First off, I’ve got a guest post over at Uni-verse-city with Nicole Basaraba today about how paranormal fiction is like garlic. I’m a foodie. Go with it.
I’ve been kind of obsessed with the idea of self-discipline this week–as relates to me, as it relates to other people. More specifically, why do I seem to have it in spades and most people…don’t?
People often hear about my normal routine and call me super woman. I’m totally that person who did more by lunch than most people do in a week. Which means that the vast majority of people are either intimidated by me or simply consider me a whole other species. Every now and then, I wonder if they’re right. Because I am…apparently not like other folks.
There are lots of contributing factors. My strong work ethic. My type A personality. My competitive streak. The fact that I’m an only child. That I was an intensive loner growing up and don’t play well with others? That I was always group leader and the only one who gave a damn, so I worked harder, faster, longer, and generally better than everyone else because I wanted an A, damn it? That there’s just flat no one TO do all the stuff that I do? That I can’t ask for help (seriously, it’s a thing)? The fact that I’ve been very effectively conditioned to avoid procrastination like the plague (thank you, Mom)?
I am pondering all of this not to make any body feel bad or like less but because I need to be able to understand other people and where they are coming from. I need to be able to be empathetic instead of scratching my head when they say “I need to do x,” and wondering why they don’t just do it. Because that’s how I operate. I don’t necessarily like stuff, but I do it because it needs to be done. Usually because doing it involves a better outcome than not.
- Getting my butt up early and working out means I’m not 300 pounds and can eat more of what I want.
- Cleaning the house means my inner neat freak is assuaged.
- Cutting out social activities and buckling down to write during every spare moment of free time means I’m that many words closer to getting out of the job I hate with increasing ferocity every day and writing for a living.
- Eating healthy means I generally feel better (and am not 300 pounds).
I think part of it is the ability to delay gratification. Part of self discipline is being self aware enough to recognize the disparity between what you think and what you feel and going with what you think, which has a delayed or long term benefit over the immediate benefit of what you feel. So, I get up and exercise at 5:45 even though I feel like I could sleep for a week (this is a daily struggle) because I know if I don’t do it then, it won’t get done, and not doing it isn’t an option I allow myself. I’m super self-disciplined in almost every area of my life except eating out (see there, I do have an Achilles heel). I almost never make the healthy choice when I eat out. I manage it at home all the time because I simply don’t bring junk into the house. But faced with a big ass salad or a cheeseburger, of course I want the cheeseburger.
I think of self-discipline as taking responsibility for yourself. Being a participant in your own life. Recognizing that nobody can fix x, y, z for you except you and then doing whatever you need to do in order to rectify that problem. Whether that’s health, weight, diet, exercise, emotional state, butt-in-chair-hands-on-keyboard, doing your classwork correctly and on time (half my students don’t understand THIS concept), whatever. The world, your friends, your family can all be supportive, but ultimately it comes down to YOU and YOUR internal motivation to make a change or do what needs to be done.
And I guess that’s what it comes down to. If you are someone who DOESN’T have internal motivation for something…how do you get it?
This question is kind of my Holy Grail right now. How do you help someone with no motivation acquire some? Being a good example? Providing education? These don’t work. There’s scads of research that show that information alone is not sufficient to motivate a change in behavior. So I don’t get it. And I don’t understand the apathy with which some people face life. In the words of Aida, princess of Nubia (palace slave to Radames), “If you don’t like your fate, change it. You are your own master, there are no shackles on you.” Except those of your own making.