Life is immeasurable, invaluable for humans. For some, it is experiencing different sensations, seeing the world from different angles, making money, becoming famous, and so much more. But at its core, life is about having a goal, a sense of purpose. Every human has a sense of purpose that they want to achieve. A mission to accomplish. In the words of Ted Turner, “You should set goals beyond you reach, so you always have something to live for.” And whenever we talk about goals and missions, two words appear almost all the time, Motivation and Discipline. For decades, the debate has been raging on to decide what exactly fuels a person to achieve their goals. Is it a momentary emotional boost or a consistent effort day in and day out? But before we start the discussion to decide if discipline is more important than motivation or vice versa, let us look at what these terms actually mean.

Motivation is an emotion that gives you the emotional strength to keep doing an arduous task or a seemingly impossible task, at the end of which you shall succeed, as is the goal most of the time. Motivation is often synonymous with willpower, a sense of purpose to push through obstacles, hardships and go to extreme lengths to achieve your goal. People often say motivation is what keeps you going when your willpower is depleted. When life pushes you down and brings you to your knees, a few motivating words or speeches can do wonders to rebuild your self-esteem and keep moving. 

Discipline, on the other hand, is a skill. A talent that not many can master. But a master of discipline can achieve whatever they want in their life. Discipline is a way of life. It is the ability to keep going forward no matter what situation you face. Unlike motivation which is most often required when you are at your lowest point, discipline teaches you to do what you are doing even when you are on your knees. The real world is adversity, and discipline teaches you to keep driving on even in that adversity. Compared to any other emotion or skill in a person, discipline is what allows a person to succeed. Adversity sets in slowly; willpower drains out every day, decision fatigue creeps into the mind. That is when discipline comes in. It forces you to keep going, keep moving forward. Discipline makes you walk when you cannot fly and crawl when you cannot walk but always keep moving towards your goal no matter what.

Coming back to the chief point of discussion, what is more important? Discipline or motivation. In reality, it is the skill of having discipline that can get people to go beyond their capability than motivation. Motivation is an excellent quality to possess what at its core, motivation is impulsive. It is like a glass of water that quenches your thirst for a moment, but discipline teaches you to keep going despite the thirst and look for the ocean. When motivation is derived from extrinsic sources, which is more often the case, it can lead to burnout and overestimating oneself. Sometimes extreme motivation can also make us set unrealistic goals for ourselves. Discipline teaches us to be honest and self as well as to others. It teaches us to set realistic goals for ourselves, develop the grit to pursue those goals, and keep going until they are fulfilled. Discipline teachers are the art of time management and setting goals for ourselves. Motivation causes us to chase goals that are sporty and elusive.

On the other hand, discipline teaches us to create an interlinked set of goals without causing us to burn out. Discipline may often be synonymous with consistent effort. Without it, we would always be frustrated, not have time for ourselves, and be preoccupied with more substantial demands than our own.

Another vital difference between motivation and discipline is their psychological impact. Motivation has a greater psychological impact than discipline has a consistent psychological impact. It means that motivation influences a person’s mind, producing a nagging voice in our heads. Frequently it is this nagging voice that overpowers motivation. On the other hand, discipline creates a more consistent psychological impact. Discipline too is challenged by the nagging voice, the fear of failure, the fear of not meeting expectations, the fear of being bound by our present situation, but discipline always comes out on top. It teaches us to go on even with these nagging voices in our heads. The voice of the human ego is another competitor to motivation and discipline. Motivation gets affected by the human ego, causing us to overestimate ourselves and set unrealistic goals. But discipline also inculcates a sense of recognizing one’s faults and limitations. 

Motivation allows us to create habits, but discipline enables us to change habits into a plan. Discipline helps us be more productive too. It builds self-confidence, patience, and the strength to overcome failure. Motivation often drives us on impulse, but discipline prevents us from being impulsive and teaches us a more calculated and methodical approach. Motivation makes you feel like you want to be successful, but discipline instills in you the belief that what you are doing is essential to you. It teaches you commitment towards your goal and to hold steadfast on your core values. Motivation helps you get started, but discipline is what keeps you going on the path to success.

But does it mean that motivation is not important? The answer is no. Both discipline and motivation are required for a person to be successful. As a matter of fact, motivation is generated intrinsically when discipline is taught to a person. People believe that having motivation teaches you discipline but is often the reverse. Having the discipline to keep going in the face of adversity develops willpower, which develops motivation in oneself. That motivation does not stem from the belief to overachieve or pursue unrealistic goals but rather from determination and grit to keep going and not let the hard work done from earlier go to waste. Discipline keeps you on the track to succeed and keep pushing through obstacles and adversity no matter how hard it gets. But it also teaches you when to take a break to gather your breath, reconsider your strategy and then get back to grinding to achieve. It teaches you to be your own motivator as well as a critic. It inculcates a motivation to keep going that is not overpowered by the human ego or the nagging voices deep within us. Discipline creates a motivation that does not burn you out. It also makes sure that you are not driven by impulse but rather by logic. Motivation is fickle and affected by emotions, it is good to get you started on a task, but discipline will keep you going even when you don’t want to. It is what Jim Rohn says, “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.”

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