Monday, April 19, 2010

Messy Monday: The Benefits of Developing Discipline

One of the biggest keys to keeping things under control at home is developing the discipline to fully finish a task. Even if this does not come naturally, it can be learned--we can train our mental responses and learn to finish a job before moving on to something else. This can be hard work, though, for those of us who more naturally fall toward the "messy" end of the spectrum; we also are highly creative people, and our minds are always thinking of the next thing, which can pull us away from the current thing if we let it. Disciplining ourselves to stay on course, however, not only allows us to keep our homes tidier right now, it may also result in improved health down the road.

A recent article, titled "Duty and Discipline," in Remedy magazine states that conscientiousness preserves one's cognitive function in later years. In a recent study of nearly 1,000 senior nuns and priests, researchers found that "those who were highly conscientious--meaning they are purposeful, self-disciplined and scrupulous--had an 89 percent reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease over a 12-year period; conscientiousness was also linked with decreased odds of developing mild cognitive impairment."

The hypothesis is that "highly conscientious people are better at controlling [the way they pay attention to things], which is an important way to compensate for declining memory and thinking in old age." The study goes on to encourage us that, even if we're not naturally conscientious, we can become more so "by being more organized, exercising better self-control and becoming more achievement-oriented."

So when I am faced with several things that need to be done, plus the distractions (and new messes) that children bring to the table, and my mind feels like a ping-pong ball bouncing in a million directions, it is helpful to clear out everything but one thing and fully focus on that until it's done (even if I have to leave it and come back to it several times). The the nature of motherhood means there will be frequent interruptions, but developing discipline will help us keep things neater in the short-term and may keep our minds sharp in the long-run.  Cheers to discipline!


  1. Thank you for posting this! I definitely fall into the creative/messy side of the spectrum. I'm trying to change it so that my children benefit from more structure, not to mention a more peaceful, clutter-free home. This is encouraging!

  2. I forget the laundry in the washer or have the sink full of dishes and half washed and then end up doing something else. Therefore, no sense of accomplishment that I've actually DONE something. If I could see progress, then maybe it would be easier to get on top of things... Been decluttering kids clothes and my 4 yr. old was so sweet. After trying upteen clothes she waved to the pile and said "Bye Bye. Hope you have a a nice life with another child..." It certainly brought the lesson of why we were decluttering home!

  3. Great post! Since having our twins, I've definitely lost some of the discipline I had when we were a no-kids household. Time to make a more conscious effort to get back to that. Thanks for the encouragement!


  4. Trying to find this article online and having no luck - can you post a link to it?

  5. Good job Denise!
    I also am working on disciplining myself to stay on task before I move on to something else.

    2horseygirls--I did try to find it online as well so I could link to it. I could not find it on their site. I can try to look again though.
    Thanks for asking.

  6. Any ideas how to help this happen? I agree so much--and I'm the artsy creative one... With artsy creative family members. Very distractible with poor short term memory... ;) This would be a great blog post to brainstorm how to keep that discipline, awareness, and above all focus. I'm too young to be this absent minded! :) Kerry D.