Chaotic Passionate vs Disciplined
Published at 17/01/2024

Chaotic Passionate vs Disciplined

You need discipline for success.

Looking back at my school days, I’ve observed something quite different.

I was frequently labeled as ‘lazy’ or ‘unorganized.’ Despite this, I was able to accomplish some things and did well academically.

I suspect it was because even if I was inconsistent, I can put a long concentrated effort once I am motivated and catch up with others.

I might fall behind when I don’t feel like doing it. But when I feel motivated, even if it’s due to pressure, I can use my passion to make rapid progress.

I realized that success could also come from intense, focused efforts, even if they’re sporadic.

However, it may not work in certain areas like I mentioned before on Heavy Lifts and Slow Burns. Some skills require consistent, gradual effort (‘slow burns’). These skills often need a disciplined approach.

Creating Passion

The common criticism against passion is that you will never always to be motivated.

I agree with the sentiment, however I realize there are things you can do to create or maintain passion.

Follow your curiosity

Avoid doing things you hate and do the things you love obsessively. Say no and follow your curiosity.

For example, I loved STEM in school and didn’t like other general subjects. Thus, I quit school and found a way so I can start university early, so I can focus on STEM subjects only.

When I realize I didn’t like my major in Mechanical Engineering, I switched my major even if I had to take additional classes. I knew I would perform worse if I’m forced to study things I didn’t enjoy.

What if you don’t know your passion?

Explore and try various things.

Do a cheap test on different hobbies or subject. Cheap in term of time and cost. You don’t have to buy a piano, maybe you can just try using a public piano in school.

How you try things is also important. Being forced by your parent to try this piano lessons probably will make you hate it.

Intrinsic motivation is key. But how do we we build it?

Inducing Flow and Intrinsic Motivation

Doing something you are passionate often feel fun. You are focused and time fly by unnoticed. This is what the psychologist Mihaly described as ‘flow’ state.

What if you can create the flow state? You will be able to manipulate passion to some extent.

Some factors of flow state described by Mihaly are:

This is similar to how passion is described by Cal Newport.

Passion is a function of three things – autonomy, competence and purpose.

Games are often designed with these elements in mind, hence why it’s so enjoyable. They have autonomy (no one forces you to play), achievements (feedback), quest (clear goals), difficulty setting (balance). While work or other activities don’t necessarily have these elements.

The solution is to introduce these elements to your activities or change your perspective of experiencing the activity itself.

For example, I use running app that tracks my mileage, streaks, goals, and achievements. This adds the element of clear goals & feedback loop to my runs. I also listen to audiobook/podcast while running. This can also count as increasing the challenge so it’s not too boring.

So the next time you try things, add these elements:

Once you implement this, you will often be surprised by how many activities you will enjoy.

Caveat: The Challenges of Relying on Passion

However, it’s important to recognize that passion and motivation can still be unpredictable. Sometimes life just hits you so hard that you don’t have energy to create or maintain passion. In these moments, discipline can be a lifeline.

Thus, developing some degree of discipline is still important.

In most days, you shouldn’t rely on willpower to push you through, use passion or habits.

Reserve the willpower and discipline for days when life just hits you down. Forcing discipline itself is not very sustainable.

Conclusion: The Passionate Disciplined

Reflecting on all of this, I believe that while discipline is important, optimizing for passion is often neglected. Passion is often misunderstood as completely out of control.

But It’s possible to create and maintain passion to some extent.

Passion can propels you forward rapidly, while also feeling good. Forced discipline can’t sustain you for long. But can help you keep going on the worst days.

Thus, having passion and maintaining some level of discipline is key. It accommodates both our intrinsic motivations and life’s unpredictable events.

I call this the passsionate disciplined.