Q: Our son has chosen to stay out of university this year. He says the pressure is more than he can bear. We know our son to be an extraordinarily intelligent young man so we are disappointed. However, he is helping with the farm and Dad always loves getting an extra hand. As I watch my son working around the yard, I think his disappointment at university may have had more to do with his work habits than it did with the academic environment.
Our son loves getting involved in anything that comes along. He is running around the farm in seven directions at once but seldom finishes what he starts. He gets annoyed when I point this out to him, but I think that I have stumbled on a little truth about him. What do you think?
A: I don’t want to try to analyze your son on the basis of your correspondence but you have in general found what can be a problem for many people.
It is called getting things done. Any number of people do not finish what they have started. Apart from the frustrations of having to live in a mess of incomplete projects, the problem with not getting things done is that people deprive themselves of the neurological rewards that encourage moments of higher self-esteem. When you finish a project, your brain releases a chemical transmitter called dopamine. This is its reward mechanism, your brain’s way of patting you on the back for a job well done.
The problem is that you have to finish to get the reward. If you don’t, you do not get your shot of dopamine and without accumulated dopamine, you could fall behind in the race toward self-esteem.
Farm life is built around all kinds of distractions from the task at hand. Often as not, finishing a task is difficult. Machinery breaks down, a virus checks in with the herd or with the crop, and the prices you expected to be paid suddenly collapse. Nonetheless, finishing the task is important. If you look at more successful farms, you are likely to find fewer incomplete tasks. Successful people overcome obstacles and finish what they started.
If your son is caught up in not finishing what he starts, the resolution may be to engage in tasks or hobbies that have neither financial nor personal commitments. He can put together jig saw puzzles, make model cars, or just about anything he wishes.
However, he must always have a clear idea of what he is trying to accomplish and he needs to see the project through to completion.
Over time, the drive to complete what has been started becomes a habit. Hopefully, developing this habit will help him should he return to university.