Excitement, Discipline and Getting Things Done

Last week James Clear, in his 3-2-1 newsletter opined that, for getting stuff done, excitement is better than discipline.

When confronted with a binary choice, I often default to the Instapundit Glenn Reynolds joke, “Embrace the healing power of ‘and.”‘ In this instance, I’m going to make a small twist on it, embrace the healing power of  ‘neither.’

Neither excitement nor discipline is any good, at all, for getting things done. Clear’s proposition is something along the lines of, he who has a smile on his face will get more done than he who grits his teeth.

Yes, I agree that discipline won’t do it. Discipline could do it, but the discipline to see an unpleasant task through to completion is very rare indeed.

That leaves Mr. Clear with a false binary, discipline or excitement. I’ll admit that excitement works, at the start, but all projects eventually devolve into the grind. If you’re not excited about the grind, then your excitement for the project is gone.

New Year’s Resolutions begin with excitement, and we all know how the vast majority of those turn out; they devolve into the grind, require discipline, and are gone like a fart in a windstorm by February.

I repeat, embrace the healing power of ‘neither.’ Neither excitement nor discipline is good for getting stuff done.

But habit is.

START with excitement, apply small disciplines and daily, 1% improvement until it becomes a habit. Then you’ll start to get stuff done.