Don’t Count On Motivation Because Discipline Is The Key

“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind-you could call it character in action.” — Vince Lombardi

Evan Clark
Evan Clark

Discipline Is King

Motivation is a fleeting state that requires a certain mental or emotional approach to reach a goal.

It fluctuates depending on outward conditions.

In contrast, discipline can help you conquer the toughest challenges.

For example, you may wake up with a cold or flu and have a 10,000 word report to write, yet not be motivated to complete it.

However, discipline commands you tackle the work knowing it must be completed, regardless.

Success depends on discipline because motivation comes and goes. It entails chipping away at a goal until the desired outcome is realised.

Motivation is interrupted by excuses and fades steadily. This is why your motivation at the beginning of the year contracts towards the latter part.

“In other words, if you are an effective manager of yourself, your discipline comes from within; it is a function of your independent will. You are a disciple, a follower, of your own deep values and their source. And you have the will, the integrity, to subordinate your feelings, your impulses, your moods to those values,” states author Stephen R. Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

You mustn’t wait until the perfect conditions to begin a task. Rather, tackle it boldly until the conditions become perfect.

Motivation is an overused word, apparent in the corporate world where managers try desperately to inspire their employees.

Yet, in the sporting world motivation cannot be relied upon by athletes for success.

Winning athletes know discipline is the cornerstone of success. They consistently show up to training when they’re less inclined. Unforeseen circumstances may interrupt their preparation, yet they are determined to put in hours of dedicated practice.

Life has a way of dragging you every which way if you let it. This means if a crisis or unplanned event arises, you may be unmotivated to take action on your goal.

This scenario happens all too often.

If you think back on the previous week, did something unexpected affect your motivation?

Did it wane during the week or were you disciplined despite the interruption?

Author Jay Samit states in Disrupt Yourself, “By carefully studying your environment and analyzing your daily frustrations, you’ll find that opportunities for disruption start to jump out at you. Daily discipline is the key to this exercise. I tell my students to write down three things they notice could be improved every day.”

Get Feelings Out Of The Way

You must disassociate feelings with actions to reach your goals. This is the biggest impediment affecting people because they are dictated by their emotions, instead of seeing the goal as the prize.

You will enjoy reaching your goals more than the immediate gratification of succumbing to your emotions.

If you rely on feelings, you are less inclined to commit to the task at hand because you are dictated by short-lived emotional states.

Discipline means showing up time and again, irrespective how you feel. The goal has a greater purpose, so it is incumbent on you to stay committed until the end.

It’s clear, you don’t undertake a goal to play small. It’s about winning and achievement that make the pursuit exciting.

“The discipline of consistent action is what self-management is all about. It’s the only way to win and keep winning,” affirms author Larry Weidel in, Serial Winner: 5 Actions to Create Your Cycle of Success.

“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you. Never excuse yourself. Never pity yourself. Be a hard master to yourself-and be lenient to everybody else.” — Henry Ward Beecher

So, how can you be more disciplined and avoid counting on motivation?

First, create regular routines without over-committing in the early stages. If your goal is to exercise four times a week, build gradually instead of going all out in the first week.

The greatest impacts on your life will result from taking the first step and improving on it.

Gradual Improvements

In the sporting world there’s a term known as, marginal gains popularised by Sky Team’s cycling manager, David Brailsford. It is a concept referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” According to Brailsford it means, “The 1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.”

At the senior level, most professional athletes are of a similar ability in terms of: performance, dedication and skill. What separates first from second or third is the smaller gains, the 1% such as: sleep, nutrition and recovery.

The 1% increments add up, leading to marginal gains. Therefore, discipline becomes the means to success.

“Success is actually a short race — a sprint fuelled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over,” state authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan in, The One Thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results.

The key is to start small and make small increments towards your goal.

Second, discover your underlying motivation for pursuing the goal. Find a convincing reason to take daily action, even if it’s the smallest task, you are likely to stay committed.

People who have a compelling reason are disciplined until the goal is accomplished.

The desire must be imbued with enthusiasm, you will stop at nothing to achieve it.

As Samuel Johnson said, “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” Anyone who thrives in any endeavour develops this discipline, the ability to be still, to stay the course, to grow down — no matter what. No matter how the world receives them. No matter what results they get initially,” affirms Derek Rydall in Emergence: Seven Steps for Radical Life Change.

The forces of life conspire against you in the form of resistance. If you succumb, your efforts will be in vain and your success squandered. Yet, if you take them into account, you will stay resolute irrespective of the circumstances.

Persistent action in the face of fear is paramount, as Susan Jeffers writes in her acclaimed book, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. With this approach, you reinforce your self-esteem each time you commit to a task.

Authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan state, “When you discipline yourself, you’re essentially training yourself to act in a specific way. Stay with this long enough and it becomes routine — in other words, a habit. So when you see people who look like “disciplined” people, what you’re really seeing is people who’ve trained a handful of habits into their lives.”

You must learn to think with the end in mind as Stephen R. Covey states.

Discipline replaces motivation because you show up consistently. The goal is too important to allow feelings to get in the way.

The late American motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, “We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.”

I advise you not to allow regrets to impose upon your success.

Afterall, it is much too important to leave to chance. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Tony Fahkry

Self-empowerment author, expert speaker and coach.

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