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NeantHumain
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13 Jan 2006, 6:23 pm

Self-discipline, or the lack thereof, has always been a problem for me. Many people get the idea that I have loads of it because I can pull off good grades in school with minimal effort. They don't see the laziness—just the prodouct—so they assume I am a good little worker bee. The funny thing is I actually have quite a bit of difficulty persisting with tasks that I find uninteresting and that require continuous sustained effort for a great length of time. This sort of activity was almost unheard of in high school; and I still rarely encounter it in college.

Alas, this lack of self-discipline means I haven't taken up and finished (key word finished) major projects of my own doing, leaving my résumé a little light. I have good (but not stellar) grades, but this is not enough when I'm searching for a good job. Does this lack of self-discipline mean I won't be able to complete tasks on the job? I doubt it. I seem to be better at persisting at tasks when there is an immediate or proximate goal. If the goal is too distant, the motivation just isn't the same. I suppose this means finding ways to make things more rewarding in the interim.

Another common aspect of self-discipline is staying with your principles and not being shaken. Fortunately, I have no problem with this. In most regards, I'm very flexible because most things really aren't that important in the long run. I have a standard of ethics that is quite liberal but, at the core, not something I'm going to bend. I'm a strong advocate of honesty tempered with kindness, generous sharing, the free exchange of ideas, equality, and the right to autonomy in thought and action. If an operator in a chat room demands I talk about something else because they are personally offended, I am not going to bend to their demand for censorship simply because they are easily offended. Many people are not completely secure in their principles and sometimes have great trouble doing what they believe is right at times. I cannot deny having been conflicted at times, but sometimes I have been confused when people commend me for doing something so honorable when I found it to be what I naturally should do.

Another aspect of lack of self-discipline is not being able to resist pleasurable experiences: eating good food, for example. In fact, it can almost become addictive. I have trouble resisting eating candy when I see it, for example. I also tend to binge-eat when I'm bored.

Another part of self-discipline I have is the ability to avoid being distracted by things happening around me. I do not find that noise and people talking nearby ruin my ability to concentrate.

Another key aspect of self-discipline is emotions. I do not try to suppress my emotions, but I also try not to let myself be controlled by them. I have noticed that it might even be more common than not for people here and in the chat room to be unable to take most things in stride. I mean they see something that might not portray Asperger's syndrome in a completely positive light and be shattered just by this. Or someone might disagree with their politics. Or someone might discuss something that might be a little unusual or even disgusting. These people aren't just mildly piqued; they are deeply offended. I used to be more like that too, but I needed to change my attitude for sanity's sake. I have found a more perceptive and less judgmental take on things to be much healthier. Most events are highly ambiguous; that is, they are not inherently anything. We take offense because we determine that it is offensive and that, furthermore, we ought to be offended. For some reason, I've found this way of handling emotions unhelpful. Imagine a stroke of bad luck. Now what good is it going to do if you spend the next hour fuming about it? You accomplish nothing and have put yourself into a stressful state of mind. If you view it as fixable with calm deliberation, you don't mind that it has taken a few minutes out your day when you probably weren't going to use that time better anyway. Basically, it's a matter of perspective and being able to realize what's really important in life and what's not.

Finally, the last area of self-discipline where I am left wanting is sticking to a plan. I have no problem crafting sound plans, but I don't always persist all the way through. This means I sometimes do something that ruins the effort I've already expended on something.

Anyway, many of these things are obviously major problems. The question is how does one improve on self-discipline? The very nature of the problem seems to make it a challenge. I have found trying to fix any of these individual problems fails because my overall lack of self-discipline means I inevitably fall back to the old ways. How is this problem overcome?



NeantHumain
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14 Jan 2006, 12:17 am

So no one has any suggestions for how to increase self-discipline? I very much doubt I'm the only one on the low side of the self-discipline spectrum.



hermit
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14 Jan 2006, 12:54 am

You know I read this about half an hour ago and thought some things. This time I will put them down.
You have a fascinating mind.
I have edited your post for brevity and responded.

NeantHumain wrote:
Self-discipline, or the lack thereof, has always been a problem for me. ...The funny thing is I actually have quite a bit of difficulty persisting with tasks that I find uninteresting and that require continuous sustained effort for a great length of time.

Yes... in school it was a problem. I, like you, was smart enough OR able enough to get by with good grades without doing much. In college, it was a little different. The first two years I was fairly lost and got poor grades. The second half was much better- I got mostly As and pulled my final GPA up to something respectable. I accomplished this by taking classes I was more interested in. Part of this was the schools' fault, for simple introductory classes were easy yet mandatory as a freshman and sophmore. I agree that it was a problem. I don't know if it's a question of self-discipline- for me anyway I get to blame such things on ADD and AS. It used to bother me a lot more- now I try to find ways to beat it.
Quote:
I seem to be better at persisting at tasks when there is an immediate or proximate goal. If the goal is too distant, the motivation just isn't the same. I suppose this means finding ways to make things more rewarding in the interim.

Agreed. I need a motivation to get something accomplished. I think of this as an issue with priority sorting. Only when completing the task is assigned a high priority does it get done... and like you said, immediate or proximate goals are easier to focus on. I can spend 2-3 days w/o sleeping while doing something I'm lost in. This usually only happens when a motivation (say, need to pay rent) combines with an interest (sudden job researching the giant mole rat). It's a double whammy. That'll really get me going on a project, the combination of those two things.

If I am interrupted while in such a state, it is very difficult to impossible to get back on track. I've had things put off for months this way.
Quote:
Another common aspect of self-discipline is staying with your principles and not being shaken.

Also agreed, with almost all of it... I however would bow to the will of the moderator in the chatroom- I am very avoidant of conflict and will generally do what they request. Note, this does NOT mean that I agree or change my mind about the issue at hand. I do consider myself 100% open minded when approached with reason, but am in general quietly stubborn. it is very easy to retain your beliefs when they are few in number.

1. Do not harm another if you can help it.
2. Do unto others as you would have them do to you
3. Be respectful of your environment. This includes your house, your town, and the land, water, and air we all live on.
4. Do not judge other for their actions; you do not know the why behind them
and
5. what goes around comes around- karma if you will.


Quote:
Another part of self-discipline I have is the ability to avoid being distracted by things happening around me. I do not find that noise and people talking nearby ruin my ability to concentrate.


Forget it. Too much auditory processing stuff. In this sense I am easily distracted. However I'm in focus mode, I'll still hear it but be able to retain the task at hand.

Quote:
Anyway, many of these things are obviously major problems. The question is how does one improve on self-discipline? The very nature of the problem seems to make it a challenge. I have found trying to fix any of these individual problems fails because my overall lack of self-discipline means I inevitably fall back to the old ways. How is this problem overcome?


Here is where I really wanted to respond. Perhaps taking a different point of view could help. I recently began this process, and hinted at it in the beginning of this response. I am coming to believe that these issues are NOT MY FAULT and as such, not problems with self discipline. Rather they are obstacles to overcome. Sounds cheesy right? Still, it works. By shifting the blame from a lack of willpower to a slight neurological difficulty much guilt is relieved. It's a small difference- both reasons are based in your head- but one is mental (lack of willpower) and the other physical (born that way).

It's helped like this: instead of stubbornly trying the same things over and over and failing, I am beginning to actively look for things that fit my style better. See where this is going? It's not my fault so I'm not going to beat myself with it. I don't think I'll be easy to change, and there really are only a few items that would make that list in the first place. Life's a lot better when it's Somebody Else's Problem.



vetivert
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14 Jan 2006, 5:55 am

i have an astonishing amount of self discipline... when i'm motivated. one way to "train yourself up" (and it can be done by training - i do it with kids all the time) is to set yourself some targets (and make sure they're "SMART" - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-limited) and then give yourself a reward of some kind when you achieve that target.

i can expound further on this, if you're interested. and i'm not suggesting this is the only way, but i know it works for lots of people, and probably won't for others.



pyraxis
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14 Jan 2006, 9:36 am

Put yourself into a situation where self-discipline is neccesary for survival.



larsenjw92286
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14 Jan 2006, 9:45 am

If you really think you can stop doing the things you like to do to get happier, then by all means, do them. You are making yourself feel a lot better if you sit and think about troubling situations and how you can improve them.


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grayson
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15 Jan 2006, 4:20 am

NeantHumain wrote:
Self-discipline, or the lack thereof, has always been a problem for me. [...snip...] The funny thing is I actually have quite a bit of difficulty persisting with tasks that I find uninteresting and that require continuous sustained effort for a great length of time.

Ditto here.

NeantHumain wrote:
Alas, this lack of self-discipline means I haven't taken up and finished (key word finished) major projects of my own doing

Total ability to relate to this, too, alas.

NeantHumain wrote:
I'm a strong advocate of honesty tempered with kindness, generous sharing, the free exchange of ideas, equality, and the right to autonomy in thought and action. [....snip....] sometimes I have been confused when people commend me for doing something so honorable when I found it to be what I naturally should do.

Dare I say "Ditto" once again here? :) If I had a life motto, it would be "embrace diversity."

NeantHumain wrote:
Another aspect of lack of self-discipline is not being able to resist pleasurable experiences: eating good food, for example. In fact, it can almost become addictive. I have trouble resisting eating candy when I see it, for example. I also tend to binge-eat when I'm bored.

I've often said that I understand how e.g. alcholol addiction works, because I'm a chocolate addict. And I do mean that seriously. I am terrible at sticking to plans to cut back on eating chocolate. My only hope is to maintain enough self-discipline when buying groceries NOT to buy any chocolate. If it's not here, I won't eat it. If it is here, I will.

NeantHumain wrote:
Another part of self-discipline I have is the ability to avoid being distracted by things happening around me. I do not find that noise and people talking nearby ruin my ability to concentrate.

I am the opposite here. Noise and even the mere presence of another person (who might ask me a question at any moment) keep me from being able to concentrate.

NeantHumain wrote:
Finally, the last area of self-discipline where I am left wanting is sticking to a plan. I have no problem crafting sound plans, but I don't always persist all the way through.

Same here. I am a master at creating beautiful plans with dates and times and fully detailed structure on how to conduct a project. And then filing it away.

NeantHumain wrote:
The question is how does one improve on self-discipline?

Excellent question. I've noticed that attaching external promises to something I want (or need) to get done helps me stick with it. I am always on time with work assignments, for example. It's mainly my personal projects that fall by the wayside. So finding some way to attach a meaningful (=having consequences I don't want if not met) promise to someone else to a project seems like it would help.

Also, accepting how I am probably helps, as with the chocolate addiction. Knowing that I'll eat it if it's around, however much I think I won't, allows me to shift my self-discipline to another point in the process, where it has a better chance of succeeding.


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15 Jan 2006, 9:54 am

vetivert wrote:
one way to "train yourself up" (and it can be done by training - i do it with kids all the time) is to set yourself some targets (and make sure they're "SMART" - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-limited) and then give yourself a reward of some kind when you achieve that target.


Neant, this is a bit of what I was talking about last night: behavioral modification. All based on a reward system. :)


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