The Distinction of Motivation Versus Discipline


Every now and then, the internet reminds me of just why it’s undefeated. Look long enough and there are amazing things you will find that completely articulate a feeling or thought that’s been mulling around in your head for the longest. A feeling that you couldn’t 100% put into words to apply. About a week ago, I had one of those moments.

Through a post on Facebook, an interaction between an anonymous user on Tumblr with a violinist produced an amazing bit of dialogue. Unfortunately the post didn’t include the names of the two people talking.

Edited a bit due to the language used, it says the following:

Q: How do you keep yourself motivated to practice?

A: F**k motivation. It’s a fickle and unreliable little ******** and isn’t worth your time. Better to cultivate discipline than to rely on motivation. Force yourself to do things. Force yourself to get up out of bed and practice. Force yourself to work.

Motivation is fleeting and it’s easy to rely on because it requires no concentrated effort to get. Motivation comes to you, you don’t even have to chase after it. Discipline is reliable, motivation is fleeting. The question isn’t how to keep yourself motivated. It’s how to train yourself to work without it.

This was EXACTLY what I needed to read. So many times we equate the things we need to accomplish with our feelings about it. I’ve lost count of how many posts, books, and conversations I’ve had with people who speak on different strategies for ‘energizing’ yourself into accomplishing your dreams and developing the ‘vision’ for seeing things through. All these buzzwords are simply code for motivation; and while I’m not against developing motivation due to how helpful it is in providing fuel for your activity, there will come days that there’s absolutely NOTHING in the tank. From that nothing, you will still need to produce.

All of us wake up every day for work and have felt that immense desire to simply turn over and go back to sleep. Some days are definitely harder than others but with bills to pay, an obligation to our coworkers, a family to support, and a myriad of other reasons, we still get up and do what we have to do. That, my friends, is probably the best example of discipline that I can provide; and for some reason, we all struggle with translating that same persistent energy over into other aspects of our lives. Especially when there’s no threat of losing money attached to it.

So I propose a change in the way that we think of our goals and aspirations outside of our day jobs (or night jobs for some). Learn to work through those mental blocks. Be comfortable in staying at that task you want to complete, even when you’re exhausted and uninterested. Play that instrument, study that textbook, paint on that eisel, and train your body in spite of lacking the motivation to want to do it. Because that drive to succeed in spite of, will provide its own fuel; and on your darkest days, that notion of still completing what needs to be done will shine through.

Sometimes we’re our own worse enemies. Let’s develop discipline instead of excuses.

Author: Mr. Nifty

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