Tuesday, May 5, 2015

9: Exercise Your "Self-Control" Muscle!

Understand the Concept of, and Then Exert, Self-Control.

What is the number one indicator of success in life?  Intelligence? No. Your SAT scores? No. Family wealth? Certainly not.

The primary indicator of your ability to achieve “success” is your ability to exert “self-control.”  

In fact, regardless of how you define "success," self-control is highly important.

First, Understand the Important Concept of Self-Control.
If you read nothing else in the rest of this journal, or watch no other suggested videos, make certain you watch this short video: “'Sesame Street' Tells You How to Get to Sunnier Days Financially.”  PBS Newshour business correspondent Paul Solman reports on how "Sesame Street" friends Elmo, Grover, and Cookie Monster are teaching children smart ways to save and spend money. And how many adults could use a refresher on the basics of saving for the future.  But the lessons are really not about saving – it’s about understanding the importance of “self-control.”  View the video at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/jan-june11/makingsense_06-03.html (9:36)
Early on in my life, I chose to become the person I wanted to be.  I continue to become the person I choose to be tomorrow. The process is so fulfilling, in part because each time the self-control muscle is exercised, it becomes stronger, thereby enabling greater focus and investment in one’s future self.  The best way I can sum it up is in two steps:
1) Create a strong relationship with your future self. Let your imagination soar on a regular basis.
2) Become the person who is on the path to become the future self you envision.
Now, view the TED Talks video by Daniel Goldstein, “The battle between your present and future self” http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_goldstein_the_battle_between_your_present_and_future_self.html (16:00)
Now, view a Ted Talks video by Angela Lee Duckworth on a related concept, “grit”: http://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_the_key_to_success_grit (6:12)
Write down in your journal a short summary of what you have learned from each of these videos.
Second, Learn How to Focus on What You Need to Accomplish.
Watch the video Charlie talks about “Stop Procrastinating.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjIsdbBsE8g (4:04)
Third, Learn How to Get Started on a Project: “DO IT NOW!”
Whenever you feel a lack of motivation to get started with studying or whatever else you need to do, there are likely to be a dozen other activities that sound far more interesting. Sometimes you would rather watch TV, listen to music, surf the web, play a video game, or hang out with your friends. The simple trick to overcome this dilemma is to just get going. Start studying, no matter what. Force yourself to get started, no matter if you feel tired or if the teaching material isn’t interesting at all. “It doesn’t matter where you go, as long as you get going.”
A great way to get started on a project is to say, out loud, “Just Do It. Do It, Do It, Do It. Do It Now!” Even if your roommate or friends are nearby. Sure, they might jeer you. But they’ll also be envious – especially when you explain why you are making these statements, and then you begin work on the next assignment or project you need to tackle.
Fourth, Realize that You Will Not Win Every Battle.
You have a little voice in your head that is constantly at war with your better self. That voice keeps saying, “You can do it later.” And, too often, that voice will win.  Here’s the good news: you can defeat those thoughts more times than you ever imagined. How? Exercise that self-control muscle!  The more you exert self-control, the stronger you become at using it.
But don’t expect to win every battle with that little voice in your head. And that’s o.k. Just realize that your goal is to make progress – to win more and more of those battles as the weeks and months go by.
Fifth, Embrace the Power of Music.
Music is a wonderful way to stir your motivation, as it can elicit positive emotions. If chosen wisely, music can cause a spirit of optimism, which evokes the epic feeling of being able to do anything.

When compared with other techniques to get motivated, listening to music is by far the simplest way. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t opt for ballads, chill-out, or lounge music. Instead, choose songs that you find motivating and inspiring, songs that immediately energize your whole body, and make you smile from ear to ear. 

Some suggestions include:
  • Jorge Quintero’s “300 Violin Orchestra”
  • Steve Jablonsky’s “Arrival to Earth” (Transformers Soundtrack)
  • Daft Punk’s “The Game has Changed” (Tron: Legacy Soundtrack)
  • Hans Zimmer‘s “Time” (Inception Soundtrack)
  • Paul Engemann’s “Push it to the Limit”
  • Nas ft. P. Diddy’s “Hate Me Now” (instrumental)
  • Queen’s “We Will Rock You”
  • Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”
  • AC DC’s “Thunderstruck”
  • Blur’s “Song 2”
  • Chariots of Fire theme song
  • Out of Africa theme song
  • Dances with Wolves theme song
So, grab your headphones and listen to a fantastic motivational song to get started.

6th - An Exercise: In your journal, write out your schedule for the coming week

First, make a page (or 2-3 pages) for each day, for the next seven days. Indicate on that page 15-minute increments, or 10-minute increments, or 6-minute increments, for each hour between your wake-up time and your planned bed-time.

Second, add to your journal time for sleep, and time for journal entries. Make certain that you have at least 8 hours (and preferably 9 hours 15 minutes or more) set aside for “sleep.” Also add to your schedule any of the exercises and/or journal entries you are undertaking, as a result of reading this chapter and prior chapters.

Third, for the next seven days set aside 15 minutes for self-reflection, at the end of each day. Answer, by means of an entry in your journal, the following questions: “Did you procrastinate?” “Why?” “What could you do next time to avoid procrastination?”

Fourth, place in your schedule class times and other planned activities (such as work, mandatory participation in sports).

Fifth, indicate times in your schedule for personal exercise. Going to the gym, or simply walking.

Sixth, set aside times for studying. Set forth where you will study in order to minimize distractions. A good rule of thumb is to set aside two hours of study time for each hour of class time. Also, plan to give yourself some breaks. For example, schedule a 5-minute break for each 30 minutes spent studying – to get up, stretch, get a drink of water, take a deep breath of fresh air, etc. Or a 10-minute break every hour.

Seventh, add in time for “fun.” Add in time to spend with friends and/or family. Or just “relaxation” or “down” time. If you don’t have at least five hours a week set aside for this, then you are likely trying to do too much.

The Ultimate Scheduling: My Law School Experience.
Be aware that graduate school is infinitely harder than undergraduate school, in terms of your time commitments. So much so that you are encouraged to schedule out your time in five-minute blocks.
Have a 10-minute break between classes? What can you study or review in that break time?
Eating breakfast, lunch or dinner? What can you study while you are eating?
Taking a shower? What do you need to memorize, and use that time for same!
That’s how intense law school was. Every five-minute block, from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., was blocked out. Seven days a week.
I’m not suggesting you undertake 5-minute blocks for scheduling purposes, during undergraduate school. But I am suggesting that, if you plan to attend graduate school, learning to schedule in 15-minute blocks is developing a skill that you can then adapt to the rigors of graduate school.
Seventh - At the End of the Week, Undertake Your Evaluation of this Exercise:
After seven days of tracking your “scheduled” versus “actual” activities, what did you learn? Schedule a 30-minute time for reflection and journal entries.
When you undertake your self-evaluation, write your answer in your journal, and answer these specific questions:
  • By keeping track of your activities, did you feel you were “more” or “less” productive over the past seven days, in comparison to the previous weeks?
  • What events, or distractions, provided a “procrastination event” for you?
  • What can you do going forward to remove distractions and remain more focused on your objectives?
Do you desire to continue to schedule out your time, for the next seven days? If so, formulate a schedule for the next seven days in your journal. Include on that schedule time, at the end, to schedule out the next seven days. 

Dr. Ron A. Rhoades is an Asst. Professor of Finance at Western Kentucky University's Gordon Ford College of Business, where he chairs the (B.S. Finance) Financial Planning Program. An innovative, passionate teacher, he is the author of Choose to Succeed in College and in Life: Continously Improve, Persevere, and Enjoy the Journey (2014)from which many of these blog posts are derived.

Dr. Rhoades also serves as a consultant to the Garrett Planning Network, a nationwide network of independent, Fee-Only financial planners making competent, objective financial advice accessible to all people. He is the author of several books, dozens of articles, and he is a frequent speaker at financial planning and investments conferences. He is the recipient of many awards for his advocacy on behalf of the fiduciary standard. Dr. Rhoades is also a member of The Florida Bar, and he practices estate planning and transfer taxation for select current clients.

Dr. Rhoades and his wife, Cathy, reside in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

To contact Dr. Rhoades, please e-mail: WKUBear@gmail.com.

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