Straight Grinding

Adulting 101: Mastery of Self Discpline

You’ve turned 18, congratulations you’re officially an ‘adult’, but that’s a misnomer. Adulting really picks up around 23-25. Modern psychology supports this notion, as some parts of the human brain don’t finish development until about 25 for males or 23 for females. The last part that develops is the frontal lobe, which effects reward systems and as a consequence, long term goals. Simply put, between the ages of 18-23 most individuals will struggle with any goals that don’t provide immediate rewards or satisfaction.

At my ripe age of 25, and rapidly approaching 26 I feel like my life is entirely composed of long term goals. It feels like progress is only achieved in small chronological gains. Often I attribute my success at ‘adulting’ to maintaining a series of habits. When my routine of habits gets disrupted it knocks my life out of order, and everything becomes more difficult. The biggest contrast between my current self and the irresponsible 21-year-old me is my desire for stability. At the age of 21, commitment was avoided and spontaneity was always the flavor of the week. Now as an old man, I crave consistency as it allows me to have control, and to make small measurable steps forward.

You get a full-time job, a significant other, a sports team, a place to live, a few hobbies, and suddenly all your time has vanished. If you blink you lose a week. Time marches by unrelentingly, and having a bad week can be disastrous. Often my life feels like a high-speed race, full of excitement and events, with little time to appreciate the scenery around you. It can be even harder to look back and appreciate where you’ve come from because that would mean easing off the gas.

Self-discipline in practice is the adherence to your schedule, your routine, in spite of how difficult it may be. If you go to bed every night at 10pm, then it’s easy to wake up early, but if you go to bed at 1 am it aggressively disrupt your whole schedule. Waking up early is now a grievous punishment, and the sleep deprivation will challenge you for the rest of the day. Just on the topic of sleep schedules, it can take 2 days to properly return to your previous routine. When you have a 5 day work week this can mean you spend the majority of your week playing catch-up.

Life is Unpredictable

Good luck trying to control all the variables of life. You’re naive if you think you can keep a perfect schedule all the time. Self -Discipline is a battle of attrition and motivation is the ammo. Motivation is a finite substance, each of us only has so much of it on any given day. Being successful can be seen as the hacking of the brain in order to produce more motivation. This magical substance, motivation, is what allows us to grind through a tough task or week. The human brain has many reward pathways, and if you manage to activate those pathways you can keep a constant supply of motivation. The trick is to develop a series of routines that allow you to consistently light up your reward pathways.

Alright, so you figure out how to make yourself feel good, you pair business with pleasure and now you’ve got yourself a routine. The next logical step is to keep accelerating, to keep doing more, to maximize efficiency. The problem with the human brain is as much as it loves habits, it’s still a drug addict. Humans have an amazing ability to adapt and habituate. Our habituation served us well through thousands of years, but in modern times the human ability to build a tolerance can lead to things spiraling out of control. I firmly believe that humans can build up a tolerance to almost anything. Eat the same meal every day for a week and you’ll get bored, perhaps crave unhealthy food. Variation is key in preventing habituation. The crux of the challenge of self-discipline is to keep things the same so you can make progress, but also mix it up so you don’t get bored or depressed.

To sum up: Routines are essential for building habits. Keeping a habit of routines allows you to make gains in the areas of your life you find important. (gym, career, ect.) Life is unpredictable and constantly challenges your routines, making it hard to keep a habit. If life is too static you’re likely to get bored or depressed and stop making progress. Sound easy right?

About as easy as hiking uphill during winter.