One of the great mysteries is why one person when encountering hard things will work intensely to accomplish the task and another will pale in lethargy. Why can some people face hard tasks with such focus and others of us feel daunted by the effort required in these situations? Many gifted people have amazing intelligence, aptitude, and creativity. However, if they neglect the development of what I term "the Discipline of Work," they will find it very difficult to be successful in manifesting their talents. In fact, they may even find it difficult to function in very basic ways, such as completing a homework task or paying the bills.
My definition of the Discipline of Work is the development of the progressive ability to do some undesirable act in the present in order to gain future benefit. This concept clearly has an aspect of delayed gratification in its framework and is crucial to most worthwhile endeavors.
In my work with gifted learner's, defined as those with an IQ of over 130 and other commensurate qualities, I have found some as children and adolescents are able to get by for some time during their development exclusively on their natural talent. In fact, some of these students will report never studying at all during high school and obtaining respectable or notable GPAs. Over time, they admittedly become habituated to avoiding really challenging situations and "getting by" in most situations with their intellectual and/or athletic gifts. What often happens, unfortunately, is that at some point in their development they reach a challenge in late high school or early college which requires more than natural talent to accomplish. This challenge requires work, effort, focus, and consistency which can lead to extreme anxiety for the individual who has not learned these behaviors. In fact, with an underdeveloped Discipline of Work, these students may even flunk out of a semester of college because of these challenges and the absence of the scaffolding that their parents offered during high school.
As a psychologist and coach, I've worked with many students who've encountered a similar situation. We have spent time together assisting them to identify emotional obstacles and increase their motivation to do hard things now in order to get important things later. In fact, some adults who are extremely talented and have never fully developed this discipline can languish for years. The Discipline of Work takes practice. It may start with making a bed, or organizing one’s schedule, cutting the grass, completing a homework assignment, doing the dishes, or writing down appointments. Like traditional weightlifting, you can start with small tasks and start to build. Over time, the resistance in your mind to pushing through on the task that you really don't want to do can be outweighed by the mature mind. The mature mind begins to recognize the benefit of the challenge as well as the results that will be had later. Making my bed each morning today may not bring tremendous benefit. However, making my bed and other small tasks which enhance my discipline can grow over time into the ability to exert tremendous effort toward larger tasks and goals. The process is progressive. This level of discipline can lead to MDs, PhD's, high-level leadership positions, incredible parenting, successful relationships, entrepreneurial ventures, and other noteable feats.
If you feel that you or one of your children has a particular challenge with this discipline, seek encouragement and support from friends with similar goals, partners, or professional counselors and coaches like myself. With a supportive team and progressive action steps, you can begin to build these mental muscles and overcome the fears and anxieties which prevent you from doing those hard things that you need to do today in order to reach your highest aspirations. Your goals are reachable through this kind of steady plodding and a robust Discipline of Work.