habits, it’s worth remembering that scaling is also a valid approach to self-control.

Instead of binging on a whole pizza, take it down to half, or just a slice or two. Instead of a whole cake or pie, take one piece. Instead of a whole cookie, cut it in half. Instead of a whole bottle, just have a glass.

This is still progress, especially if we reflect on:

1. What brought us to the moment where we want to indulge
2. How we feel while we’re in that moment

There’s no need to feel like a failure because we don’t stop something all at once.

Building the muscle of discipline takes time, and curbing our indulgences to less is still strictly better than letting them run amok, unchecked.