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Friday, March 28, 2014

You Don't Need Discipline To Study

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The vast majority of people will never learn to study consistently. The reasons they'll give are usually pointed at some external factor that they can blame. They might say that they don't have time. Another common excuse is that they got distracted by something more important. Take note that most of these excuses completely attribute their own personal failure to study onto someone or something else.

Thankfully though, you are not like the vast majority of people. If you're actually taking the time to read this article, you're admitting that you have a problem with studying. (That's the first step.) While most people spend their whole lives carefully avoiding their problem, you're willing to step up and face it. You're stepping up to learn how to study effectively.

I fought this battle with myself. I had the horrible habit of distracting myself from studying with absolutely anything I could find. Right before the test, I'd sit there wondering, “What the hell did I do?” Now, by that time, I was pretty good at studying. I could study for most tests in no time but I still didn't end up doing the little studying I had to do. Using the advice I'd always been told, I spent months and months trying to hammer myself down using discipline.

The Failure Of Discipline


This surprises many people but discipline is the art of punishing yourself into compliance. It is not about doing positive behavior consistently. It's just about making yourself do stuff despite the short term desire not to. This can be a good thing and this can be a bad thing. Ultimately, it comes down to how you use it.

Most people would admit that it would take a whole lot of discipline to eat a grasshopper (or a more refined palette than our own.) That being said, that doesn't prove there is anything intelligent about doing it. Disciplining yourself to study is only valuable when you're studying effectively. Unfortunately, the act of having to discipline yourself is instantly counter-productive for studying.

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Discipline can help you get up and go for a run in the morning because running is a solely physical activity. Disciplining yourself is not as effective at getting yourself to study because it's a mental activity. It's the equivalent of breaking your ankles to try to force yourself to go for a run in the morning. It just doesn't help.

To study effectively, your brain can't be in a stressed out state. The more stressed you are, the worse you're going to focus, and the less you're going to remember. When you have to use discipline to study, you activate the stress that you need to avoid.

If disciplining yourself to study isn't an option, how else do you get yourself to study for exams?

Make It A Habit


Your goal should be to eliminate as much discipline from your study life as possible. Instead of focusing you should focus on falling into the habit of studying. That's using your body's natural tendencies to encourage your mind to be in the right place to study.

Make studying something you get into without even thinking about it. Studying should become so ingrained in your life that, by the time you consciously think about studying, you're already doing it. There are a number of reasons this is so helpful.

First of all, your body has a natural clock. When you do certain things on a particular schedule, your body prepares for it by releasing the right chemicals in advance. If you want to release the chemicals that are good for studying, do it at the same time everyday.

Another reason is the natural tendency people have to being stagnate. If you're sitting on your computer and realize you need to study, it's going to take tons of energy just to force yourself off the computer and into the textbook. Once you're in the habit of picking up the textbook without thinking about it, this problem switches around a bit. Instead you'll be studying, if you want to stop studying you'll have to close your books, put them away, make sure everything's ready for class, and on and on. It's easier to make the right decision when it's also the lazy one.

Bear in mind, building a habit may require short term discipline. The first few days of getting into a habit can be very difficult. When you're developing that habit, you're not going to see any major results from your studying. That won't be particularly motivating but a week later, the difference becomes obvious.

Better Than A Habit


Habits are the typical way you can plan on studying. They're the most applicable way to get studying done in most cases. It's not the best possible way though.

The best studying doesn't require habits or discipline, it requires curiosity. When you're genuinely interested in a subject, you don't need habits or discipline, you just do it because you want to do it. I'm sure you've experience that feeling at least a few times in your life.

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When it comes to the educational system that most students are stuck in, there are usually only one or two interests that cultivate curiosity. There is absolutely no shame in no giving a damn about the information learned vast majority of your classes. You're a human being. Just know that when you have the curiosity, the typical rules of studying need not apply.

Cultivating curiosity in a subject is possible. So, before you go and try to force yourself to study, ask yourself if there is anything you actually want to know in the course? At times, you will be able to find a reason for studying that actually interests you immensely. Of course, there are also times when having the habit is your safest bet.


Despite the cries for discipline you hear. Discipline is actually one of the least common means of getting good studying done. The vast majority of effective studiers just have habits that look like discipline to the observer. You don't have to have piles and piles of discipline to get it done. All you need is a little bit of curiosity or just enough discipline to make it a habit.

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