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Discipline over Motivation

I recently read a compelling piece titled Screw motivation, what you need is discipline.

It claimed…

If you want to get anything done, there are two basic ways to get yourself to do it.

The first, more popular and devastatingly wrong option is to try to motivate yourself.

The second, somewhat unpopular and entirely correct choice is to cultivate discipline.

It doesn’t sound convincingly balanced, does it?

What the author goes on to write

Motivation, broadly speaking, operates on the assumption that a particular mental or emotional state is necessary to start or complete a task.  Discipline, by contrast, separates outwards functioning from moods and feelings and thereby circumvents the problem.

Successful completion of tasks brings about the inner states that chronic procrastinators think they need to initiate tasks in the first place.

If action is conditional on feelings, waiting for the right mood becomes a particularly insidious form of procrastination.

If you wait until you feel like doing stuff, you’re screwed. That’s precisely how the dreaded procrastinatory loops come about.

What I think

I halfway agree with the author’s thoughts. But, I believe you need ritual (not discipline) and motivation.  I believe you should create a system to ensure you are always getting stuff done, regardless if you’re motivated (though it helps). My system includes rituals that I follow.  Those rituals become habits. Those habits help me get more stuff done.

About Derek Huether

I'm Vice President of Enterprise Engagements at LeadingAgile. I'm super focused on results. But I also take the hand waving out of organizational transformations. I come from a traditional PM background but I don't give points for stuff done behind the scenes. The only thing that counts is what you get done and delivered. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon)

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