A great many people believe that motivation and discipline are the same things. In reality they are drastically different. Motivation is something you feel; discipline is a skill… it’s learned. Those folks who believe that discipline is an automatic follow-on to motivation as it wains need to learn the difference.

Motivation: having a strong reason to act or to accomplish something.

Discipline: (n) activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training. (v) to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control.

At the end of each calendar year, and the beginning of any New Year, a great many people make lists of things they want to change in their lives; bad habits they want to break or new good habits they want to build. These goals are often written down as resolutions and those pursuing them do so… initially… with motivation. That motivation… that feeling… is fueled by the desire (another emotion) to see change. As time passes, no matter how dedicated and motivated the person in question is, eventually their drive; their desire to attain their goals will often wain. As the desire to attain the goal wains, so does the motivation to perform the necessary actions to pursue the goals.

When the motivation to perform actions in pursuit of goals begins to fade, if the goals are still to be attained, discipline has to take over. That is relatively easy to write and easy even to say or think… but it’s a bit more challenging to make reality. If the motivation to perform a particular task isn’t there, typically it means that either person involved either doesn’t want to perform the task OR there is something else that the person would rather do. The discipline comes in that allows the person… forces the person to perform the necessary action(s) to attain the desired goals.

Interestingly, the desired goal is both the cause of the motivation when it’s felt and the cause of discipline when it’s used to continue on a chosen path toward a goal. Where most people fail to perform as required to work toward their goal is by not making the connection between the desired goal and the cause of the discipline. The end goal has to be kept in mind. When the motivation to work for it fails, the discipline can still effectively push the person toward the attainment. Some people would say that the desire for the goal motivates the discipline to be used.

Motivation, while always a positive thing (even if it moves us to negative actions), can be caused by a plethora of situations and circumstances. Motivation can be caused by both positive and negative feelings; reactions to situations that we feel strongly about or that cause strong feelings within us, making us want to do something to drive change. The change can be within ourselves or to something else, but it’s interesting that the positive energy of motivation can be caused by a negative response to a presented set of circumstances.

All too frequently, people experience something not so enjoyable and then focus on the negative feelings rather than using the potential of that energy to fuel motivation. The motivation can then be used to modify/correct the situation or to move on from it having learned whatever lesson is available. At the end of the day though, it’s important to understand that motivation is a feeling – and feelings flow; they come and go; they are strong and sometimes not so much. Discipline is an act of will and empowers you to continue pursuit of a goal with or without the energy of motivation.


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