Teaching self-discipline through wilderness living

By Matt Bulkley | Blog Education Series

STAR Guides Wilderness - Teaching self-discipline through wilderness living

The development of disciplining one’s self should be a task that occurs in the adolescent years. Unfortunately fewer and fewer teens are developing this highly valuable characteristic. In many ways, our society has cultivated an “instant gratification” mentality that suggests that we should be entitled to have whatever we want whenever we want it. Instant gratification is the antithesis of self-discipline.

When a youth enters the STAR Guides program, they must immediately begin to develop self-discipline. There is virtually nothing about wilderness living that provides instant gratification. Being hungry requires that a student must put forth effort to cook their own pot. Being cold requires that a student must put forth effort to collect firewood and build a fire. Staying dry in the rain requires that a student must put forth effort to set up a rain shelter. Being frustrated requires that a student must put forth the emotional and mental effort to communicate their feelings to others. All of these activities require that a student develop self-discipline to muster the effort to be productive rather than finding instant gratification in the form of ease and comfort.

Over time, students come to realize that effort and self-discipline actually lead to a greater sense of satisfaction than the short-lived pleasure that comes from laziness and irresponsibility. These invaluable lessons allow a youth to then generalize this behavior into life in the real world when it comes to having the self-discipline to refrain from developing an addiction or dependency to technology issues including pornography or video gaming and to having self-restraint to make wise decisions regarding sexual behaviors and use of drugs and alcohol.

About the Author

Matt is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working in the field of youth treatment and psychotherapy since 1995. He did his undergraduate work at BYU and earned his M.S.W. at the University of Utah. He has worked in a variety of treatment setting in his career ranging from wilderness therapy and residential treatment to outpatient treatment and state government.

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