Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Octopus on Roller Skates

How's my mental health today?

As I explored the concepts of gifts, talents and discipline the last few days I came across a number of interesting quotes.

For example:

"Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. 
There's plenty of movement, but you never know 
if it's going to be forward, backwards, or sideways".
~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

(As I read this the silly song, You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd starts ringing in the back of my mind).

Setting that musical distraction aside, there is something in Brown's statement that resonates with me. I love the word picture and it is an appropriate depiction of how I feel about the way I employ my talents at times.

Why do I find discipline so difficult? Perhaps I never learned how to learn and practice discipline?

Maria Montessori made an interesting statement.

“Discipline must come through liberty. . . . 
We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been 
rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a 
paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined."

As I look back on my growing years I realize that obedience (avoiding misbehaviour and making mistakes) was not an opportunity for learning - it was simply an exercise in avoiding the consequences of transgressions (corporal punishment). Instructions of what to do and what not to do rarely included an understandable explanation of why - it seemed to be more about "obey, or else..." I didn't learn discipline through fear of punishment.

I wonder, did I do this any better with my own kids?

Hindsight tells me that when I graduated from High School I had no idea of how to study, how to do research, how to write a paper. Critical thinking was a foreign concept for me. I got through school by relying solely on my ability to remember information. If the information didn't interest me it was tough to remember. If I didn't understand the information, if it didn't make logical, applicable sense to me I couldn't remember it either. It wasn't until 27 years later that I learned how to write a paper. This June it will be 40 years since I graduated from high school. I still don't have a clue how to study effectively. Research isn't quite as baffling.

Looking back on my years of learning to play the violin and viola I have become aware of that fact that I never learned how to rehearse. Practicing never became more than mindless repetition to fill the required rehearsal time. It is obvious to me that this lack of knowledge inhibited my ability to learn and increase my technical skills.

Unfortunately, I didn't come to realize these deficiencies until decades after the point where it would have been useful to know and address. I know that as long as I'm alive it's not to late to eliminate these deficiencies in my knowledge and skill sets.

Developing more structure and discipline in my life requires more than just getting at it. I need to learn the requisite skills. I'm going to be busy.

“Right discipline consists, not in external compulsion, 
but in the habits of mind which lead spontaneously to 
desirable rather than undesirable activities.” 
~ Bertrand Russell

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