Motivation vs. Discipline and Why You Need Both if You Want to Pass Your Firefighter Promotional Exam

When you begin your firefighter promotion journey you will be encouraged to meet your goals because of motivation. However, if you want to actually meet the goal of firefighter promotion, you will need to be disciplined. Motivation will get the ball rolling, but discipline will keep it moving. 


Motivation is defined as, “the impetus that gives purpose or direction to behavior and operates in humans at a conscious or unconscious level.” 

If you are a person with goals in your life then you are likely familiar with the term motivation. You likely even have an ongoing list of what motivates you in your current career and keeps you going running through your head. These motivations are what made you think about promoting in the fire service in the first place, or perhaps already encouraged you to sign up for the firefighter promotional exam. Motivation is critical for you to be able to reach your goals.

Motivation doesn't always have to be goal related though. You can be motivated to do something because it is fun, or because someone is expecting you to (parent, mentor, spouse, superior etc.). You could also be looking to promote in the fire service just because you want to prove to yourself that you can and you enjoy a challenge. 

Motivation is what got you thinking about and signing up to promote, but motivation is not enough by itself to get you promoted. 


Discipline is defined as, “training that is designed to establish desired habits of mind and behavior.” Discipline is what it takes to actually pass the firefighter promotional exam and be successful in your new career. You can’t become disciplined without motivation though. If you are motivated, the desire to work hard and study will be present but without the discipline piece you are not likely to get it done.

If you have already reached the point in your career where you are looking to promote then you are disciplined. Showing up to a job everyday is a form of discipline. Going to trainings to keep up to date with your job as well as learning new skills is a form of discipline. Studying to take an exam to promote to a new job will require discipline as well, but it may look different because it is a different task. 

How to become disciplined in studying:

  1. Have a Goal

This one should be easy. If you have gotten to this point in your career you have a career goal. Without a goal you will not be motivated to become disciplined in your study habits and pass your exam. 

  1. Make a Schedule

Schedule time to study. Not having enough time cannot be an excuse why you are not studying. Schedule your study sessions. Make studying a part of your routine. 

  1. Eliminate Distractions

Turn off your phone. Turn off your TV. Lock yourself in a quiet room if you have to, just get it done. 

  1. Do Progress Checks

Test yourself. Take practice tests. Figure out where you need to focus your attention by yourself. No one is telling you what to do, or making sure you are studying appropriately so you have to be able to figure it out for yourself. 

  1. Tell Everyone

Tell everyone what you are doing so you have some external motivation. Having to tell your friends and family you failed something sucks. Use that possibility as another form of motivation to study and ace your exam. 

The Takeaway 

You cannot become disciplined in your study habits and pass your firefighter promotional exam if you are not motivated from the beginning. Becoming disciplined in your studies will take time as all new things do. Put in the time and effort to make studying a priority and you will pass your firefighter promotional exam in no time.