Motivation vs. Discipline: How Important Is It?

Motivation vs. Discipline (Image Source: Shutterstock)

What Is Motivation?

Motivation is a state of feeling inspired, dedicated, or willing to do something. It’s essentially the feeling you get when you really want to accomplish a task, overcome a challenge, buy something, meet someone new, and so on.

What Is Discipline?

Discipline is the counterpart to motivation. Discipline is the collective habits and personal drive you build and maintain to accomplish tasks. For example, discipline is the self-control you cultivate when you do your homework on a Monday night, even though you would rather be hanging out with friends or watching Netflix.

Motivation vs. Discipline: Which Is More Important?

While both motivation and discipline are important for long-term goal development and achievement, discipline is by far much more important in the long run. There are multiple reasons for this.

Motivation Is Fleeting and Flexible

By nature, motivation is flexible, fleeting, and can’t be relied on for consistent results or performance. Think of some common examples of motivation:

  • You learn about a potential career you’ll love and are temporarily motivated to sign up for a new college program, take a class, or pursue a certificate
  • You discover someone you really click with personally and are motivated to forge a relationship with them
  • You see an Instagram post of someone really fit and want to achieve a similar level of physical fitness. The realities of working out don’t matter; at the moment, you are motivated to get those gains and hit the gym the same day you see the post
  • What you like
  • What you want to achieve
  • How badly you want to achieve those things

Discipline Is Lasting and Controllable

Instead of being fleeting, discipline is lasting, controllable, and, most importantly, completely up to you.

  • Eat better, even if you would rather eat junk food more often
  • Go to the gym regularly at the same time each day, even if you would rather relax
  • Mark your progress to motivate yourself further

When to Prioritize Discipline

It’s generally best to prioritize discipline all the time. If you can learn self-discipline, you’ll see positive dividends throughout your life and in all major areas. Discipline can help you with your:

  • Physical fitness, as broken down in the example above
  • Career. Disciplined, consistent employees are more likely to receive promotions or get opportunities in the workplace.
  • Relationships. Disciplined individuals typically have better control over their emotions and are stabler as a result.
  • Schooling, as you’ll complete assignments more regularly or consistently.
  • Daily life

Can You Achieve Things Without Motivation?

Yes. That’s the importance of discipline overall. You won’t always be motivated to go to the gym, study for a test, or work hard on your startup. But even if you aren’t motivated, discipline can carry you to the finish line if you prioritize it enough and build up enough of a good habit.

How Can I Cultivate Better Discipline?

Given discipline’s importance, it’s a good idea to cultivate it and learn how to be more self-disciplined as early as possible. You can do this by:

  • Starting small. It’s tough to teach yourself self-discipline if you’ve never done so before. You can start small by tackling a consistent problem or goal, such as making your bed every morning or never leaving dirty dishes in the sink. Build up these habits, and discipline will come along over time.
  • Telling yourself that you’ll maintain your discipline in the mirror. It’s tough to break promises to yourself, especially if you make those promises every day.
  • Letting your body and mind do the work without ruminating on how much you want or don’t want to do it. If you take the focus away from motivation and your feelings, you may find that your body works through challenges, such as going to the gym, automatically thanks to the discipline habits you’ve built up previously.

Can You Chase Motivation?

Not in most cases. Motivation is by its very nature intangible and very tough to develop intentionally. We typically become motivated when we see impressive things, notice new experiences or ideas, or speak to people who seem excited for one reason or another.

Discipline Is the Key to Success

Ultimately, discipline is the key to reaching all the long-term goals you’ve always dreamed of. While motivation can be helpful in limited doses, you should not rely on it to carry you to the finish line. Cultivating discipline is harder but much more rewarding.



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