Why You Don’t Need Motivation. You Need Discipline.

May 16, 2018

A lack of motivation, or discipline?..

Thoughts on discipline

A few weekends ago I ditched the city and headed to one of the most southern points of the Korean peninsula, to a secluded beach with some friends.  It was the first swim and beach day of the year for most of us.  Needless to say we may have overdone it a little.  Drinks were had.



This following week was real slow for me.  I can’t pinpoint whether it was a multi-day hangover that I haven’t had in awhile or just one of those off-times that come now and again.  One of those periods where you just don’t have any motivation,  aren’t overly positive, and feel overall lazy, careless and indifferent.


I’ve lived long enough to know this low points do come – and they soon leave.  They usually follow periods of high performance or productivity, so I don’t overly mind the lack of output that comes with these low points.

This is this first time I’m writing in over a week and a half, and I haven’t been reading or visiting the gym too often over the last week.  I’ve been a bit mellower in class than compared to the usual, also.  It’s all good though, because like I said; it comes and it goes.



Motivation isn’t the answer..

It’s fitting then, that I read an article the other day talking about motivation and discipline.


It flew in the face of what I had assumed about realizing goals.  But it totally makes sense.


For the longest time, I was more inclined to wait for the right moment to start doing something or to make things happen.  I was waiting for something external to push me, rather than taking the immediate initiative.


The problem with that is there’s never going to be the right time.  The universe doesn’t miraculously bend its will for each of us.  That’s not the way things work.  You can’t be a passive passenger and expect success.


But interestingly enough, when you do start to put out some energy, you find more times than not that you start getting a lot given back in your direction.

The sweet spot..

Using investing and money as an example, they say making the first million is the hardest.  After that it becomes a lot easier.  I remember speaking with the owner of a profitable carpentry business who said the initial push of building either a business, fortune or whatever is the hardest part.  There’s a point where if you can reach it, your results start to blow up exponentially.


It might take someone 20 or even 30 years to build a million dollars.  But once you have it, with essentially no extra effort but managing the investment, you could double it in under 10 years.


The problem with motivation and why you shouldn’t base your system for success on motivation is that it is a fleeting feeling like happiness, or sadness.  Anyone with half a brain knows you can’t be happy all the time.


So motivation comes when we are on a roll, but we think we can’t get on a roll without motivation.  Just like it is easy to make lots of money when you have lots of money, but you need to acquire all that money in the first place.


Once things are in motion, it’s all good.  It’s that initial push to get things going that is the hardest.  You don’t need motivation to get started.  You need discipline.



Discipline: Where it begins..

Some days I could write for hours.  There are times when I write until my back hurts from sitting and my fingers tire from typing.  There are other days where I don’t feel like doing anything but binge watching 13 hours straight of a TV series.  You can guess after which activity I feel good and accomplished, and after which I feel like shit.


Performance athletes don’t always feel like training, but they do anyway.  I don’t always feel like writing, but I push myself to start anyways.  Once I get going the words almost write themselves.


If I waited for the motivation to write, if athletes wait for the motivation to train.. The blogs would be empty and the trophy shelf collecting only dust.


What you really need is the discipline of a routine to get done what you need to do, when you need to do it.  Regardless of wether you want to or not.




Fake it until you make it..

At first your routine will hurt.  It won’t always be enjoyable.  But then you will start seeing results, and you’ll get addicted to those.  Muscle memory will kick in, you will habituate and your disciplined routine will become a part of who you are.


I’ve been going to the gym for probably 10 years now, I still think about what exercises I will do any given day, and when I will fit in a lifting session.  But it’s never a question ‘IF’ I will go.  Working out if a part of who I am.  


That wasn’t always the case, but after years of disciplined routine it is literally a part of my identity.


Similarly, once you have a routine going that you’ve stuck to thanks to some good old fashion discipline the motivation to keep going will begin to show up.  Then you will start seeing some real results.


Concluding remarks..

You don’t need motivation, you need discipline.  The feeling of ‘motivation’ is yielded from the disciplined act.

I will leave you with some summarized notes from the original article.

“Motivation, broadly speaking, operates on the erroneous assumption that a particular mental or emotional state is necessary to complete a task.


Discipline, by contrast, separates outwards functioning from moods and feelings and thereby ironically circumvents the problem by consistently improving them.


Successful completion of tasks brings about the inner states that chronic procrastinators think they need to initiate tasks in the first place.
you don’t wait until you’re in olympic form to start training. You train to get into olympic form.”


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  • Currently located in China, teaching English and working towards Financial Freedom. I write about money, travel, personal development and more!

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