Self-discipline is overrated


Graphic by Sarah Morgan

Eliana Rosenthal

Throughout our lives, we have been told that self-discipline leads to a more efficient, balanced, and healthy lifestyle. Although self-discipline is important, it can be difficult to maintain, leading to agonizing patterns of procrastination. 

But I’ve learned that relying on sheer willpower doesn’t get me very far. Instead of trying to force myself to do unwanted work, I learned to recognize the deeper, sometimes unconscious motivation for why I want to get something done. Once I figure that out, I try to change my environment, which allows my mind and body to refocus on learning new habits. 

Or, I realize that the work I’m doing or activity I’m in is not going to help me, and I stop. By no means is quitting easy, but it can be necessary for personal growth. 

If you’re a procrastinator, hello. Welcome to the club. I bet you’re supposed to be paying attention in class right now. Or exercising. Or doing whatever task you don’t want to do. If you’re seriously one of those people who read The Beacon to reward yourself after you’ve completed your work, then please explain how, because I don’t know how to do that. 

In all seriousness, procrastination is a huge issue that many people deal with throughout their lives. It’s common to hear extreme procrastinators say they would have been more “accomplished” if they were able to discipline themselves get their work done. 

Well, I think self-discipline is overrated. 

Trying to accomplish a task out of pure willpower may not get you anywhere, especially if this is a route you’ve tried before. You know what Albert Einstein called doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? Insanity. 

Before trying to change your habits, learn to recognize why you’re procrastinating. School sucks sometimes, and it’s okay to fall down and feel unmotivated. Honestly, your procrastination may be a blessing in disguise, if it makes you realize that the path you’re taking doesn’t make you truly happy. What do you want? Listen to your inner child. Continuing down a path solely because you think it’s the “right” thing to do will not make you happy. Realizing this could take months, but it also could take 20 years. Hello, midlife crisis. You don’t want that. 

Why don’t you want to do your work? Are you a perfectionist? Do you fear failure? Is there some other passion you’d rather be pursuing? People who have serious procrastination issues often feel a strong correlation between the value of their work and their identity. If they do badly on an assignment, they feel bad about themselves, and procrastinating becomes a neurotic self-defense mechanism. This can lead to avoidance until deadlines are scarily near. 

In addition to figuring this out, change your environment. If your issue is homework, change the physical place where you work. For example, try spending a few hours twice a week at the Tenley library and to combat getting distracted while doing homework. It’s a quiet place that may help you concentrate. 

If you find yourself on Instagram or YouTube too much, delete your social media apps for a week and see what that does to your concentration levels. If this still doesn’t work and you feel like your self-control has been thrown down a rabbit hole, ask a friend or a parent to set a screen time password and block addictive websites and apps completely. While the absolute restriction might seem terrifying, you may find it to be relieving and freeing. 

We all have tasks we don’t want to do. At the end of the day, it’s important to do your work. I’m not saying self-discipline isn’t important, it just shouldn’t be your main form of motivation. And if you really want to change, seek help. Don’t try to change alone. I believe in you. Now I need you to believe in yourself. •