How do we get self-discipline?

When you look at my Japanese, you could say that it requires a lot of self-discipline to avoid English or to do my reps everyday. In college I take several very difficult classes that require a lot of hard work, it could be said that it takes self-discipline to do the homework and study on my own time everyday.

I personally don't like to believe that self-discipline is a skill that you train. From what I've read of people who actively try to improve their self-discipline, they make it seem like it's is a skill in beating yourself up. Why would you want to train yourself in self-mutilation?

The most common path to building self-discipline seems to be pain. No pain no gain. But that's not what I believe. In my experience I've built up my self-discipline through a different way entirely. The way I've done this is based on two things: goals and positivity.

Let me tell you about my classmate who sits near me in biology. She's an average girl who finished high school, went to college, got a job. She thinks she might to go cosmetic school and get a license soon with the vague idea of starting a cosmetics business. She's taking biology because it's a required class, but decided to take the higher level biology because she might decide to be a nurse someday. She thinks the class is hard and honestly doesn't give a crap why hydrogen bonds in water allow certain bugs to walk on water, but it's a required course. She's doing terribly.

When people float through life aimlessly without any real tangible goals, they stagnate. Why should they go the extra mile when it won't pay off? Making tangible goals lays the groundwork for self-discipline. It's your reason for taking the extra time to study. It's the life of everything you do.

Throwing yourself to something higher, something better than what you have is what gives your life meaning. It's in this meaning that you gain the motivation and will to carry out your goals.

The first thing you must do is define a long term goal and the short steps needed to propel you in that direction. For me, this is going to a college in Japan. It's a tangible goal where going to this biology class is a step, even if it's a small step. Every time I go to the class or pick up the textbook I think about how it's getting me slowly closer to Japan.

For this girl, it could be her cosmetics. If she really wanted to create a business around cosmetics, she would have to seriously define specifically what she wanted to do. Spend everyday learning and using cosmetics. Learn the chemistry behind it, and study the business aspects of it. She would probably have to find a different school to attend. And all of this would lead down to the first step she would have to take. Take these courses next semester, submit an application for cosmetic school, etc.

A while ago I had joined a study group for a different class. I met a guy through it and he asked me what I was using to take notes on my computer, so I explained what Anki was. The second time we met, he told me that he had tried Anki but didn't like it. That it wasn't "his thing". I asked why, to which he responded he didn't think it was worth the effort, he didn't care about the subject the class was teaching.

A few minutes later we both took a practice test. I scored 100%, he scored 80%.

Positivity plays a big role in self-discipline. It means instead of fighting what you have to do, you should learn to take part and find the enjoyment in what you do. Take pride in your work and find the best in your situation. I like to think that I have exceptionally good discipline in school largely because I can develop an interest in any subject. From the most boring math class to the sleeping pill of world history, I will see the positive in everything and be able to develop an interest in it.

If goal setting is the life in what you do, positivity is the blood that sustains.

In Japanese staying to the positive means developing interest. Instead of thinking of Japanese as a task to overcome as fast as possible, it means finding the positive and fun in the journey. Every English temptation you pull yourself away from means an awesome Japanese temptation to reward you.

Staying to the positive in doing my reps meant looking at it as a way to revisit what I've learned. By extension, this meant limiting what I put in to things I would want to revisit. It means that when I look at Anki, I think about how I get to review that really awesome kanji I learned the other day.

I imagine people who are successful with diets or vegetarianism are people who didn't train themselves to eat food they hated, but instead looked and found things they liked.

So in short
Goals without positivity leads to burnout and dwelling on the future instead of the present. Positivity without a goal ends with mediocrity and stagnation. Learn to apply both equally in your life and you will gain tremendous self-discipline.

Check out Attitude Is Everything for more on positivity. Here's some stuff on goals: How To Will Yourself To Success Goal Setting for Dummies.

4 件のコメント:

  1. Again, some damn good points all around. I've spoken more than once recently about my own self-discipline, but I've also been considering if this is really the correct term I'm looking for, at least in the context of daily routines and so forth. Is it really a self-discipline issue, or simply... well, me being lazy and/or bored of the material I'm studying? I'm leaning toward the latter.

    I've personally been known to enthusiastically get into projects in the past, only to ditch them a few weeks down the road - not exactly the most disciplined practice. As a result, I've really become sort of a jack of all trades/master of none, which has been a double-edged sword and a route I'd personally rather not follow any longer.

    Something changed when I decided (sort of out of the blue) one day that I was going to become fluent in Japanese. Every single day since September of 2008, I haven't missed one day of doing something, however insignificant, in Japanese, and it's my daily study of the language that I attribute to my sudden reinforcement (rebirth is more like it) of discipline. It's funny, because even now, I really can't tell you why I'm studying Japanese - it just felt like a good idea at the time. And now, here I am with goals for the future, and I ain't stoppin' anytime soon.

    The cool thing I've learned is that self-discipline builds upon itself like a snowball. My examples are a little dull and mundane, but finally getting a solid, daily workout schedule together and acting on it, daily meditation sessions and writing more frequently are all positive side effects of building my self-discipline through studying Japanese.

    My apologies if this comment goes beyond the scope of the post (or misses the point entirely), but hey, it's 4AM and I'm feeling kind of philosophical in my half asleep daze.

  2. "I imagine people who are successful with diets or vegetarianism are people who didn't train themselves to eat food they hated, but instead looked and found things they liked."

    That, or they just liked all of it anyhow. But you do have a point. I used to -hate- all vegetables and fruits except Apples and Bananas. In the last few years, I've been trying different things... Jams, drinks, etc. They typically give a little flavor of the real fruit/vegetable, but not the entire dose. By combining the things I like (apples) with things I don't (cranberries) in a store-bought drink, I acquire a taste for the things I didn't used to like. Of course, combining non-fruits (icecream) with them helps, too.

    As for the 'Anki is not worth it' guy, maybe it's not to him. He doesn't want to truly learn the material, he just wants to get his C or better and pass the course. Long-term memory is not an issue for him, so Anki probably really is too much work for what he wants. I think that is he used it for something he does want, he'd start using it for the other things also, though.

    As for my self-discipline, I've found that the key is to put icecream under the brocoli. When I'm studying in iKnow, I do the part I dislike (the core courses... They're too tough too quick) first and once I'm done that, I allow myself to do the fun ones (RPG vocab, etc). This gets me motivated for full hour of study with iKnow, when it used to be painful to put in 15 minutes to the point that I often just didn't study.

  3. I love this post! Recently, I set many goals in my life, all to try to accomplish one goal that is as much a dream as it is a path I want to follow.
    Sometimes, although I am working my hardest and I am striving to achieve my goal, I feel like I won't be able to make it and that I will fail.
    At those times, reading or writing things like what you have written here help me get motivated to keep going!
    I agree with you 100%. In fact, I think I'll link this post in my blog sometime :P

  4. Thank you very much for posting this.
    I've been slacking in school lately.
    You're right.

    I need to decide on what my goals are first.
    Then, breathe positivity within me.