Thursday, 12 August 2010

How to achieve (iron) discipline when it comes to studying: tip 1.

Dear reader,

As a lot of people have asked me how I became as disciplined as I am today when it comes to studying, and how they could become as disciplined themselves, I have decided to post some tips in my blog. I was actually planning on giving a couple of quick tips… but seeing that there are so many situations and so many methods to be explained, I have decided to dedicate several blogposts to the subject. It will be somewhat like a series of posts. I will add a new post every day. Please note that I do not follow a study in psychiatry or psychology and that I have merely drawn on my own experiences with studying, as well as of those people around me, for the ideas and tips that I will be posting.

Over the years some people have pointed out that I have what they call ‘iron discipline’.
When it comes to studying I am hardworking and no matter how much I dislike to do something, I still do it as it has to be done. And no, with doing it I do not mean doing it half heartedly or rushing through it; no I spend just as much time and thought on it as on the other things that I do like. However, this does not mean that it is always easy for me to do so. It hardly ever is. I am not super human and probably hate it as much everyone else. How many times I have for example cursed the book ‘The life and opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman’ I do not remember, but I really wanted to ritually burn it after finishing it. So in this respect I am no different from anyone, and can therefore perfectly understand why others do not do it. Now remains the question: how on earth do we get ourselves to do the things we dislike? Time for tip number 1 ;).

(Please note that the first section is for those of you who are leaving high school and those who are searching to find a new studies. The second and third section is for people who have already chosen their studies or goal).

Tip 1: Determening the goal that you wish to achieve and writing it down.

Section 1: For people finishing high school or taking up another study.
When you leave high school/ secondary school without a clear idea of which career you want to pursue or which study you wish to take up, you might want to consider to take a year off from school and work. If you are not yet that disciplined it will be very hard to study subjects in which you will find you actually have no interest. At the same time you will probably not have a real goal that you want to achieve with this study. As such you easily lose your motivation and you will not last until the second semester. A couple of friends of mine went through this, so I know how that goes. Instead you can use this year, which might otherwise be lost, to think about something you would really like to do. Orientate yourself on the career and study that you wish to take up, so you can start off well prepared when the new school year comes.
This suggestion/approach may sound a bit extreme and many parents will not agree with this choice for their children, as there is always a chance that they do not return to school after they have started working. This does happen. However, the other side of the medal is that their child drops out of school half way through the year, that it becomes very much demotivated and might even develop either an inferiority complex or failure anxiety. Some children often feel that their parents want them to study: that they are not studying for themselves and their future, but to please their parents. When they fail the study which they have taken up, even though it was partly because they did not like it, some will feel that they have disappointed their parents. As such they will be desperate not to fail them again… And if they were to take up another study half heartedly (mostly being forced by the concerned parent who is afraid that the child will not return to school again otherwise), this sense of failure will increase: causing them to actually fail their subject, because they feel that they are not cable of doing it, that they are not smart enough, where as in fact most of the time they are!
Of course this always depends on the type of person you are dealing with. Some children, or by then, students, absolutely have no problem with dropping out and the next year taking up a study that they do like. However, most of the time these children are self-confident, disciplined and know what they want out of life. If you have a child that is insecure (though whatever circumstances) you might want to be careful with adding extra pressure.
(I added the analyses primarily as material for parents to think about, but also to provide the children/students with arguments).

Section 2: After having chosen your studies (even if you have done so for a while).
If you have found your goal (with or without working for a year) you do not want to lose sight of it. If you are easily demotivated when it comes to studying, it might be an idea to write your goal down. You can just do this in a word document (use huge letters for this) and if you wish you can print it and put it up above your bed, use it as a computer background (if you are not good with graphic programs, I more than happy to make a nice one for you), or use it as your screensaver. If you are really distracted easily use all of these three tips.

Section 3: Write your motivation down.
You will have several reasons to choose the goal you wish to achieve. Now open word and write down why exactly you wish to achieve this. You do not have to show this to anyone, so you can write down about anything that comes to mind, even if it sounds a bit silly when you actually have to write it down. If you are desperate to hide it from others, use password protection. If you are less shy about it, you can for example post it in your blog to share it with others (or post it in a reaction to this blogpost, if you want to). This will enable you to share your ideas with others. These people will tell you want they think about your goal, you can freely discuss it with them (tell them about the pros and cons and how you came by this choice) and they might be able to support you when it comes to the next few steps.

Well was tip number 1. I hope that you have found it somewhat useful. The next tip (which will be on how one should continue from here on) will be posted tomorrow ;).