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Motivation Monday: Motivation Vs. Discipline

“Only the disciplined are truly free.  The undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites, and passions.”  — Stephen Covey

What’s the difference between motivation and discipline?

I like to think of discipline as “what to do” and motivation as “why to do.”

Discipline has a Latin root, but the gist is it’s about teaching.  So I think of self-discipline as teaching yourself self-control and shaping your behavior, so that you’re not a slave to your motivations.

Use Discipline to Bring Out Your Best

Primal motivations served us at one point, but society’s changed what survival means.  For more precision, you can think of discipline as shaping your thinking, feeling, and doing to adopt a new behavior.

Discipline serves you most when motivation says do otherwise.  At the end of the day though, I think a key is to find ways to link things to feeling good.

You do more of what makes you feel good and less of what makes you feel bad.

Motivation is “Why to Do”

Motivation is the why behind the goal.  It’s your little engine that says you can, when the rest of you says you can’t.

It’s also the same force that can help you move mountains, on a good day.

Motivation is a life-long skill that you can improve through self-awareness and proven strategies.  The better you know your own drivers and levers, the more effective you’ll be at getting the results you want in your life.

Discipline is “What to Do”

Then there’s self-discipline.  Self-discipline is the ability to correct your behavior (Self-discipline is simply correcting or regulating your behavior for the sake of improvement.

Will is based on thinking and reason to create action – motivation is more from emotion.)

It helps you get back on your course when you fall off your path.

It helps you do the right thing in the moment for your long-term benefit, when you may want to do something else.

According to Stephen Covey, “Only the disciplined are truly free.  The undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites, and passions.”

Self-discipline is a muscle that gets stronger the more you flex it.

Motivation and Discipline Work Hand in Hand

Motivation and self-discipline work hand in hand.  Motivation can be your initial inspiration.  When you lose your initial inspiration, self-discipline can help keep you going.   To commit to self-discipline, it’s your initial motivation that says it’s worth it.

I think you find your motivations when you ask questions such as “What do you want to do?” and “What do you want to avoid?” and  “Why do you want to do that?”

I think you encourage discipline when you yourself “What’s the best thing for you to do?”

How to Make Discipline Actionable

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s easy to do what you’re motivated for.  It’s not easy to do what you’re not motivated for.  How do you transition to the right behaviors?

There are a few things you can do:

  1. What’s the right thing for you.  Get clarity on what the right things for you to do are.  You can’t discipline or correct course if you don’t know what to change to.
  2. Treat motivations as input.  What does your mind want, what do your emotions want? What does your body want?
  3. Decide up front.  This is the key.  Decide on your behaviors before hand.  Once you’re in the thick of things, it’s easier to react than respond.  You can respond more effectively if you committed to a decision.
  4. Ask yourself questions.  Get in the habit of asking yourself “what do you want to do?” and “what’s the right thing do to?”  What you want to do is your motivation, what’s right for you will take discipline.
  5. Make motivation work for you.  Discipline lights up your way, but motivation is your fuel.  Progressively shape your thinking, feeling, and doing until it’s a habit.  You can start a question or thought at a time.  Remember that your thoughts change your feelings.
  6. Link it to good feelings.  Remember to link things to good feelings for the long run.  This can be as simple as changing how you think about something or internalizing how you value something.  Acknowledge and reward your good decisions and actions.

Don’t be a slave to your motivations.

Free  yourself up through discipline.

Use discipline and motivation together to realize your potential and bring out your best.



Livingston Gardens Apartments


North Brunswick, NJ

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