Why Self Discipline Is Better Than Motivation

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I want to talk to you about motivation and why you should not depend on it all the time. The fact that, even though it can be useful (I have used it), it won't get you far along the road to success. In achieving your dreams, motivation is useful to get you started, to get you off the mark, but it is short lived. To pick up the pace and to carry you across the finish line, what you need is self-discipline.



Motivation is like a fire that burns within you, but with fire, it needs to be continually fed. If you want to do more, be more, and you are counting on motivation, then you need to feed it even more, to keep going back to those motivational gurus on Youtube to fill yourself up from their enthusiasm and then grind away until you need another top-up from Youtube.

Motivation is an external force, it is given to you from somebody or something else. Take for example the gym, would you be able to go through a workout without any music? and if so, would that workout be just as intense is it would be if you had Survivor playing in the background?

Now as I said, motivation will get you off the mark at a running pace, but what you need to sustain it is...

Self Discipline

I believe that self-discipline is not as fiery as motivation, because fire needs an external supply, but rather, self-discipline is cold because it doesn't need a supply of anything from anywhere, it just is. It is cold and relentless, it doesn't care if it doesn't feel like it or wants to quit, it will keep going because emotions have no say in the matter.

Let me give you an example of self-discipline at work in my life right now using language learning. There is a language learning app called Duolingo where I'm learning Polish. The lessons on Duolingo get harder and harder and if you get even one question wrong, you can't proceed until the right answer is put in.

After a while it takes its toll and I just feel like I want to quit and call it a day. However, I push on until I eventually get the right answer, I push on no matter how I'm feeling until I hit my daily target. 

This is a simple example and the actions are small here, but it's the small things that we do in a disciplined way that builds us up and moves us closer and closer to our goals.

Sweat The Small Stuff


Rome wasn't built in a day, but guess what? Rome didn't fall apart overnight either. It takes small steps to achieve success, but it also takes small steps to fail...you sleep-in just one time, then the next week you sleep-in twice, then you start justifying it, next thing you know you are sleeping-in most days and you start wondering: 'How did I get here!?'

You have one piece of chocolate a week, then two pieces, then three, before you know it you are eating chocolate on a daily basis, sometimes two pieces per day! Then you get on the scales...

Do you see how it builds up? How neglecting the small things can build up into big things? You need to stay vigilant, forever disciplined to keep yourself from straying off the path. You need to keep holding the line against weakness.

I have found that motivation skips over the small stuff, I would get up and get straight to work on my laptop, I didn't make my bed nor did I meditate or have a proper morning routine, I thought all that stuff was inconsequential and that I only needed to focus on getting straight to the grind.

Before long though, I would end up working on my laptop in bed, first sitting up and then lying down. I would then find myself watching motivational videos after 20-30 minutes of work, but because I was getting motivation from those gurus, I didn't feel like I was wasting my time.

Motivational was not giving me the control that I needed in my life, I was not taking ownership of my world.

When I started cultivating self-discipline however, it was like I had developed a relentless voice inside me that made me take ownership of the small things: 'Make the bed', 'meditate', 'work out'..

I was feeling more and more in control of my world and my work improved as a result. I was more focused and more driven. There were times when I wanted to work sitting up in bed but that voice was there telling me not to give my emotions a vote, I had to ignore them and stay disciplined.

I had to hold the line.

Motivation and Language Learning


A great example to illustrate the difference between motivation and self-discipline is through the art of language learning.

Before I dove into the cold depths of self-discipline, I was a very motivated language learner. I wanted to learn Chinese and didn't want to sweat the small stuff. I would try one method, not see results after a while so I would try another method, and on and on and on, and still my improvement in Chinese wasn't where it should have been.

There is no patience in motivation, you need to top it up everyday and cannot start the day without it, I found that I needed a few motivational videos to get me into the zone and to take action.

However, once I started heading down the path of self-discipline, that voice inside told me to pick one method and stick with it through thick and thin until I achieved success.

  • Don't see results? Keep going!
  • Don't feel like I was improving? Feelings can be deceitful, keep going!
  • Don't feel like studying? Study!

I believe that other people see the change in you first way before you do. Even though I was sticking to one method relentlessly, I wasn't seeing nor was I feeling any results, even when I was speaking to a native in Chinese!

It was my mum who made me realise that I was actually speaking at a fluent level of Chinese when we bumped into a Chinese woman at the local library and I ended up having a conversation with her, my mum just looked at me with amazement. But to me it seemed normal.

Other people will see the change in you before you see it in yourself.

Uninterested...BUT MOTIVATED!!!


I have experienced it again and again when I was feeding only off motivation, I would go into things that I wasn't interested in, things that wouldn't do anything for me.

But because I was on fire, that didn't matter! Needless to say, going into things that are not of interest to you, whether motivated or not, will lead to nowhere.

Self-Discipline on the other hand gave me the clearing in the woods that I needed to look within myself and to know what I wanted. Once I picked out what I wanted and what interested me, then I would begin going after it.

It is the self-discipline that keeps me heading towards my goals and ignoring the shiny objects around me that would distract most people because of their "promises" of something amazing.

Choose to be Disciplined


Choose to be disciplined. Choose to go on the warpath, to commit to doing what needs to be done and swaying based on your emotions. It is the self-discipline that gets us through the tough times, those times of wanting to quit, or wanting to not work as hard.

Cultivate that voice inside of you that keeps you accountable to do the small things. Knowing that those small things, they become big things. And it's up to you to decide if those big things are gonna be successes or failures.

Do you agree that discipline trumps motivation, or are you a motivational junkie? Hit me up with a comment below!

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