Motivation vs. Discipline

Originally posted in March 2015:

I have been struggling lately with staying motivated.  I have lulls like this in life where my attention to detail wanes a bit and my excitement for my current endeavor subsides.  In the past I’ve used these moments to build up my list of excuses and rationalize my quitting.  But as I am getting older I am realizing the difference in motivation versus discipline.  

Motivation is the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.  In the past I was always looking for something to motivate me, like an emotional shove in the right direction: Pumped up music, inspirational talks, stories of success, etc.  But once the external hype was removed I had nothing to fall back on.  So I stopped and moved on to something else.  And continually failing to finish things that I started became a burden I carried around for years.  It was so heavy, mostly constructed of self-pity, doubt, anger, fear and aggravation.

What I learned from all of that is I was misusing external motivational tactics as an emotional jumpstart.  I lacked discipline and did not realize it, thus when the emotional high from the inspirational story wore off a couple weeks later, I had no clue how to continue.  Now I think I am figuring out how to overcome these lulls using discipline to carry me through.  Discipline is simply training yourself to do a certain task(s) in accordance with a set of rules.  And discipline is what carries successful people to victory!  Discipline makes you workout when you don’t feel like it.  Discipline is what makes you order healthy food when you really want the burger.  Discipline is why you walk door-to-door in the rain to make sales quotas.  Not because you “feel” like it, but because you have trained yourself to do what is necessary regardless of your mood or level of enthusiasm.

If you are the type of person like I was, getting jazzed up watching the workout infomercial, ordering and losing motivation after a couple weeks then maybe you need to look deeper at developing discipline.  Here’s how I am working to strengthen my discipline (keep in mind this is a work in progress!):

1.  I make the bed every morning
2.  I log my food and caloric intake before each meal
3.  I focus on not allowing myself to procrastinate
4.  I make a to-do list for each day to keep me organized
5.  I work to keep the dishes from piling up in the sink/keep the house neat and tidy (most of the time. Lol)
6.  I work to keep my word/do what I say I will do
7.  Find productive things to do versus sitting in front of the television
8.  Work to be a better husband/focus on my family/help out around the house more
9.  Ask myself daily if I am doing the best that I can do
10.  Write

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And in my opinion the most important one for me has been #1: making the bed.  I have found making the bed is my catalyst for a productive day and it starts the day off with organization and structure.  Some might find bed making a bit trivial, but I find keeping my life structured and disciplined is helping me stay focused while I practice my habits that will lead to more success.  And when you find yourself lacking the motivation to be productive, your discipline will take over and carry you!!  Just a thought for all of us to ponder.

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14 thoughts on “Motivation vs. Discipline

  1. I used to make my bed every single day as soon as I stepped out of it. I did this for 10 years or more. Now I get out and leave the mess.

    1. We are a product of our habits and actions. That is why I work so hard to do things each day to build to a bigger goal. It does take a lot of hard work, but the payoff is amazing. Thanks for the comment!

  2. They say it takes 30 days of doing something for it to become a habit. So, in theory, if you can make the bed every day for 30 days you will no longer need to be disciplined about it, you will just do it out of habit. Then you can apply your focus to be disciplined about something else.
    That’s the theory, anyway 🙂

    1. Exactly. Eventually it does not require the same energy to complete the task. In can be a painful transition to develop as a habit, but eventually it will switch over. Great point!!

  3. I find the opposite; I get obsessed about doing things, e.g. preparing the coffee machine the night before, doing the dishes… For me, greater “discipline” is required NOT to make the bed. However, such a “neurosis” is great when it comes to writing. I leave nothing unfinished.

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