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Self Discipline

  1. Oct 5, 2011 #1
    Hey guys, I'm usually not this candid but I need some help. I am looking for suggestions on things to do to improve my self discipline.

    I've never really had strong self discipline, I have always had trouble with procrastination and slacking off when effort should be put in. I have a weak will; even if I recognize what I should be doing (I usually do) I almost never am able to do it. When I do what I am supposed to be doing it is a great struggle to keep myself focused on the task and to keep from slacking off and procrastinating. These tendencies have gotten me into lots of trouble with school work in the past and its starting to happen again.

    I get really stressed out from what I do to myself, from how I slack off when effort and time need to be put in to succeed. I recognize what I'm doing and I stress out over it but I never do anything about it.

    I've dealt with this for as long as I can remember, I've always had trouble with procrastination and getting stuff done and I've always managed somehow in the past but it's coming to the point where I can't or won't manage anymore with this lifestyle.
    I've talked a little bit about this with a friend, he suggested that I might have a deep seated fear of failure where if I don't really put effort into anything I can't truly fail, I'm not sure if this has any merit or not but it's one idea.

    Anyways, I come to you for help, opinions, suggestions? What can I do?

    Also: forgive me if this seems broken and jumbled together, it's 1:30 am and I'm slightly upset about this.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 5, 2011 #2


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    Hey KrisOhn.

    I'm not really sure about the idea of "self-discipline". To me, I interpret discipline as the ability to exercise a high level of self-control and not allow yourself to have an highly impulsive behavioral characteristic.

    I guess the question that comes to me is two-fold: 1) What are you doing and 2) Why are you really doing it?. In my prior experience, this is a very good way to examine motivation and personal behavior as well as responses to challenges.

    I remember when I started programming at 12. In my mind I had no idea about billionaire startups, or six figure salaries, or anything like that. All I saw was a lot of BASIC code and the fact that you could tell the computer to do pretty much anything, and that idea kept me learning about that kind of thing for about a decade, even to a point where it nearly become unhealthy (I spent too much time!).

    Then when I started my math degree I heard about the actuary pathway and then saw the money they make and I thought based on money, and job security that I would become an actuary. I am still majoring in statistics and also in pure/applied, but the idea of becoming an actuary faded away after about a month. The fact was that I found insurance, accounting, and other business stuff really mundane and boring. Having said that though, I do have a respect for actuaries and what they do.

    So from this I have outlined two experiences, one which went pretty well in hindsight, and one which didn't. My motivation for both of those experiences was in complete contrast to the other, and the motivation as a result was also in complete contrast to boot.

    If you are worried about failure, the best way to get past this is to fail. It sounds like some kind of paradox, but what happens is that once you screw up big a few times, as long as you have the right mindset, it won't be a big deal the next time.

    Now I need to throw in a caution statement: there is a differences between not "caring" about screwing up and "caring" about screwing up. In the first instance, you take no action to learn and grow from your mistakes, and in the second situation it's the opposite.

    Other things that happens is that a) It humbles you, and allows you to be comfortable with yourself which may help with procrastination and b) It can actually motivate you more to do more since you really don't care about failing since you find its a very natural phenomenon to success.

    Also the reason I don't really talk about discipline in my response is that, what I have seen happen is you get some students who have been pressured most of their lives to do something by for example, their parents, and then when they have relative freedom in comparison to before, they end up in a situation where they literally do what they want and sometimes getting bad marks or even failing at their course. It is a new experience for them to not have that external pressure, and they might even find that they never actually go back to completing the course that they were in.

    I want to end my response with this: You are human. We are not machines. We make mistakes, we slack off, we have mid-life crisis and breakdowns, and sometimes we repeat our mistakes. The most important thing in my mind that a human being has, is the right attitude, and outlook in life. We can always fail, but our attitude can change that situation. Also when you deal with other people, a lot of them will not place all the emphasis on what you know, and everything you have done: if you don't want to better yourself and other people, it will show.

    Good luck for the future KrisOhn.
  4. Oct 5, 2011 #3
    I used to tell my students that if they wanted to feel OK in the FUTURE they have got to pay the price NOW. The price is that they got to do the work. Even if they do not like it. But then there is something else. When one settles down to do some work and tries to do it properly, that sort of repulsion for work starts to fade away.
    Perhaps this may work with you also.
  5. Oct 5, 2011 #4


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    I found some "tricks" that helped me when I was in college.

    A big one: routine. I do best when I stick to a routine. Do *not* wait to do something until you "feel like it". Set a schedule and stick to it.

    To study, I went to the same area in the same room at the library. Eventually my brain got trained so that as soon as I sat down and got my books out, I could focus quickly and stay focused a long time.

    Exercise regularly. This is so important! It keeps me from fidgeting - I can't focus if I can't relax.

    Don't short yourself on sleep. You've heard about people who are crazy successful and only sleep 3 hours a night? I'm 99.99% sure you aren't one of them. Sleep on a schedule - the same schedule every day.
  6. Oct 5, 2011 #5
    Definitely this! Once you have a routine, it becomes almost second nature.
  7. Oct 6, 2011 #6
    Thank you all very much for your replies, it makes me feel happy that people are willing to help.

    Chiro, thank you for the response. I've thought much in the past about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. I'm currently doing my bachelors degree in mathematical physics and I do love the subject material. I love what I learn. In the past 3 years I have created 2 little mathematical ideas, both times I was fascinated with the ideas and both times I worked on them incessantly for up to 10 hours at a time because of this fascination. Both turned out to be either useless or a very complicated restatement of something already known but I worked very hard on them until it was finished. I wish this was the way it was with my school work. I love what I am learning but it seems like I want all the knowledge with no effort and maybe this is just a problem that can be solved by putting effort in and just slogging through it but I want to see if there are any other ways.

    I have failed from these tendencies in the past. This failure was in the form of one of my first year calculus courses, it set me back a semester. I now care about failure even more than I did back then because I don't want to experience that feeling or embarrassment again.

    I just wanted to say that the ending of the post was very inspirational and thank you for your wishes.

    I have experienced this, when I do start to work the repulsion of that work starts to fade. It's like friction... it's always harder to start something sliding than to keep it sliding. It's harder to start to work than it is to keep working. My problem is starting to work, I always push the idea very far out of my mind and distract myself with something else. Thanks grzz.

    Thanks, lisab. I have, as of late, been trying to start a routine for myself, it is difficult as I am playing catchup with some work now but after the weekend I should be able to apply myself to a routine pretty steadily. Hopefully this routine will be one of work and not procrastination.

    I also exercise regularly, I go rock climbing about 4 times a week and I go biking about 3 times a week. Both of these activities, especially biking, helps me relax and clear my mind. I've toyed with the idea of trying meditation in the past for the same purpose, anyone try this?

    I am definitely not someone who can function on 3 hours of sleep a night. I optimally get 9 hours of sleep, any less than 8 and I'm already starting to cut into my ability to function. Lately I've been getting about 6 and taking naps whenever possible, but tonight should be a nice and solid 8.5 and hopefully I can get back into a 9 hour sleep cycle again.
  8. Oct 6, 2011 #7
    Hi, Kris - I thought I had responded to this. Perhaps not.

    Always welcome! :)

    Make two lists, one on the left side, with the title "Good," and the other titled "Bad."

    As you go through life, if you're honest with yourself, you'll find the number of things to do under the Good column wind up being few, while the things to do under the Bad column wind up being many.

    Society has divided us into the have and the have nots. Life, however, divides us into the will and will nots.

    One's parents can be an incredible source of achievement! They can also be a ball and chain. It's up to you to decide which is which. My parents were a mix, but I embrace the first and decry the latter, including a phone conversation I had yesterday.

    The point is: You might be partially the product of your parents, but you are not solely the product of your parents. Take what's best, forget the rest, and get on with life.

    Live. Take a deep breath. Take a long step. Find your own way.

    If you need guidance along the way, we'll be here.
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