Discipline is more Important than Motivation
The story of Mark Donaldson VC is a truly inspirational one. Raised in Newcastle, Mark had a tough childhood losing his father at the age of 15 and then suffered further tragedy when his mother was reported missing, presumed murdered when he was 19. Mark found himself on the wrong side of the law as he began to associate with the wrong crowd engaging in fights and painting graffiti on the sides of trains. He found himself at ‘The Crossroad’ in his life where he needed to make a decision on how he would lead his life, (‘The Crossroad’ happens to be the title of his best-selling book).
Fortunately Mark made the right decision to turn his life around and decided to join the military. He became the first Australian since the Vietnam War to be awarded the Victoria Cross for his extraordinary courage in Afghanistan in September 2008 and was named the Young Australian of the Year in 2010. It’s a terrific story of courage under fire, performance under pressure and self-awareness to turn one’s life around under difficult circumstances.
In 2017, I had the pleasure of organising Mark Donaldson to be one of our keynote speakers for the National Boys Education Conference where he delivered an outstanding presentation on ‘Learning Today: Leading Tomorrow’. One of his key messages was that discipline is more important than motivation. Mark argues that whilst ‘motivation is what gets you started, it is discipline that is what keeps you going’. Motivation is a ‘sugar hit’, its good but it won’t last unless you have the discipline in maintaining high standards and pursuing excellence in everything you do all the time.
From an education perspective, discipline can be taught and developed in young men and women by ensuring that they are passionate in their subjects/sport/co-curricular pursuits by improving their competence in those respective areas. As such, it is more important for teachers and parents to think about the best techniques to improve student performance, rather than techniques to increase their short-term engagement or interest.
The key developmental strategy in building discipline in young people is an extensive and carefully designed ‘deliberate practice’ program that will lead students to feel a sense of success. The art of deliberate practice involves more than just repetition but it requires that the practice is designed to improve performance, challenge the learner and provide feedback. We can see strong links with this concept to the ‘Learning Pit’ where the teacher/parent activates the learning process for the student to be challenged, to grow and improve.
A disciplined student is one who will thrive in the regular cycle of expert teaching of ‘explain, practice, review’, which builds long term interest and hard work. Again, we can observe the distinction between motivation and discipline; motivation may be a short term outcome but a discipline is based on the development of the intellectual, social, emotional and physical habits to continue to engage in the learning process so they have the capacity to improve. Discipline is at the very heart of both our Vision Statement and Mission Statement which read as:
To position Northholm Grammar School as a centre of excellence in the educational community through our unique ability to nurture young people while challenging them to excel.
To develop the intellectual, cultural, creative and spiritual capacities of young people so that they are empowered to embrace the future with confidence and compassion.
The disciplined student is resilient, hard-working, perseveres through challenges and demonstrates determination in everything they do. They have a ‘growth mindset’ to achieve their personal best and they seek opportunities to grow and develop. The disciplined student believes in themselves, they acknowledge that they can be spectacular and outstanding if they ‘consistently’ put their mind to it. The disciplined student has a purpose and they live it out with passion.
As we enter the second half of this term, now is the time that we will truly see in our students those who have the discipline to maintain the high standards set at the beginning of the year and have the capacity to build on the positive momentum. Discipline is a habit of mind and I look forward to seeing our young men and women reach their personal bests through the key three focus areas of the year being scholarship, excellence and character.