Motivation vs. Discipline: Which One Makes You Truly Succeed in Life?
Let's start with the naked truth. First of all, successful people never wait for the perfect moment to get things done. They take control of their own time, they walk towards high-potential opportunities, they slightly bend the rules to take action.
You can always know more, have more money, or be in better mental or physical condition. Either way, it's never enough to convince yourself that you can't fail.
"Perfect day is merely a fantasy. It doesn’t exist and it will never arrive. It is a fabulous creature that has nested in your mind, feeding on your doubts and on the inhibiting fear of failure."
Secondly, successful people wait neither for inspiration, nor for motivation to make their dreams come true. Instead, they teach themselves brutal self-discipline.
Inspiration comes and goes. You need to wait for it.
Motivation comes and goes. You need to wait for it.
Discipline stays. You can learn it. And once you do, it never lets you down.
Let's look at two friends: Adam and Eve.
Adam is a passionate, driven person. When he sets his eyes on something, nothing can stop him.
Eve is extremely organized and dedicated. She plans out both her big goals and daily tasks well ahead.
Now, who has have higher chances of succeeding in life?
A tough choice, isn't it? The old proverb says, "When there's a will, there's a way," which means that a strong-willed, determined individual can't be held back from accomplishing their vision.
Motivation is powerful but also highly addictive. The day you wake up and it's not there for you anymore, you feel abandoned. It's the "I'm done" kind of feeling. An awful feeling.
It can make you believe that you've lost your purpose altogether, which may in turn take a toll on your mental health.
No need to mention that you don't get much done in such a state. Or you end up making yourself busy with nonproductive tasks instead, which feels rewarding (e.g., cleaning up your email inbox) but also deceitfully assists you in avoiding the work that matters.
On the other hand, when you are used to waking up every day and performing certain – carefully preselected – tasks regardless of your mood, your energy level, or other unfavorable circumstances, this lack of motivation will merely slow you down at best.
Motivation is the driving force behind your behavior and it is born out of your needs. When you lose motivation, it may seem somewhat random. A punishment of sorts, even.
Often it has something to do with the lack of energy – I really want this but I simply cannot take even a single step more.
Or with a (sudden) damage to one's self-esteem – No matter how hard I try, I'm going to fail anyway.
Or there are expectations of others that overdrive our original need – I need to feel accepted, approved of, loved more than anything else, therefore my current goals have to wait.
And what about perfectionists? Many people among us, myself included, suffer from this disease. You've all heard the trite saying, "Perfect is the enemy of good," or even its better version, "Perfect is the enemy of done." When a perfectionist starts believing that they are incapable of fulfilling the requirements they have imposed on themselves, the motivation fades away at a surprising pace.
That being said, motivation can be cultivated to a certain extent by regular revisiting of not only our needs, but also our deep-rooted beliefs and values. Such exercise can help us tremendously in making it clear for ourselves what we truly want out of our lives.
As the other option, discipline is tightly linked to developing new habits. And in order to successfully build a new habit, it likewise needs to be aligned with your needs, beliefs, and values. Otherwise, there's not a chance you will succeed.
In general, we do our best to avoid pain and we navigate towards pleasure. And when we speak about pleasure, we speak not only about the physical but also the emotional kind.
For example, your new daily workout may leave you sore and hurting, but since you strongly value having a healthy and fit body, you have higher chances to stick to the regular practice. If your only motivation here were to look good for the others – external expectations – you might give up pretty fast.
Or if your habit of overeating is of an emotional character, i.e., you eat to feel good in your head rather than in your body, it's quite difficult to reverse. On the other hand, people who are emotionally balanced – those who recognize their emotions without getting carried away by them – tend to maintain a healthy weight. Therefore in order to make a habit of eating healthy, one needs to find other ways to satisfy their emotional needs.
If we take another example, let's say you want to finish writing your novel. Now, writing is something you love more than anything else. However, as many authors know too well, once you are about to sit down to your laptop, procrastination grapples with you with an unparalleled force. Why is that?
Writing is hard not only practically, but mostly emotionally. Some writers have likened writing to bleeding on paper. Therefore the initial automated reaction of our mind is to avoid that emotional pain and steer towards a task that can provide instant emotional gratification, such as finishing up our laundry.
The antidote to procrastination is focus and relentless time and task management. That's why most writers bind themselves with a daily word count to get their writing done.
Just because you love doing something doesn't mean that you will actually do it. No matter how illogical that sounds. Many activities that matter to us, that we find important, that we value to the highest level, are hard to pursue time and again. Just think about it. Just because you enjoy your job doesn't mean that you're exhilarated to show up every single day of the year. Just because you find it fun to learn new languages, you're not always in the mood to practice.
Motivation is wings that make us fly towards our goals and desires. But on the days when we're slowly sinking into our daily routines, low on energy and in bad mental shape, discipline is the life jacket to keep ourselves afloat.