Fighting Zombies With Coffee and Mediocrity With Discipline
Several weeks into your first year at college, the excitement has probably dissolved into daily routine. The adrenaline high wore off a little while ago, and if you’re like me, you’ve had to form new habits in order to survive. I blame my roommates for one of those new habits—namely, drinking coffee—but as other freshmen and I go through the motions of college life, we must take responsibility for the habits we are forming.
Many days grind past unnoticed if we surrender mindlessly to routine; meanwhile, unconsciously-developed habits begin to shape who we are. American theologian Tryon Edwards said, "Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny." This quote’s pithy truth penetrates the issue and inspires us to action, but being inspired to act and actually acting are as different as seeing a piece of chocolate cake is from eating it.
My first week at King’s, you can bet I read every word in all my assigned readings and completed thorough outlines for every chapter. I leapt out of bed each morning and arrived at my classes twenty minutes early. Stupid You Tube videos posed little temptation, but Socratic Logic, how I loved thee!
I knew my euphoric state couldn’t last, but I thought that somehow the good habits I began early on would stick instantly. They didn’t. The first “zombie week” was the moment of truth (the same week I started drinking coffee). The honeymoon subsided, and the full implications of attending King’s finally manifested themselves in my foggy brain. My immediate impulse revealed two of my weaknesses: apathy and downright laziness. Prolific outlining and careful reading nearly degenerated into skimming and even skipping some work altogether. Thankfully, at this first speed bump on the college journey, I decided to take the high road, but only with considerable effort. Although I enjoy most of my school days at King’s, the enjoyment results from a series of purposeful actions and decisions rather than from continuous excitement.
This realization did not come as a surprise; on the contrary, I fully expected to crash after the first couple weeks at college. The surprise was not the crash itself but rather that which I discovered in the rubble. Old habits die hard because they become entwined in our very selves. My tendencies toward procrastination and corner-cutting have deformed my character with the vices of sloth and lethargy. Starting college does not automatically change who you already are. Good habits take months to form, and character flaws take years to mend.
I hope my fellow freshmen consider the gravity that accompanies “going through the motions” of daily life. It’s easy to spend a little too much money at Starbucks one week, skip pages in reading for a couple classes, or replace a dinner or two with dessert (not that I do that) before such actions become habitual. Getting through college successfully is one thing. Cultivating a balanced, disciplined, virtuous character is another – and it depends on the daily, routine actions that eventually morph into life habits.