We talk a lot about motivation. In fact, we equate with the big current buzzword “passion.” We have come to believe that without motivation, we cannot be productive. Actually, this really is not true. Ask anyone who has a deadline at work and who must meet that deadline. They hate the task and therefore have no motivation to complete it. But, they do complete it, because there will be bad consequences if they do not. So, what got the job done? Self-discipline, that’s what.
Defining the Terms
Motivation is usually defined as the reason(s) for doing something. It is the “why.” Thus, a high school student is motivated to get really good grades, because s/he has a certain college in mind that requires them. A plumber gets up and goes to work every day, not because he loves cleaning out people’s clogged drains but because he wants the paycheck that comes with the work he does.
Discipline really refers to controlling the “what.” It means that someone who has discipline knows what has to be done and then does it. A freelance writer, for example, may not have the motivation to complete a certain project. A self-disciplined freelance writer attacks the project and gets it done anyway.
The Problem with Motivation
While motivation is certainly a good thing and does push us toward our goals, it is also fleeting – it comes and goes. Motivation is also quite situational – if we do not “feel” motivated, then we tend not to act, even though we should. Someone may attend a workshop or a seminar. There is a great keynote speaker, and everyone in the room is suddenly motivated to take the advice and/or try the new things they are learning. And everyone leaves that event with continued motivation. After a week or two, 98% of those motivated individuals have done nothing. The other 2% had some self-discipline along with their motivation.
The Benefits of Discipline
People who have discipline have acquired that character trait over time. It is not fleeting or situational. On the contrary, discipline is habitual. The person has self-discipline in all situations. It is also consistent, because when we develop a habit, it is within us and we do it all the time. People who have the same morning routine every day have that routine because it is a habit. People who have discipline approach every task with the attitude that it will get done, because that is their habit. Discipline is not always fun, to be sure, but it gets results.
When the Motivation Takes a Walk, You Need to Have Discipline
There are several things you can do to improve your self-discipline.
- Dump the Excuses – right now. We always find the time to do the things we really want to do. But when we are not motivated to do something, we find all sorts of excuses for why we can’t do it right not. You have to identify when you are using excuses, and throw them out.
- Develop Routines – You have to have a plan and a schedule to put that plan into action. If you have to write it out and post it in front of you, then that is what you do. You don’t have to ask yourself why or if you “feel” like doing it. It is there and it must get done.
- Get Invested – Find a reason that works for you that is not related to fleeting motivation. If it’s money, then keep reminding yourself that the pay is coming when you finish the task or at the end of the week when you get your paycheck. Another reason may be not to let other people down. If you don’t complete these tasks before you, who else are you impacting? Your team members? Your boss? Your spouse? Or think about the negative consequences if you don’t get something done.
So, here is the bottom line. Motivation is a wonderful thing. It’s the stuff from which ideas come; it’s the stuff that gets us excited. But when the ideas have to be put into action, and that initial excitement wanes, it is the discipline that kicks in to get things done.