It helps you manage time better and makes you more hardworking. Mouna Khorchid talks to counsellors and students.

Self-discipline is not just a notion related to Ramadan. It is a concept college students, in particular, are expected to embrace virtually every day as they wrestle with studies, tests, and social life.

Self-discipline is about controlling one's actions and impulses. Some people are naturally better at drawing their boundary lines and sticking to them while others find it a real challenge.

Most students come from homes where parents monitor their lifestyle and study habits. But when they move to a university environment, they do not often have anyone looking over their shoulder; so some might not be self disciplined enough to realise what they really should be doing.

Lynda Ataya, registrar at the American University of Sharjah (AUS), said the students who succeed are the ones who organise and manage their time properly. She said most universities assist freshmen to adjust to the transition in their freedom levels.

For instance, said Ataya, at AUS orientation workshops in time management, organisation and self-discipline are given at the beginning of each semester. Among the other services offered year round are individual counselling and workshops dealing with issues such as time management, coping with stress, and the harmful effects of smoking.

Managing Time

Prioritising time is the best solution to maintain a good academic standing and enjoy a healthy social life. Salim Mikati, assistant activities coordinator at AUS, encouraged students to get involved in as many activities as possible, but to give each interest, including studying, the time it deserves.

Khalid Ghorab, a student at the American University in Dubai (AUD), advised students to plan ahead and form a daily schedule. He added that it is important to stay motivated to study and not procrastinate.

Mohammad Younis, a student of the Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi, said that a person should strive for moderation in everything. Students must be able to divide their time sensibly, he said.

Society and freedom

Kareem Musleh, a father of two teenagers, said the freedom young people receive should come with a certain measure of control. Give them space to make their own decisions, Musleh said, but keep close watch so that things don't get out of hand.

Musleh said being too strict leads to rebellion and a negative fallout, especially once the child leaves home to live alone at university.

Bana Ezzat, a student at AUS, agreed. She said , she had been brought up to be responsible, which made it easier for her to moderate her life. There are too many temptations, she added; it is all about having a will to be self-disciplined.

Musleh complained that his children barely listened to his advice and believed they knew what was right for them. He added that controlling young ones is tricky these days because of the unlimited exposure they get through the internet and TV.

Winning and losing

Sports can be a great way to learn self-discipline. "Sports is one place where a lot can be taught in terms of discipline such as respecting fellow players, opponents, officials and spectators," said Franky Barreto, sports and recreation coordinator at the University of Wollongong (UOWD), Dubai.

According to him, sports play a big part in making a player a better person, whether on or off the field because "playing any sport is always very tough and competitive and needs a lot of physical as well as mental preparation. If self-disciplined, half of your work is done."

Younis agreed , saying winning is an achievement to be proud of. However, one should never feel ashamed of losing if one has tried their best, he added.

Self-discipline gets easier with practice. Anna Helsing, career adviser at UOWD, said a person's self-control grows with every experience he or she goes through, because one learns from one's mistakes.

She added that self-discipline is part of many aspects of our life, and stands one in good stead at times such as job-hunting. The often time-consuming process needs patience, hard work and a positive attitude, and these are often by-products of discipline.

- The writer is a mass communications student at the American University of Sharjah

Why I think self-discipline is important
Mohammad Younis
Studying: At The Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi

For Younis, his freshman year was the most stressful one to date. "I could not cope with the workload and barely made most of my deadlines for handing in projects and assignments," he said. "Looking back now, I could see that I had no measure of self control in that year. I would rather go out with my friends than spend time studying or getting ready for important classes."

Younis noted that since there is so much freedom on a college campus compared to high school, students should realise early on the importance of self-discipline. He said that self control is important; it helped him achieve his goals. Determination to accomplish something made him put all his effort into it, even if it requires more work than he would like to do.

Counsellor's advice

Ahmad Maher Al Ghourani, senior student counsellor, American University of Sharjah, says:

- Self-discipline is self control over your verbal and non verbal behaviour

- Students who shows higher levels of self-control tend to fare better in school.

- There is a positive correlation between high levels of self-control and good time management skills.

- Freshmen face a variety of challenges from loneliness and homesickness to an inability to take decisions alone, the fear of living with strangers in dorms and inability to cook and clean. My advice to them is to look at these challenges as opportunities to learn, grow and mature.

- Plan your work and work your plan. Being away from home is a great experience that can build your character.