Archive for July, 2013

Self-Discipline

A friend recently sent me an article on why self-disciplined people are happier than and not as deprived as some people think.

Psychologically speaking, the immediacy of a short-term (small) reinforcement is infinitely more powerful and reinforcing than a long-term (enormous) negative consequence.  Hence the reason why smokers don’t quit smoking, at least not very easily: the immediacy of the (relatively small) “fix” from the cigarette is much more powerful than the (enormous) long-term negative consequence of poor health, lung cancer, etc.

“Discipline,” the way I have always defined it, is being able to place higher value on the long-term reinforcement (e.g. living a long, healthy life with clear lungs) and lower value on the “pain” of forgoing the immediate reinforcement.  I am thankful that I am “disciplined,” as it were, because like the article said, I think in the long run I am happier and healthier and avoid certain problems.  I feel like this is just the way God wired me, it isn’t something I make an effort to do, per se.  That’s why it is a bit strange when people tell me that I am disciplined as if it is a compliment, because to me, it’s just the way I am wired and it comes naturally to me.

In contrast, while there is debate as to whether there is truly an “addictive personality,” in my mind, the characteristically defining feature of an addictive personality is the inability or at least the extreme difficulty of weighing the future consequence into the equation at all.  The power of the immediate reinforcement is even greater than for the average person, and the long-term negative consequence just doesn’t exist.  I have read that an addict has a different concept of time than the average person, that for the addict, nearly all thinking is about the present or very near future.  Delays and the distant future have no place in an addict’s mind.  There is a great misunderstanding about addiction: addiction has little to do with substance abuse (the behavior) and nearly everything to do with thinking and psychology.  Thus, someone can be clean from drug use but still an addict, because of his/her pattern of thinking.

Some people say I am disciplined because I eat very healthy and I exercise every day.  In part, it is because I place a higher value on the long-term positive benefits, but there are also short-term and more immediate benefits, as well.  If there weren’t, I don’t think I would stick with it.  For instance, it’s just simpler to eat the same thing every day, it’s less of a hassle.  I enjoy the feeling of having my endorphins kicking around in my body when I exercise, I like being able to sleep more soundly and restfully, I like the feeling of being physically active after a long day in front of my computer.

Incidentally, I have heard it said, and now I truly believe that there is such a thing as a sugar addiction.  For a few months, my husband brought home a lot of sweets (apple pie, brownies), and I started eating some of those sweets in the evenings.  I’m not even sure why I ate them, just because they were there, I guess.  He finally said he wanted to cut back, so he stopped bringing home these types of sweets.  For a week or two, I experienced a sugar craving each evening.  Eventually, the craving subsided, but it was weird because I don’t even like sweets all that much, but I saw how I became addicted to the sugar.

Advertisements