Motivation. It’s not something that just comes to you and then stays with you. Keeping motivation requires effort; this is a lesson I had to learn during my academic career.
When I worked within an appropriate schedule and put forth “a hundred and ten percent,” I was a grade “A” and “B” type of student. My best subject was English, or writing. I actually enjoyed writing for assignments, especially when it came to long essays. But for some reason, despite my enthusiasm for work, I’m a procrastinator. I think this was a learned behavior from my early childhood, and ever since it’s something that remained with me. In the past year and a half, I have put forth an effort towards not procrastinating anymore: I got myself a book that serves as a calendar, planned my days, and have gotten used to working around a schedule. That did the trick. But the question remains, why did I allow this flaw to get the best of me in the first place?
Such a scenario looks something like this: I have an assignment to do. Okay, seems easy enough, I can do it later… Or this assignment is too difficult and will take some time, I’m just going to save it for maybe a couple days from now. Then I will start the assignment, except, that time I initially planned on starting the work finally comes around and I say the same exact thing again.
What am I doing in the meantime? I am on my smart phone watching YouTube videos. I’m on my computer playing video games. I’m cooking food in the kitchen; food that serves no favors to my physical health. At this point, I am stressed out. Now I’m stress eating, trying to use the food as a distraction. The due date for the assignment is closer and I am yet to have started it. Well, maybe I have nothing to worry about. After all, I consider myself to be a pretty smart guy and I can manage to bang out any assignment in a relatively short amount of time.
Now comes the morning of the due date. My first class of the day is English and my paper is due. I haven’t started it yet. Well, I already know what I have to write about; let me figure something out. I pull out my smartphone, I open Google Docs, and I start writing. Yes, I am writing an academic essay on a phone. After thirty minutes, I manage two pages. Thank goodness, I have met the requirements for the assignment. Now, I just need to hurry up and get to my bus-stop so I am not late.
The bus pulls up in front of the school campus approximately ten minutes before the first-period bell rings. I rush to the computer lab and sit in front of a PC. I have to turn it on, and it’s taking a long time to load. A glance at my watch tells me I now have about a minute and thirty seconds before that bell rings. After what seems like a lifetime, I can now log-in properly and open my essay on the screen. I print it up, take it to the front desk, and borrow the stapler to get the pages together. Twenty seconds left. Bag’s open, pull out the folder, put the essay in, and… there we go, just on time. First period happens in no time at all. I get to the classroom; we do the morning prayer and listen to the announcements. Then Mr. Last Name asks us to take out our papers and hand it in to the student sitting in front of us, so he can do the same, so on and so forth (this makes it easier for teacher to collect them). And I do exactly that. Finally, an incredible amount of stress has left me. It’s over.
I go home maybe six or seven hours later, and I decide to check and see if my grade for the paper is posted online yet.
Well, the grade isn’t what it could have been, but it’s not the end of the world. Next time I’ll just start the assignment earlier. The next assignment comes by, and I do the exact thing again. And again. And again. And again.
The consequence of my behavior: a C+ grade for an entire subject I have an A+ understanding of. Smart, but lazy. That was my problem, and it needed to change. If there is one thing I have learned within the past several years, it’s that I am my own worst enemy. There’s no damage nor obstacle my enemies can set before me that I have not already set before myself.
The amazing thing about procrastination is it’s the type of flaw or affliction that, even when you learn it’s wrong the first time around, you’ll keep going back to it. It doesn’t matter how much you enjoy what you do, or how enthusiastic you are about doing it. If you don’t force yourself to have motivation, if you don’t make an effort towards removing all possible distractions, you will not create the best work that you’re capable of. My behavior, my way of life, needed to change completely. I sought some help, I learned some techniques (for example, my new habit of scheduling), and I got myself together. That being said, I’m still a procrastinator, even if I don’t do it anymore, or do it significantly less than I used to. An alcoholic who quits is still an alcoholic. Even when you’re done with the shenanigans, you have to keep up with what’s required of you, so you don’t slip back to your old ways. That’s the struggle.
I think it’s worth it.
One thought on “We Can Be Our Own Worst Enemies”
Thanks for this article. I have the exact same problem and I failed a year once because of that. What didnt help me was how boring and different than expected most of my classes were, on top of weird technical rituals uni forces you to do. While the fault is mine, there are so many better ways to educate people – watching lectures online made me realize that I can focus and remember much better in some situations compared to others.
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