Out of the thousands of emails that I receive each year, motivation is perhaps the most asked about topic of all. It is rare that a day passes without someone inquiring about how I’ve stayed motivated after so many years. Ironically, I can’t recall the last time anyone asked me about discipline. For some reason, motivation always gets more attention. Everyone wants to be motivated, while few take the time to consider discipline.
That’s a mistake.
Discipline > Motivation
One of the biggest myths of all is that successful people are constantly motivated. The online world that we live in certainly perpetuates this false assumption. Social media only captures what a person wants you to see. As a result, certain people have created the illusion that they operate in a fairy tale land that’s devoid of bad days and bad moods.
The reality though is that no one lives in a constant state of motivation. We all experience ups and downs, and moments when we don’t feel like doing what needs to be done. Successful people don’t just work when they feel like working however. Instead, they are disciplined enough to get the job done regardless of their mood.
If you always wait to feel a certain way before you act, don’t expect to ever accomplish anything worthwhile. Too much time will be spent procrastinating as you sit around waiting for the perfect mood to arrive. Meanwhile, your successful competitors will be busy putting in the work whether they want to or not.
Embrace the Grind
One of the keys to becoming more successful is recognizing the simple fact that life is tough. There is no such thing as a perfect time to work or start a new task. Therefore, rather than constantly seeking out motivation to begin or continue, your time would be better spent cultivating habits that will eventually lead towards enhanced productivity.
Speaking for myself, I have never relied on motivation to succeed. I certainly welcome those times when I’m fired up and ready to go, but I’ll never limit my output to such moments. I’d rather take pride in my work than wait to feel a certain way before I work.
Do it Anyway
The other night I was out running hills at a local park. As I finished one of my last sprints, a passerby walked over and jokingly said, “I wish I had your motivation.”
I had just finished sprinting a long hill so I wasn’t about to engage in a conversation. I smiled and waved in appreciation and began jogging back to the bottom of the hill.
While jogging down, I started to think about what the man said. All of a sudden, I found myself shaking my head. I wasn’t feeling motivated at all. It had been a long day, my sleep cycle was off from the holidays, and I surely would have felt better doing something else.
I had already run several sprints but my next one was the fastest of all. I sprinted to the top in hopes of seeing the man. Fortunately, he was already long gone. I probably would have sounded like a lunatic, but I wanted him to know that I wasn’t motivated at all. Motivation isn’t what puts one foot in front of the other. It’s discipline and work ethic that keeps me going.
In other words, just because I don’t feel like doing something doesn’t stop me from doing it anyway.
As great as it feels to be motivated, it is important to understand that motivation alone will only take you so far. Whether extrinsic or intrinsic, motivation can come and go in a flash. Discipline however is rooted in consistency. It quietly, yet continuously, chugs along in the background. It becomes part of who you are and what you do.
As an old saying suggests, first you make your habits and then your habits make you. A disciplined person gets up and grinds day after day. They don’t wait for the perfect mood to arrive before beginning. Instead, they cherish the feeling of accomplishment that comes after the fact. That’s where the real joy lies.
In summary, don’t give motivation more credit than it deserves. You don’t need to be motivated to succeed. What you need is the self-discipline to put in the work whether you want to or not. Successful people don’t waste time looking for motivation. They are too busy putting in the work that will eventually allow them to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment” – Jim Rohn