Seneca was a wealthy man who wrote about the meaninglessness of wealth and the importance of a simple life. Seneca was also careless with his money even while knowing that his wealth held him back. So he started a practice of ‘self-punishment’ to help him remember the blessing of his wealth. He would put a certain number of days each month on his calendar during which he would,”…be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress… [and] endure all this for three or four days at a time.”
Seneca felt that living this way would remind him of the good in his life and allow him to respect the blessing of his wealth.
What about you? Do you want to skip showers or sleep on the garage floor for a few days every month? Yeah, neither do I. So let’s do something to ‘punish ourselves’ if we act on our bad habits.
I want you to get an actual jar and label it as the “Bad Habits Jar”. Then figure out a dollar amount that is painful but won’t break your bank. Every time you do the habit you are trying to break, you’ll put that dollar amount in the jar. Is it a dollar? $5, $10, $20? You decide. But make it painful. This means that you’ve also got to start carrying money with you and replenish it at the bank when you’re running low so you can keep feeding the “Bad Habits Jar”.
But there’s good news. Once you are free of that particular bad habit for three months, you get the money back. But if you don’t break the habit, every six months you have to donate the proceeds of the jar to any charity of your choice.
Seneca talks about how we all try to protect our money, but ironically, we won’t show the same level of protection to our lives and our precious time. Seneca says, “No person hands out their money to passersby, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.”
As usual, Seneca was right on the money! Think about it - we value our money more than our time, when the opposite should be true. Or, at least, we should value them equally (although I think time is far more important - what old man on his death bed wouldn’t trade everything that he owns to be young again?).
Putting this into action will take some willpower. But you can do it! And if you’re still not convinced, just trust us and do it anyway. Why? Because it works!
Self-inflicted punishment, when done in the right way for the right reasons, is the best form of punishment there is!
NEW TASK: Set up a “Bad Habits Jar” and start funding it when you perform the habit you are trying to break.
NEW HABIT: Involve other people in your journey of quitting bad habits. The more that are involved the more fun it can be!