Motivation Versus Discipline
A growing number of young Chinese people are pursing higher education in the U.S. and other overseas countries. In recent years, more are beginning the process at an earlier age, by attending secondary school overseas as well.
The underlying reasons for this are many. Clearly, one point of appeal is the pursuit of a learning environment different from that of higher education in China, especially with regards to fostering innovation, creativity, teamwork and communication skills.
The whole process, starting with selection of which schools to apply to, completion and submission of applications, waiting for the news about admission, and so on, creates high anxiety for students as well as parents. Not to mention high costs.
A Chinese friend in Beijing told me of a conversation he had with his daughter after she had completed the testing and application process for several U.S. universities. She was asked to write an essay in English on the question of which is more important: motivation or discipline, including the reasoning in support of her answer.
Later, she asked her Dad how he would have answered the question, and which one he thought would be considered the correct answer for the purposes of the test.
His answer: discipline is more important.
She had taken a different view in her essay, answering that motivation is the more important of the two.
Her Father asked her why, and she cited the hypothetical example of a young boy pushed by his parents to practice the violin for many hours each day, from a very young age.
When he’s young and heavily subject to parental guidance, he will most likely develop the necessary discipline to complete his rigorous daily practice routine.
But as he gets older, begins to think more independently and prioritize things for himself, he may react very negatively to the huge time commitment involved in this one pursuit, at the expense of other interests.
At that stage, discipline will not be sufficient to sustain his effort, in the absence of motivation. In other words, discipline without motivation is not sustainable.
My friend was impressed by his daughter’s answer to the question, which he agreed was superior to his own.
Obviously, I didn’t write the test, but I guess those that did were aiming to test the student’s reasoning ability as well as ability to write an essay in English. In other words, either answer can be considered correct, depending on how well you explain your logic and express your arguments in English.
In the world of management, it cannot be an either-or answer.
Great managers and leaders develop a culture imbued with both motivation and discipline. One without the other is like a bird with one wing.
On the road to success, one of the most important discoveries a young person can make is finding something they are passionate about. If they can build their career path around this or related to this — whatever it may be — their prospects of achieving greatness and happiness will be significantly enhanced.
Parents and teachers would do their children a big favor by bearing this in mind, and helping young people discover their individual passion, rather than focusing only on discipline and test results.
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