hi,

I wasn't sure wether I should post this in this forum or in the "career" part. But since it affects all my life, it might be better here.

I always prided myself on posessing a good amount of willpower. I've walked 100km in 24 hours a couple of times, I used to swim at national level as a kid,... and most people would describe me as "tough". Challenge me to something physical requiring mainly willpower and I WILL succeed....

But lately I've been thinking about my life (especially how I got through college, and am behaving in my job right now). And I find that that willpower only applies to physical things. When it comes to anything mental, I'm fairly weak.

I was the student who never showed up for class, and passed exams by the skin of my teeth. I never missed a deadline, but never finished a task more than a day before that deadline,...

And I find that this applies to everything. I love to think, about books, philosophy, movies,... (some would call it dreaming away) and it almost hurts physically to stop doing that and apply myself to anything, and when I'm actually focussing, those things instantly destract me. In college I actually used to study, or write papers, either slightly drunk, or heavily sleep deprived (36 hours awake) because that slowed my mind so far, that I couldn't get distracted from the thing I was working on. But ofcourse that doesn't help for quality, or my life.

Because I manage to get everything done just in time, and acceptablhy well, no-one really notices, but If I could apply myself more to my job, or my hobbies, or whatever, I feel that I could achieve so much more, but when I'm sitting behind my desk tomorrow, I'l be like, O, let's just check my email, and send a joke to my colleague, and then I'll start on that file. But then it's only 15 minutes till break,... and after break I'll quickly check the news,...

Does anyone have any advice on how to tackle this problem? I'm not looking for a quick fix, and I know i wont be working in complete focus for 8 hours at a time, but any improvement would be much welcomed.

(the examples I gave were from my job, but It applies to paying invoices, even keeping in contact with friends (O I'll send him an email tomorrow,...)

Any advice is much welcomed.

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You succeed at physical tasks probably because you have seen progress and positive results in this realm. Perhaps you are naturally quite athletic, and over time you have developed a strong self esteem in physical activity. Therefore your intrinsic motivation to perform in these activities and challenge yourself is greater.

Not to make any assumptions--but perhaps academics has not been as linear a path. Have you ever been diagnosed with a learning disorder or ADD? Maybe the subject you are working on is not something 1) you have achieved a lot of success with 2) care about 3) able to easily focus on bc of distractibility or learning issues. Regardless the intrinsic motivation is not as strong. In my experience, the power through mentality NEVER works unless you actually care about what you are doing or have some REAL motivation.

I used to be so tough on myself when I was in school because I would procrastinate/ slack off.. My friends would easily sit down read the textbook and complete the assignment with little resistance. I would have to reread paragraphs, reign my mind in all the time, etc. I always used to procrastinate for this reason and often would not perform to my ability bc JUST studying for one test was such a mountain that I never saw the point.

Now that I have a wife and kids--my motivation to work through intellectual tasks is greater--THEREFORE I am able to power through with much more ease. I still have attention issues but I am at least disciplined bc the motivation is there.

I don't know your situation but I would highly suggest doing work that you care about in some respect bcuz otherwise you'll be very frustrated and not perform well.

Thank you for your answer,

I have a minor type of learning disorder, you are correct in that aspect, but it's nothing worth medicating :)

I also don't think that it's just a matter of focus problems. If I like to do something, I can focus on it a long time (as an example, this year, as a birthday gift for myself, I took a day of and read Walden by Thoreau cover to cover...)

I think that somehow the problem is that I have a sense of achievement, and deep down, subconsciously feel that I can't get much further. 

I come from a small town, (3000ish inhabitants), where I was the top student in primary school. But everybody, parent's teachers,... tought that going to college was the highest achievable. I remember that my class (17 people) where given a special ceremony after primary school was over because we were the first class in 7 years where all students managed to pass.... And indeed, when I look around, and see what became of my classmates, they became teen dads or moms, and are now mostly on unemployment, or flipping burgers (though one is an officer).

I currently still live in that town, and just going to college made me feel like I had achieved something extraordinary,now holding a steady job with good pay further reinforces that feeling.

I also manage to get through about the same amount of work as my colleagues, so that I often think to myself "Am I a lot faster, when I actually am doing soemthing usefull, or is everybody just wasting time by the bucketload?"

I've been thinking about this for quite some time already, and I know what you say, that I would need motivation in order to perform better.

I will give this some thought, and try to perhaps phrase my exact feelings more clearly.

Thank you for your response

I think you have a great point about progress.

I have my office mac set to announce the time every 15 min.

When reading dry work I'll set repeating 5 minute timer.  It usually takes about 15-30 minutes of fighting until I settle into the work and the timer is not needed.  If I have fought for 45.  I switch tasks.  It is just not going to take.

If I'm doing this for studies I take a solid 15 min coffee break.

The other thing I use is a day planner system that was hot in the 90s.  I have everything set up in CalinGoo and print the calenders to paper for the week.  I update to Google calenders through the app but use the paper copy to record my day.  It really helps.

Achievement for achievement's sake alone seldom makes anyone happy.  Nothing is ever good enough, and bitterness over that can consume you.   

Focus on those endeavors that bring you fulfillment and joy and don't feel yourself a failure if you cannot be a high achiever in all things.  It will sour your life and life is far too short for that.  

Find something each day that will bring you joy, even if it is for a few moments.  There is always something, and you alone are responsible for your own happiness.   Don't blow it with useless worry. 

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