- When, in the course of our lives, are we actively taught self-control, which we need to practice self-discipline?
- Those of us who don't learn self-control when we're young have the additional issue of remembering that self-discipline is something we want to practice because the whole self-control/self-discipline business is not a natural part of our lives.
Yeah, I Really Want To Remember To Do That
Part of being self-disciplined involves remembering that you're going to do it. How so? Think of any new behavior you want to engage in. Say I want to look over the entire buffet for healthier choices before I start filling my plate. Or I decide to exercise before I have breakfast. I also want to write 20 minutes on weekends and holidays when the family is here. In any of these cases, willpower failure can be due to a number of things, but I would like to add just plain forgetting what we'd planned to do to that list. We walk into a restaurant and truly just forget that we had a plan for dealing with the buffet because we'd never had a plan before, so it's not something we naturally do. We get up in the morning, eat breakfast, and go "oops" when we realize that we forgot the exercise plan.
Please, Gail, how about a writing-related example. Okay. Here's one. I didn't do my 20 minute writing sprint on Saturday. I could easily have done it in the morning, but I spent several hours cooking random things instead. In thinking about it afterward, I realized there was no reason in the world why I had to cook all those things. I could easily have squeezed 20 minutes of writing in, which would have kept me in the world of my WIP. I really just forgot that I had a plan. Maintaining self-discipline isn't something I'm accustomed to doing, at least, not with that particular task.
So Now We Have To Work On Improving Memory, Too?
Well, it certainly can't hurt anything, can it? So how are we going to do it?
- We can try creating habits, which are like self-discipline without any thinking. Muscle-memory for the memory. Presumably with a habit, we would simply do something we wanted to do. However, Kelly McGonigal, my personal self-discipline guru, isn't a fan of habit. She believes habits work best for small behaviors that don't require a lot of us, which explains why I'm now flossing my teeth regularly. It's not brain surgery. She talks about using things like automatic goal pursuit, implementations, and commitments instead of habit. But you have to remember the goal you're pursuing automatically, you have to remember the plan you're going to implement in certain situations, you have to remember your commitments.
- We can try meditating, because it appears to be a cure-all for what ails you. Now that we have ways to study the brain and the impact of various activities upon it, there is some science to back up its use. Again, my friend Kelly McGonigal says that meditating helps with self-control and attention because it develops the prefontal cortex, the portion of the brain that deals with impulse control. The effort to keep your mind from wandering actually develops the brain.
What Will Memory Do For Us?
My theory is that improving memory will lead to improved self-discipline will lead to improved time management. Because absolutely everything is tied in with time.