People often comment that I have a lot of discipline. Even if you go through some comments on posts in this blog, you’ll see people saying that. I even agree with them – I’ve been working this polyphasic thing for over two months now! Very few nights have gone by that haven’t involved an intense struggle to stave off sleepiness.
The funny thing is that I used to be completely UNdisciplined. It was almost a joke amongst my friends and families. What changed? Read on…
The problem was that I didn’t trust myself. If I said “I’m going to not eat meat for 30 days”, I knew that since I was undisciplined, that it might not actually be true. So when day three rolled around and I saw a hamburger, I’d think subconciously, “Well, I wasn’t going to make it thirty days anyway” and I’d chow down. Even small things like saying “I’m going to go to sleep after one more game” would get stretched. My promises to myself were worthless.
Maybe you have a similar problem. I think most people do. Just look on wikipedia at all of the people who tried polyphasic sleeping. Some have been deleted, but the sad fact is that at least 95% of people have given up. They KNEW when they started that they might not follow through, so when they were tired at 5am one day, they just sighed and went back to sleep. The truth is that I am probably LESS suited to adapting to this than any of those people. I haven’t had to use an alarm in years, I had no structure to my sleeping patterns, and I routinely slept for 9-10 hours per day. The only reason I’m still doing it now is because from the very beginning I said I’d stick to it no matter what. I have never even considered giving up, because of that commitment.
Here’s what I semi-humbly submit as being the best way to make ANY decision :
- Take PLENTY of time to think through your decision. Think of how it will affect you. Do you have all of the information? If not, get it. Think of yourself as a robot – you only get to program it once, so do it right. Make sure that in the moment you make this decision, you are confident about it.
- Now that you’ve gathered all the information you need to make a decision, commit to it. Write it down if you have to. Make sure that there is a distinct moment where you conciously commit that decision to your memory.
- Now your decision has been thoroughly thought through and made, so you lock it in. Under NO circumstances can you change that decision now. It sounds harsh, and it might lead you to take some incorrect actions from time to time. BUT… if you don’t follow this process you will waffle, give in, and make exponentially more errors. If necessary, you can add a safeguard into the commit process. I often say “I will do XXXX for one month and then reevaluate”.
The real benefit to this sytem is that every decision you make is with a clear head. When the going gets rough and it’s time to act, you’ve already got your mind made up. Do you think I can REALLY make an informed decision to quit polyphasic sleeping when I’m exhausted at 5am? Of course not! My sleepy-logic will say anything to let me go back to sleep. But, since I commited to polyphasic sleeping for life, I will never give up.
Let me give you a real world example that nearly every one of you readers will go through.
About a year ago I was in a relationship. The girl was one of, if not the most, beautiful girls I’d ever talked to, let alone dated. We’d been together for almost a year and had some incredible experiences together. I loved her and she loved me. However, she drank too much, and I knew that because of that I would never marry her. We’d been together long enough that she was talking about marriage, and was convinced that we would some day get married.
I knew that one day that I would have to break up with her. Despite the fact that I loved her, I knew that it was in my best interest, as well as hers, for us to break up. Also, she kept trying to quit drinking, but whenever she would start again (because of lack of discipline) it would upset me. This caused a lot more drama in my life than I needed.
It was a tough decision, but I eventually committed to breaking up with her forever.
Breaking up is never easy, but staying broken up is usually harder. How many couples do you know who do that miserable broken-up-one-second-back-together-the-next dance? Nearly every one. For me it was simple. I made my decision, so it never even occurred to me to consider taking her back.
She called and called, wrote e-mails, and pushed all my buttons. And believe me, after a year of living together, she knows how to press my buttons. But, my resolve stayed strong, and eventually the calls tapered.
Now I’m happily single and happier than when I was with her. I believe she is engaged and most likely very happy. Because I took the time to consider everything, I knew that this would be the right decision. Even though there were rough times during the process, I always had an over-arching feeling of confidence, and now that the dust has settled, it proved to be the right move.
If I hadn’t been so firm in my decision, I may still be waffling back and forth between being with her breaking up – NO ONE likes that part of a relationship.
Another example is when I committed to eating nothing but healthy foods for a month. I cut out 95% of the foods that I used to eat and replaced them in many cases with foods that I wasn’t fond of. Over the month my tastes changed and I ended up extending the committment by 7 more months. Even to this day I eat 100% healthy when I’m at home, but decided to be more lenient when I am traveling.
Now, I don’t think most people will be able to build this sort of decision-discipline overnight. I certainly didn’t. For me it was a very difficult process because I was so extremely undisciplined. But, I developed a simple process to build this discipline forever.
Start off small, but serious. Use the process on EVERY decision you make. This is what I did. I would conciously go through the process even doing such small things as eating lunch. Even though your brain knows it’s a small thing, it still feels good to commit to making lunch and then eating it. Commit to vacuuming your room, to making a phone call that you need to make, or even to going bowling. It doesn’t matter WHAT the commitments are, it just matters that you begin establishing a habit.
Also, remember to give yourself as much time as you need. An extra day of deciding is a far smaller loss than months of agonizing and flip-flopping.
Once you are good with your small commitments, make larger ones. Eat NO sugar or refined flour for a week. Go for a jog every other day for two weeks. Pick things where you will never question your ability to do them, just your resolve.
As you do this, you will begin to create a mental record of how many commitments in a row you’ve stuck to. As that record gets larger, you won’t want to break it. In fact, I can commit to almost anything now because I will do anything to avoid breaking my record.
It may take you a month or two to really build this skill, but it is one that will be with you for the rest of your life. When you build this trust in yourself you are better equipped to deal with anything that comes your way, and that in turn will build a tremendous confidence.