Direction …

So, I was on a training course this past week. And I really wanted to take the training course because it was an in-class one, where you had someone talk about it and show you what was going on and you had labs to do to learn what to do. I wanted this because when I did online training instead I found it boring and found that I didn’t seem to learn as much. I tended to fly through it to get to the next section. And so in the class itself … I found myself rushing ahead and playing with things I wanted to play with, and being bored in the lecture sections because I couldn’t really skip ahead to the next part, at least not credibly.

This, then, creates a bit of a puzzle. I definitely wanted an in-class course, and did find it useful and preferable to taking the online course. But I didn’t really like the pacing with it, and found that for myself I preferred a faster pace than what we had. Which led me to this conclusion: what I really would have wanted was a course where I can read about what things are and what to do, jumped into the labs to try to do it, and then moved on to the next section, or had someone to ask if things didn’t work the way I expected. The only downside to that would be missing some things that the person giving the course can tell you that help you understand how it all fits together, but generally a short lecture, being told to go and do the exercises, and then another lecture would have worked well for me. And I figured out why: I’m very good at self-direction, but not very good at self-motivation.

This, of course, is nothing really new, except for the self-direction part. I’ve always known that I need deadlines in order to do things. I’m an odd sort of procrastinator; I don’t leave things to the last minute, but to the next to last minute. Essentially, I’m the sort of person who, if I think that I will need two weeks to write and essay, will start it at least three weeks before the deadline … just in case I’m wrong. Without some concrete reason to do something, however, I tend to put it off and put it off and never do it. This is why I can do all the massive readings for a course and yet haven’t gotten through the academic readings that I’ve had sitting around for months if not years. Without a concrete, solid reason to do things, I tend to let them slide. Even the recent blog run provides an example where when I feel pressure to get a post out — because I want to have one scheduled for every day — I will often write in the evening to ensure that I do have one, even if I have more time — I don’t think there’s been one case where I wrote a post for that day that day — because I don’t want to cut it too close. I found myself planning to at least make a post into the weekend, knowing that if I could get that far or through the weekend then I could probably write enough posts on the weekend to get me into if not through the next week.

I think that there are a number of traits that contribute to this behaviour for me:

1) I’m not particularly ambitious. I like a simple life, and enjoy relatively simple things. I’ve commented in the past that I’m not materialistic, or anti-materialistic but instead non-materialistic; I generally buy what I want, but don’t want much. My hobbies are simple: I like to read, watch sports on TV, watch DVDs, walk, play video and board games, and think about stuff. As long as things are reasonably together and working and reasonably clean, and I’m reasonably well-fed and feeling fine, then that’s pretty much all I want out of life. So there’s not much incentive for me to do more than that. Even the blog was started because I noticed that when I wrote about something I stopped thinking about it so much, so it let me put discussions behind me and move on to something new.

2) As stated in the linked post, I’m not someone who’s really interested in process, but instead in the end goal. This means that I justify doing something on the basis of what the end product will be, not on how enjoyable the process will be. If the process is too onerous for the end goal I’d get from it, then I won’t do it. The end goal can be positive (ie I get something at the end of it) or negative (ie I avoid something that I want to avoid) but it’s the end goal that I want, not the process. This means that the end goal has to be worth the effort of the process, and if it isn’t or doesn’t seem to be compared to what else I could be doing, I won’t do it.

3) However, I’m also someone who tends to be very dutiful and committed once I commit to something. At work, I don’t work long hours because I love my job. I like my job, but there are always things that I could be doing that I’d rather be doing than work, even if it’s just programming for myself. But I have a job, and I’ve committed to that job, and they pay me to commit to that job, so I do it. Thus, my production doesn’t really diminish much if I don’t like what I’m doing at the moment; in fact, it might even increase just to get me through that spate of dull work and into something less onerous. Because of this, once a commitment is made — even if it’s mostly “on paper” — then I carry through. Unless I can convince myself that it’s a “paper commitment”, at which point I don’t.

This combination explains the behaviour I’ve described. I need something to commit to to do something, or else I’ll just let it slide and take up with my simple pleasures. But once committed to something, I feel duty-bound to see it through, no matter how painful the process is. And I judge whether or not I commit to something by what the end goal is. A job is always a worthy end, and other things can be depending on circumstances. As long as the process doesn’t end up overwhelming the end goal despite my estimation, I will complete it. That’s also why momentum is important for me; once I start, I can keep going, but as soon as I stop it’s essentially conceding that the end goal isn’t worth doing it when there are other things to do, and so don’t start doing it again.

The things you learn on training [grin].


2 Responses to “Direction …”

  1. Héctor Muñoz Huerta Says:

    You would make a fine type designer.

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