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You often see discipline and motivation used interchangeably, but they’re actually two separate concepts. Understanding the difference between self discipline vs. motivation will help you understand which habits to build to achieve your goals.
Both self discipline and motivation are important, but believe it or not, relying on one without the other won’t give you the results you’re looking for.
We often focus so much on motivation, but motivation isn’t very stable. If we rely on motivation alone, it’s going to be difficult to stay consistent.
That’s where self-discipline comes in. Think of self-discipline as a reliable friend that’s there for you when motivation doesn’t want to show up!
This post is all about self discipline vs. motivation
So what is the difference between self discipline vs. motivation?
Let’s look to the dictionary!
Self-Discipline: “the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it”
Motivation: “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something”
Think of motivation as the foundation. Motivation is the driving factor behind why you might decide to lose weight, or to chase your dream career, or to strive for a goal.
But let’s take losing weight, for example. Is the desire to lose weight stronger on some days than others? Probably.
You might get wrapped up in your busy life and not give it much thought some days. But then a trigger pops up: you’re trying on clothes at your favorite store and don’t like how you look in the mirror, you step on the scale and it’s gone up higher than you’ve ever seen it, etc.
Your motivation might kick into high gear, temporarily at least. But once the ambitious feelings fade (and they will, and it’s normal!), what do you have to fall back on?
Well, for a lot of us, nothing! This is why building self-discipline is SO important, because it’s what will keep you on track when motivation dwindles.
Self-discipline is what will help you stick to your plan. It’s to pursue your truest wishes despite the temptation to forget about them when the going gets tough, or boring, or frustrating.
And building your self-discipline will also teach you to trust yourself. That you will get sh*t done at the end of the day. It can help ease “fear of failure,” because you know you’re putting forth your best effort consistently.
Motivation is great, but it’s finite.
Motivation is exciting, right? It can give us the nudge we need to decide on a goal and want to achieve it in the first place.
But that excitement wears off. It’s not exactly linear, instead our motivation (and excitement) about a goal can fluctuate.
So you have to understand that motivation is not reliable. It’s still plenty valuable and necessary, but it’s the self-discipline that you’re supposed to rely on instead in the debate of self-discipline vs. motivation. Self-discipline runs less of a risk of “running out.”
Habits based on self-discipline are what will yield results
That means you need to be practicing self-discipline based habits everyday.
For example, with my blog, I work on some aspect of it every single day (usually 7 days a week!). And I’ll be the first to say that I don’t always feel 100% motivated to work on it. Even when we love something, the daily grind can get tough.
But having the self-discipline to work on it so consistently, it feels like a part of my day is missing if I don’t work on some aspect of it.
Take a moment to think about what habits you need to create to reach your goals. How do you plan to make sure you stay on track with incorporating these habits into your daily life?
I love using habit trackers like the one below. This really helps me make progress on the habits that I want to prioritize for achieving my goals! And if you fall off the wagon, you’ll know. These hold me accountable.
Make planning a part of your routine
If you don’t get into the habit of planning your time wisely, it’ll be hard to stay disciplined.
There’s so many fantastic planner options out there, but my Clever Fox Planner never fails me! I love that it’s undated and has so many pages for goal planning in addition to weekly and monthly spreads.
Set the bar low when you’re starting out
The last thing you want to do is go crazy with this advice and expect way too much of yourself. If you want to build self-discipline the sustainable, manageable way, take it easy.
I know I have the horrible habit of biting off way more than I can chew. I love making mile-long to do lists and expecting too much of myself!
But with my latest endeavor to create a morning routine for myself, I took the simple approach. I realized that if I have a really complex and several-step morning routine, there is no way I’m going to stick to that for very long.
So what did I do? I gave myself a morning routine with only 3 tasks. Skincare, coffee + short journaling, and a 5 minute meditation.
Setting the bar low will make things more obtainable and practical for yourself. You can always build upon it if you feel like you can handle more, but the initial goal here is simply to practice building self-discipline, not to do everything.
My productive day planner is a good option if you’re looking to start small! It’s just a simple, (free!) one-page daily planning outline that you can print over and over again to help guide your day in the right direction.
Want a head start on actually improving your organization and productivity? ...and want it free? Sign up for my newsletter below to get the FREE productive day planner sent straight to your inbox!
Change your perspective: you ARE a self-disciplined person
If you want to behave like a self-disciplined person, you need to act the part!
Instead of viewing the goal of achieving self-discipline as something far off in the future that you’d like to achieve some day, start telling yourself NOW that you are, in fact, a self-disciplined person.
If you believe that you are self-disciplined, you’ll feel more confident in your ability to grow and maintain a level of self-discipline.
Confidence goes a long way. I’m a strong believer in “fake it til ya make it,” and I really think it works because so much of this has to do with our mindset.
Does this clear up some of the confusion on self-discipline vs. motivation and how they differ?
Ideally, you’ll want both to create a recipe for success! But you definitely cannot rely on motivation alone without the support of self-discipline.
Motivation fluctuates often, but self-discipline will be the stability you need to carry on and actually reach your goals!