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Ask HN: How do you remain disciplined and be your best self?
36 points by random_kris 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 26 comments
I am 22 year old. Been working as a programmer for past few years this year I started going to university aswell. I have big inspirations for my future, but I've been slacking and being unproductive most of the time... Been adicted to smoking cannabis for past few years aswell. When I am not smoking my mind is going 100mph and I can't seem to focus on one thing. But when I get stoned I can actually focus on one thing but I just get so lazy and spacey that I don't do anything productive... I feel like am stuck in a loop and can't get out. any tips?

I recognize that I am my best self. Even at the worst parts of my life.

I stop saying I "should" do this or I "should" do that, and just let life run its course.

Not sure if that helps you, but I've been there man. Email me if you want to talk.

Smoked on and off between 17 and 21. Took me about 8 months full of relapses to finally stop completely - psychological addiction was far harder to break than I first anticipated.

In my case, I realised I had been self medicating for some mild pervasive anxiety without explicitly acknowledging it. Although smoking calms anxiety temporarily - it tends to exasperate it in the the longer term - creating a vicious cycle of excessive smoking for me. Once I started to take action on this underlying issue, smoking became far easier to quit. So, find the underlying issue, why do you feel the need to smoke so much? Lack of alternative activities? Loneliness? Mental health issues?

Hope my anecdote can help you out - my life is FAR better after investing the effort in quitting. You'll wish you had done it sooner, but do not underestimate the willpower it will likely take.

did you quit on your own? or did you seek a specialist to treat your anxiety. I think I am also self medicating because of anxiety. Like when I am sober after long day I am anxious for unknown reasons but after I smoke I get calm... yesterday I had a epiphany that I smoke because I don't really have any real long term hobbies. Only projects that I wnat to start or stuff that I want to learn... but everything is in a planning phase not in execution phase if you get what I mean.

I didn't have access to a specialist in this case but I have used one in the past for something else and he was super helpful for me.

Just the act of vocalising all your thoughts to someone can bring a great deal more clarity to the situation.

Smoking makes you focus but lazy. Not smoking makes you ambitious but unproductive. What you need is to "learn" how to focus when not smoking. There's a great set of videos and I think a book by a Google guy whose thesis is that you can "learn" behavior, and I 100% believe him. He talks about things like "practicing" not checking your email, that sort of thing. I realize that's not your issue but the technique strikes me as relevant. If I can dig up his material I'll post it here. Hope this helps.

post it here if you can find it yes :D

This only solves the smoking problem (not a small problem), but I suggest reading Alan Carr’s ‘The Only Way to Stop Smoking Permanently’. I’m not normally big on self-help books, but please bear with me.

The book mainly covers tobacco smoking, but he also explains at the end in the sections on addiction to other drugs, that you can read the whole book in relation to other drugs too, including cannabis.

The book isn’t about stopping smoking purely for the physical health benefits and only by willpower. Instead it helps you realise how addiction creates stress for you, and how smoking (whatever you smoke) never really alleviates those stresses, but actually contributes to them.

I’d also suggest trying to surround yourself with friends who are better for you and can push you in the right direction. Try and get into some extra-curricular projects with others so that you can’t slack off alone. Being in the right environment helps immensely. You have ambition, and this shouldn’t be hard to accomplish at university, and it will be a lot harder after university (as I have discovered). Make the best of it.

Some good advice here already. Being a guy who has been studying habits and routines for the past 18months I know one thing - concentrating on breaking a bad habit and STOP doing something is really hard. It requires too much willpower and discipline and if you're starting from a low point - these resources are super limited. So that's a bad strategy for someone in your situation.

A better strategy is to focus on developing habits that will bring more positivity into your life and as a result - weaken your bad habits. This will give you more mental power to deal with whatever shit that is making you unproductive, lazy and procrastinator.

Examples of habits that bring immediate positive effects are:

- movement. Not necessarily exercise. Could be also just taking a 5min stroll around the block after the morning shower. - gratitude practice. Take an actual paper notebook with a pen and each morning after having breakfast, write down 3 things you're grateful for, 3 things that will make today great and maybe some positive self-talk. - meditation. Some people find it hard, but the best solution for beginners is to use guided-meditation apps. Good and paid ones are Calm, Headspace. If you want free one - Insight Timer. Believe me, guided meditation can give you a perspective you are looking for. - improving your social circle. Just signup to some meetups on something that you always wanted to learn. Photography, carpentry, cooking, whatever. go out there and meet people who are already doing what you wish you were doing. This will positively affect your mindset and you might even want to model them. Just don't go to the super pro meetups, because you might be discouraged by their level and think 'I'll never get there' and other kind BS talk.

And look, I'm not even sure you're gonna read this. But I promise you, if you spend at least 3 minutes everyday, taking a small step towards where you want to be - the effects will compound and you'll find yourself at much better situation in a month. Forget about quick fixes, forget about end results. Focus about doing something small today, and then tomorrow.

Good luck brother.

Wow thanks for your reply man :) I actually think I am making a good progress. I didn't kick my weed habbit but actually try to incorporate some positive habits in my life. -I try to make good food everyday after my work. (healthy, home cooked) sometimes I smoke before cooking so it is even more fun than doing this sober. -I found wim-hof breathing exercises and idk if it placebo but something clicked with me and I just feel like my general mood improved noticeably. After just 2 20min exercies I felt different, so I decided to go one level further and start doing cold showers. Been doing this for past 5 days and even though they can be shocking they feel soooo good. My weed cravings are actually a lot smaller than before so I think I am making a progress. My next goal is to signup for swimming pool and, go to bed/wakeup at the same time atleast druing the weekdays. Fridays, Saturdays will be an exception tho

Sounds like a great progress indeed! Just take it step by step. Don't start adding the new habits too quickly, because each new habit, actually shakes your current routine a bit, because you're learning something new and your brain is taken from automaticity mode that your habits bring you into.

So don't rush, do the home cooking and cold showers and exercise, but don't add the swimming pool yet, because you will be less likely to keep up and as a result skip few days. Skipping will bring out negative emotions and an urge for escapism and you'll be a lot more likely to revert to your bad habit - weed.

Take it slow and enjoy the ride.

> I have big inspirations for my future, but I've been slacking and being unproductive most of the time...

You might love the idea of having achieved great things, but don't really want to put the work into it. Perfectionism might also play its role.

Sometimes it can hurt quiet a bit being really honest with yourself, getting rid of the illusions.

1. Don't try to replace the smoking habit, remove it first. Find what is triggering it.

* It could be a person, i.e you smoke with your SO or with your best friends.

* It could be a situation/place, i.e you smoke when you sit on certain couch, chair or laying in bed at certain hour.

* It could be an action, i.e before/after I play video games I light it up.

Trying to avoid those triggers.

2. Show up everyday. When you get back your time, focus and ambition. Do something productive EVERY-SINGLE-DAY. Read CS/Programming Books, watch quality online courses, develop random side-projects (a blackjack game, an adventure text-based game, youtube clone).

I was on a similar spot; but with video games and gambling. After 4 years of showing up everyday, weekends, holidays you will become... pretty pretty competent. Even if you are not brilliant, as myself.


I highly recommend "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg[0]. It gives great advice on how habits can change your life.

[0] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_of_Habit

Yes, it explains how triggers are the ones that makes or breaks an habit. Good book.

To aid in concentration to get things done I woul d recommend the Pomodoro technique https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique

Have you ever been tested for or considered that you may have ADHD? I had similar problems in the past, and cannabis also seemed to help me focus but made me lazy. Getting help for my ADHD was a game changer for me.

I think the most important step for me was acknowledging what I'm capable of and what I really need.

I don't want to work 12 months a year just to have mad bucks, I also want free-time when I'm still young.

I could meal prep every Sunday for the week so I wouldn't eat crap later, but I also want to eat crap.

I want to get fit and healthy and muscular, but I also want to slack away.

I want to be successful and do many prestige projects so I get fame, but I also want to chill.

It's an individual choice to check what you want and what you are able to put in for it, you only have so much time/motivation etc.

Start by making a few daily goals every MORNING.

Don't make it hard for yourself and don't make more than 3 goals. That is the first step to change your unproductive situation.

I have no idea about smoking because I don't smoke. But, perhaps like other habits, you can find the root cause and your real motivations. What it gives you? What is the real reason behind it? Then try to change it with a good replacement that can give you the same benefits.

I've been there and made it out. You're acknowledging you have a problem which is the most important step. Once you accept that you want to change -- deep down -- you've got the seed for change. Here's what I would do to make it grow:

Do you exercise? Even if you don't, do something that will just leave you completely physically exhausted. Run as far as you can, play a competitive game, ride a bike until you can't anymore. Just make sure you're so tired you fall asleep quickly tonight. You don't have to do this every day, but you need to go all out tonight. You're going to give your body a reset and mind a reboot this way.

The next day when you wake up remember that you made this decision the day before, and you have a whole new life in front of you. Say to yourself, "fuck yeah, this is awesome, I'm going to take control of my life again. I'm gonna be the person I know I'm meant to be."

After that, when it comes to work, set short goals and stick to them. Stay off social media. It could be "I'm working on this feature for an hour", and get it done. At minimum, try and get 1 thing done before lunch and one thing done after lunch.

When you get home for the day, I recommend another healthy dose of exercise just to get you to sleep again. After that it's basically wash, rinse, repeat except you start adding slightly bigger challenges and better habits into your life each day. Start adding healthier diet choices in, etc... Make sure you have a non-work hobby for pleasure to look forward to after work. If you really have to smoke (no judgment sometimes we need the escape from the rat race) then do it right after work (not before) and do some yoga or stretch or something instead of tv or video games. You'll feel rested, your body will exert some more energy, and you'll sleep better than if you smoked right before bed and you'll work better than if you smoked before work. As success piles up you'll lose the desire to smoke and you'll realize you don't need it.

The important thing to remember is you don't need to change everything at once, but if you need to break the cycle I've found that an intense physical use of the body is usually the best starting point for a reboot at any time in life.

You can change, you will change, you're still super young. I was in a similar boat at your age (31 now) and the post-college, starting workforce blues are a real thing. Took me some practice to get over it but it's worth it. Best of luck. Also this kind of post might be better for a reddit forum than HN, although generally the HN crowd gives better advice. :-)


I gave up drinking at the end of October because I felt it was keeping me from some life goals.

I basically txt my sponsor once a day.

Making it through Thanksgiving was kind of tough, but it's all good.

With the mixture of determination and accountability I've put in place, I know I won't go back.

Another benefit, using your beer money to do fun stuff for your kids is an awesome feeling.

These are things that have worked on me long term. First, only smoke on weekends. Stop working at home. I find myself more disciplined when working at a public place, a hotel, tech hub etc. After like 5 months i can now productively work at home.

Ideas: Get some good headphones and listen to trance/edm/whatever music to get yourself in the zone. Get distractions like phones away from your desk and use a web blocker to zap crap sites like this one. Adrafanil or nicotine gum, maybe.

stop smoking weed for more than 1 month, find other things to do than smoking weed.

i'm on the same spot, it's hard to focus. that are all side effects of the weed.

if you stop, your body wants it again and you can not focus. if you have it, its nice but you get lazy.

Just an idea of what can help focusing instead of smoking: go to the gym. It has so many positive side effects, that you can lose nothing by trying it.

Imagine your opinions are in a basket that you carry with you. If you find a better opinion or way of thinking, switch it out. That way, you’re always improving yourself, and you’re able to have civil discussion about topics because you don’t get offended when somebody doesn’t like your opinion.

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