If you’ve ever looked for information on fitness and self-improvement, there is no doubt that you’ve come across two common terms: motivation and discipline (also known as grit).
But what do these two terms mean in a real-world setting? More importantly, how do they impact our behaviors, choices, and thoughts?
In this article, we’ll go over motivation and discipline, the crucial differences between the two, and which matters more for success.
Let’s get into it...
What Is Motivation?
There are many definitions of motivation out there. Perhaps the most accurate one is also the simplest: The willingness to do something (1).
Motivation can come from within (intrinsic) and from the outside (external) (1). For example, you might feel motivated to exercise because you want to experience the post-workout high. This is an example of intrinsic motivation.
In contrast, you might feel motivated to exercise because you know that your coach is expecting you to show up. This is an example of external motivation.
The problem with motivation is that it tends to be unpredictable. In one moment, we feel incredibly motivated to do something, and in the next, we don’t. This leads to inconsistency with our efforts and lackluster results.
What Is Discipline?
Similar to motivation, discipline is also a willingness to do something. But, unlike motivation, grit is something that comes from within and doesn’t rely on our current mood.
Perhaps even more accurately, discipline is about the standards we impose upon ourselves, regardless of how we might feel at times (2). For example, if you impose a standard upon yourself of training four days per week, you do it because you have to. You don’t rely on motivation or being in the mood to follow through with your plan.
If you know that you have a workout planned today, but you don’t feel like doing it, discipline is what kicks you into action.
We can also look at discipline as a choice we make consciously over and over again. The great thing is, once we internalize that discipline is within our control, we can elevate our lives significantly.
The more discipline you have, the easier it becomes to do what you need to, regardless of how you feel. In other words, you step into the driver’s seat of your life and assume full control.
So, Is Motivation or Discipline More Important For Long-Term Success?
As you can probably tell, motivation is good to have but not vital. Think about it for a moment:
How many of your actions stem from intrinsic motivation? More importantly, how consistent are you with these behaviors, and how successful would you say you are with them?
For example, if you only train when you feel motivated, you won’t be very consistent. Without consistency, you won’t be able to make much progress.
In contrast, if you do your scheduled workouts every time, regardless of how you feel or how motivated you are, you are much more likely to get fit in the long run.
In essence, motivation is about doing things when you want to do them. Discipline is about doing what you have to, even when you don’t want to.
Motivation is fantastic because it feels good and can push us to do amazing things. But it’s also transient and unpredictable. Depending on it for long-term success isn’t the best option.
In contrast, discipline is about the choices we make. Everything is within our control, and we have no excuses. If something is important, we muster the energy and do it, regardless of how we feel.