Motivation Vs. Discipline

October 11, 2016
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December 17, 2016
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Motivation Vs. Discipline

This has been a topic of discussion for some time and worth bringing up for when times get tough. The theme is this; in times of trouble would you rather rely on your motivation to pull you through or your discipline? Let’s briefly outline the two to get a better understanding before we take make our hypothesis. Motivation is the cheer leading we give ourselves to accomplish a task. Usually, it sounds something like this, “I want to lose weight to make myself more attractive…”, or that a certain mental state is necessary to reach your goal. Motivation can range the entire spectrum of needs and wants. Discipline is the duty/obligation to yourself or others to accomplish similar/same tasks. Discipline can sound something like this; “I eat healthy and exercise because I want to be ready for…”, or separating functionality from emotion or mood. That will give you the general idea, but I’m no Webster’s.


Maybe you needed a refresher of the differences or maybe not, but now is the time to think about it, which is better? Is there a clear winner? *Ding, ding* time’s up, and the winner is; discipline. By a wide margin. There are a few moments in our lives that count as true “paradigm shifts”. Adopting a discipline position can result in immediate results and superior outcomes. Changing your view on this counts as a true epiphany, an honest “light bulb” moment.


To look at the difference another way; motivation works on the assumption that a mental or emotional state of mind is needed to complete your desired task or reach a particular outcome. As you can imagine, with moods and emotions changing and fluxing day to day and even more the state of your motivation is in constant motion, not the ideal for consistency and reliable results. On the other hand, discipline divides what is going on inside your head, moods, feelings and emotions, and machine like functionality. By separating the two we can navigate around the need to feel a certain way and constantly having to improve the way we feel in order to accomplish something.


If you know you are weak against procrastination or, if it’s something you are discovering about yourself now let’s talk about procrastination now and get some things out of the way. Ask yourself if this line of thinking applies to you; do you wait to be ready for something before you begin? Or put another way, you don’t need to wait to be a professional at something before you begin training. You train to become a professional.


Let’s assume that we are all procrastinators for a moment. If taking action is conditional on emotional state or to “feel like it” then waiting for the right mood transforms into a horrifying form of procrastination. Let’s also recognize now what we have been doing and work to correct it. Looking back we may wish we had recognized this sooner, but there is not much we can to about the past today.


If we wait until we FEEL like doing anything and everything, we are already on the wrong track. This is exactly how people fall into procrastination ruts and once in, as I’m sure we can all imagine, it’s difficult to get out.


At the heart of the issue of chasing down motivation is the stubbornness to do things we only feel like doing, It is something we have dealt with since our infancy and if you have children you’re dealing with it today in another way. How do we get ourselves to feel like doing something we know we should be doing, or have decided to do? Again, not the best recipes for accomplishing our goals. Maybe the better question is, “How do I make my feelings a non-factor and knowingly something I want to do without all the complaining and excuse making?”  The point here is to cut ties that bind feelings and actions together and do what we want/need to do anyway. The reward(s) come after the action, Is that an issue?


Life and the real world require people to do things that no sane person would be super pumped about. Motivation then runs into the brick wall of trying to squeeze excitement and enthusiasm for things that do not merit it. The only solution then, besides general procrastination and slacking, is to create a state of insanity to accomplish the task/goal. That’s not good either. In fact, I would say that is downright diabolical.


Trying to create or hype yourself up for something that is fundamentally dull and inherently mundane is signing yourself up for insanity and psychological harm. “I just love putting widgets on doodads so much, I can’t wait to put the next one on top and see it sitting there. I love my job so much!”


One of the very worst things that can happen is getting the wrong thing right, temporarily. The superior course is to retain your sanity, but that can lead to something that can be misinterpreted as a moral failure. “I don’t love putting widgets on doodads; I must be doing something wrong.” Said another way, “I still prefer unhealthy foods to health foods and I can’t lose weight, maybe I’m just still too weak. I should buy another motivational self-help book.” Wrong! The monumental error is trying to approach these issues in terms of motivation, or lack of it. The answer is discipline not motivation.


The last issue with motivation I would like to discuss here today is a practical problem. Motivation has a small life span and needs to be refreshed all the time.


Motivation can be compared to a mechanism that requires a crank or wind up in order to function. Once wound up it delivers a burst, but requires another crank in order to produce more energy. There may be some instances where the mental pre-load can be best, but they are far and few between and definitely not appropriate for day to day activities. Pretty much anything you would like to see consistent results hyping yourself up in not a good strategy.


When we compare that to discipline we see that discipline is similar to a perpetual motion machine. Once started it supplies and generates its own result and energy.


There is no mental health state, no emotional state that is a pre-requisite for productivity. When the desired outcome are long term results, consistent long term results at that, discipline will out preform motivation on every occasion.


Finally, how do we foster discipline within ourselves? We do this by building habits that are small and manageable. Manageable is different for everyone because everyone is starting at a different spot. It’s OK to start with something very small like making your bed every morning when you get up. The object is to leverage and build momentum around your accomplishments and progressively improving routines and generating positive results free of emotional or mental fuel.


Motivation is a counterproductive attitude. It will fail you time and time again. It will cause you to be in undesirable mental and emotional states and will ultimately limit your productivity. What you need is discipline.


1 Comment

  1. SangPapathan says:

    Your posts are great and they provide fresh articles. Thanks!

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