A Little Clarity
Last night I decided to stay at school late to take part in the Gay-Straight Alliance’s Thanksgiving dinner. I invited Denis to come along, which he did, and we both enjoyed it immensely.
That said, it left me with some interesting thoughts.
I tend to perceive myself as an undisciplined person, and in many ways I am.
Nonetheless, some other people perceive me as ridiculously over-disciplined.
The difference, as usual, lies in our motivations.
I’m pretty up-front with my friends, both at school and elsewhere, about the fact that I basically don’t have much of a social life. What I tend to leave out, because it seems obvious to me, is that I don’t have much of a social life because “social life” is way, way down on my list of priorities — that is, motivating factors — right now.
Meanwhile, I do make very good grades — and I make very good grades because “good grades” are way, way up near the top of my list of priorities, and also because my life allows me to prioritize “good grades.”
I don’t presently have to maintain a job (though maintaining the house is supposed to be my job — we’ll cover that later). This allows me a little more wiggle room in my life than I would otherwise have. If I had to work, I would have no social life at all right now, because good grades wouldn’t move any further down my list of priorities, but “doing a good job at work” would rank pretty high. That would mean no time left — or, at any rate, very little time left — for socializing. If it came down to it, even group rides and racing would have to take a back seat.
I am motivated to get good grades for a number of reasons.
First, there’s a part of me that’s still reacting to my deplorable performance during my first, like, ten years of formal schooling: still saying, “See, I can do this!”
Next, there’s the understanding that Denis is essentially footing the bill for my education, and that I owe it to him to make the most of that opportunity. It would be profoundly disrespectful to screw up and do poorly at school, or even to just scrape by. That would be like throwing the gift he has given me back in his face.
Then, there’s the understanding that if I want to do anything in the working world with my particular degree, I will need to go on to graduate school or medical school, both of which require good grades (in the case of grad school, to try to land a fellowship; in the case of med school, to get in at all).
Even if I don’t do that, though, I will get as much out of school as I put into it. You reap, as it were, what you sow.
A Little Difficulty
Lately, though, I haven’t been reaping and sowing success at home. I have totally dropped the ball in terms of taking care of the house and the finances this semester.
I guess if money were tighter, I wouldn’t let the book-keeping get as far behind as I do. The possibility of running out of money and losing the house can be a powerful motivator! But since we are doing better, if not as well as we could be (we have still been eating out too much for the past several weeks, which is largely my fault), I don’t worry about it, so I tend to let things slide, thinking I can catch up later.
The funny part is that I never do that with school or the bike. Where school and cycling are concerned, I know I can’t catch up later. Exams and races are going to take place on their schedule dates whether I’m ready or not — so it’s up to me to be ready. If I’m not ready, I have no one but myself to blame. You may recall how well this “not ready” thing worked out for me during last year’s Gravel Grovel…
Gravel Grovel 2012: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. I’m guessing the dude giving my rear wheel the “What’s up with that?” look could probably have told me as much.
Somehow, I don’t feel the same way about the house. When I’m using a lot of motivation and time elsewhere (time has been a huge, huge problem this semester!), I tend to feel like I can catch up on the house (and the finances) later — and then I promptly lose track of how long I’ve been saying that, and things get really, really behind. That’s a big problem.
A Little Experiment
I’m not sure, yet how exactly to solve this problem, at least not for this semester. Fortunately, after Thanksgiving break (I have only one class on Monday!), the semester will be over in two weeks. Then I have a month off to really get the house in shape and make better plans.
For future semesters, I can make better scheduling choices — like not choosing a 9:30 AM M/W/F class, and trying to avoid a 5-day-a-week schedule for the rest of my career as an undergrad. The commute runs 2.5 – 4 hours a day: 2.5 if I ride the whole way, 4 counting the longer total trip time and the .5 hour early I arrive at school and the .5 hour late I leave school if I take the bus. In short, that’s 12.5 – 20 hours a week, just going back and forth, only some of which can be used for homework and none of which can be used for home management.
More importantly, though, I can work on changing how I see my duties to the household.
It’s easy for me to fall back on excuses — I didn’t really learn how to manage my time or a household growing up, etc. The thing is, at some point, it becomes necessary to grow past those excuses. At some point, I have to be willing to say, “Okay, so I didn’t learn that then, so I can learn it now instead.”
So I guess I’m going to design some kind of little experiment, to be performed on myself, into the question of motivation and learning. The topics I’ll be exploring: How can I motivate myself to stay on top of my responsibilities around the house? How can I learn to manage my time better? How can I avoid making some of the mistakes I’ve made already over and over again?
Hypothesis one is that I can motivate myself to stay on top of my responsibilities around the house by changing how I think about them and about myself. I don’t think that hypothesis is specific enough, though — I’ll need to operationalize those definitions to make it happen
Hypothesis two is that I can, in fact, learn to live by a routine (other than my current routine, which is the “crawl out of bed with fifteen minutes to spare, throw clothes on, dash out the door, do school, come home, do homework and vegetate, die, repeat” routine). That will require some operationalizing, too.
Hypothesis three is … heck, I have absolutely no idea. Difficulty learning from mistakes is a hallmark of my nature — probably for the same reason that I had to read about social rules explicitly to learn them. I don’t “pick up” on things; I will only learn from my mistakes if it’s clear to me which of the millions of actions I took in the process of making them led to such undesired outcomes.
I guess that means hypothesis three is that I can learn from mistakes if I can identify what I did wrong in the first place.
Well, I’m glad we had this little talk.
Speaking of which, the consensus within the informal RCCS away team for Gravel Grovel appears to be that we’re going to do the Fun Ride this year instead of the race. The route has been updated considerably with a lot more off-road stuff, and I’m not sure I’m up for that yet. Timothy is still healing from his pinched nerve and isn’t yet up for it, and Dave definitely feels like he doesn’t have the fitness for the race, but I’m hoping we might (maybe!) be able to persuade him to do the Fun Ride.
So that’s it for this update. More to follow!
Keep rolling, and keep the rubber side down!
Edit: PS — I think I am going to crib from The 30-Year-Old Ninja’s approach to implementing a more disciplined lifestyle. You can find his write-up here: http://30yearoldninja.com/disciplined/