One day, King Frederick was walking along the river for his afternoon stroll. He came upon an old man hobbling along with his stick. Frederick, in a jolly mood that beautiful day asked him, “Hi there, who are you?” “I am a king,” the old man promptly replied. Frederick, taken aback scoffed and said, “Over what kingdom do you reign?” “Over myself,” the man proudly replied.
I first read this story in Developing the Leader Within You by John Maxwell. Upon reading it, my first thought was, “I want to be able to say that!” The several weeks leading up to encountering this story I realized my life had been consistently inconsistent. Bedtime, waking up, daily schedule, prayer, were all totally out of balance and irregular. The old man’s response resonated so deeply with me because self-mastery is something I deeply long for and in fact desperately need to live life to the fullest and I would contend this is the case for all of us.
I think we’re so saturated in the present day and age with messages of comfort, do what I want when I want, entertainment on demand and so much more instant gratification, we can easily become subject to our own whims, desires and feelings. Often, how we live a day is determined by how we’re feeling… or is that just me? Let’s take for example the morning alarm! How many of us set an alarm upon going to bed with all of the best intentions of getting up on time and yet when we hear the first jarring notes or the beginning of our alarm’s song, the one we used to love before it became our morning alarm, we are so quick to press snooze! We love to snooze, but I think the phrase, “you snooze you lose” is perhaps more accurate than we’d like to admit. I digress; my point is, are we living from how we feel or from some other place or some other motivation? I propose that one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is, “What is my ‘why’?” I think we all know the ‘right’ or ‘scripted’ answers, but are those worthy or effective means of motivation for you?
I would venture to guess that the majority of men living in the present time live in this order; Feelings, Actions, Identity. We discern how we feel, we act accordingly, and from our actions, we determine our identity. Take getting out of bed as an example again. One day I might wake up and feel tired so I press snooze once or twice more than I should, I then rush to get ready and am impatient and out of sorts, when I finally get to work groggy, with sleep lines on my face, I determine that I’m just no good, always exhausted, and not capable of discipline. Maybe this example is a bit too close to home, but I think it illustrates an important point that living from our feelings is not a stable way of life simply because our feelings are not stable or consistent. A life lived from feelings is at best inconsistent, with some good days and bad days, but overall we cannot live in freedom, and are slaves to our appetites and passions.
In closing, let’s consider the old man King Frederick encountered. That man did not live from his feelings, in fact, he reigned over his feelings, his appetites and passions. This man lived his life from knowing his identity, “I am a king,” and acted accordingly, and from his actions directed how he felt. Consider how we might feel on the day when we’re up with the dawn, productive, caring, and focused versus the day we don’t get out of bed with our alarm and are running late. I know in my case I want to live from my identity, from a center of motivation. I know that I want to be the best husband to my wife and the best version of myself. Instead of living from our feelings I believe that the fulfilled life and the best life is lived when we begin with our identity, act upon who we are, and direct the path of our feelings. With that as our goal, I know we can to continue to grow into men and women who can honestly say, “I am a king (or queen), I reign over myself!” All the best!