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Lesson 6: The Disciplined Student

The most successful students, the Laureates, exert strict discipline on a daily basis. Making the right decisions day in, day out can make or break your chances of becoming a Laureate.

Talent without Discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There's plenty of movement, but you never know if it's going to be forward, backwards, or sideways — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Discipline will bring you the structure and stability you need in your studies. It will enable you to maintain the consistency you need to achieve your full marks target. Without discipline, there is no way you will remain consistent in your studies, and so there is no way you’ll become the Laureate you were meant to be.

Discipline is the Bridge between your Dream of becoming a Laureate and the Reality of you achieving it.

It’s up to you to decide whether you want to stay on that bridge of discipline or fall from it.

It’s not easy to become a disciplined person. Once you become one, it’s even harder to maintain that discipline for an extended period of time. This is because we are all prey to the phenomenon known as instant gratification. This is the temptation to forego a long-term benefit to obtain a less rewarding but more enjoyable short-term benefit or pleasure. This hinders our ability to have a long-term view of our goals.

Two common examples of instant gratification are:

  • Hitting the snooze button and be late for school instead of getting up early and be on time.

  • Going out with friends to “hang out” instead of finishing your homework.

The reason we find it so hard to resist the urge of instant gratification is because of how dopamine works. Basically, dopamine is a chemical in your brain that creates a feeling of pleasure when released. When you play video games, scroll through social media, have fun with friends, and eat a tasty meal, dopamine is released in large amounts. The same thing happens when you “feel good” after exercising or after performing well during an exam. Our brains prefer high dopamine activities to low dopamine ones, such as revising and practising exam questions. Studying is not exactly a thrilling activity when compared to watching a movie, browsing social media or having fun with friends. So, our brains prefer instant gratification activities because they typically release larger amounts of dopamine, thereby making us “feel good” in the moment. Discipline is the ability to show self-restraint when we are faced with the urge to choose an instant gratification activity over our studies, in whatever form this might be.

Studying without discipline is like sailing a ship without holding the rudder. You won’t reach your destination as you’ll be going where the tide takes you.

What happens if you don't steer your ship? Well, you'll sail straight into a storm, and there won't be anything you can do about it.

Disciplined Students:

  • Wake up on time.

  • Go to sleep on time.

  • Arrive at school on time.

  • Eat on time.

  • Attend all their classes.

  • Do all their homework.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Limit their time on Social Media.

  • Limit their time “hanging out” with friends.

  • Limit the time they spend on their phones.

So, how can you become more disciplined? Here are four things you can do to develop a more disciplined mindset.

1. Make Dopamine your friend.

Perform low dopamine activities first, then reward yourself with high dopamine instant gratification activities afterwards. For example, do your homework first and once you are done, reward yourself by playing a video game, if that’s your thing. This will motivate you to get through your homework because you know that a reward of your choosing will await you after you complete it.

2. Manage your time carefully

Make a study plan and stick to it. Divide your work into smaller parts and set a specific timeframe in which you need to complete each piece. This will make your workload more manageable. Since you are focusing on fewer things at the same time, this will make it easier to sustain your focus and discipline over a longer period. Moreover, once you complete a chunk of work, you’ll immediately feel a small sense of accomplishment. Hence you’ll experience a small dopamine release. This will help keep you motivated at all times while you are working.

3. Use the internet only when you must.

When you are studying, the ideal thing to do would be to not have access to the internet. Most distractions are probably going to come from the internet, and you know it. You’ll want to check that notification on your phone. You’ll want to check your social media feed or maybe watch that latest video your favourite YouTuber just posted. The list goes on and on.

However, sometimes, you do need the internet to study. For example, you might be reading a textbook online or watching a video on YouTube to learn a new topic. So, when studying, my advice is to use the internet only when you NEED to. Once you have done what you need to do on the net, turn it off and go back to your books and notes.

4. Replace your bad habits with good ones.

We all have bad habits. Unfortunately, bad habits stand between you and your dream of becoming a Laureate. Bad habits and discipline do not go hand in hand. They are enemies that are always fighting and it’s up to you to decide who will win this internal war. Do you want to let your bad habits kill your discipline? Or do you want to use your discipline to conquer your bad habits?

Regarding bad habits and discipline,

Neither can live while the other survives.

To eliminate your bad habits, you first need to identify them. Then, write them all down on paper. Next, for each bad habit, write down the temptations that make you indulge in that particular bad habit. For example, you might have a bad habit of wasting hours on social media. This might start with the temptation of checking your phone. When you “innocently” check your phone, you may “innocently” tell yourself that you are just going to “check” your Facebook or Instagram feed. Then, before you know it, you’ve already wasted half an hour just “checking” social media. Therefore, once you identify the temptations (in this case, it’s checking your phone), you just need to remove them. In our example, just keep your phone away from you. This will prevent you from having the urge to “check” it.

After you’ve identified and eliminated the temptations, for each bad habit, write down a good habit that you can replace it with. For instance, you might replace “wasting time on social media” by “do some exercise”. Unfortunately, it’s hard to eliminate bad habits. It’s even harder to adopt good ones. So, I’d recommend you replace each of your bad habits one at a time instead of tackling them all in one go. Sort your list of bad habits in descending order of severity, with the worst one being at the top. Then, tackle the top one first and gradually work your way down the list.

It is only through discipline that you will be able to stay consistent throughout your studies. Most students fail to understand what discipline means, let alone how to develop and maintain it. However, you are not “most students” anymore. You now understand the fundamental importance of discipline in your quest to unlock the Laureate inside you. So, go ahead and start developing some discipline!

To sum this lesson up, the Key Takeaway is:

Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most – Abraham Lincoln.

Do you have any questions or comments? Post them below!

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