Do You Have Motivation or Discipline?


Every January many of us will make a New Year’s resolution, with the aim of losing weight or getting fit being one of them for many.

However, by February, many resolutions will fall by the wayside and fail – with many gyms experiencing a decrease in traffic after the first and second months of the year as those who made New Year’s resolutions to get in shape lose steam.

Emotion & Motivation

Motivation is driven by emotion and that can be positive, as long as it is used for a short-term objective.

For example, a person may have the motivation to get up on a cold and dark winter’s morning when a race is drawing near, but may find less motivation when there is no immediate objective or goal in site (i.e. when the race is several months away).

In this context, for some, a New Year’s resolution can serve as a motivator.

However, since motivation is based on emotion, it is unlikely to last long. For example, as we know that an individual can not laugh or cry indefinitely, we know that motivation will fail.

Chemical Release & Motivation

Emotion is a chemical release yielding a physiological response.

If an individual is attempting to get in shape and is reliant upon this reaction to propel them towards working out, they are almost sure to burn out, just like with a resolution.

When an individual buys a gym membership, they have the best of intentions in mind, but the commitments are made in a charged emotional state.

Motivation helps with short-term objectives, but is virtually useless for objectives that require a greater length of time to accomplish.

Simply put, do not totally discount the value of motivation, but do not count on it to last long either – because it will not.

Motivation & Discipline

So, if an individual can not rely on motivation to achieve their (longer-term) goals, what can they rely on?

Discipline is the answer.

There are a number of definitions of discipline, for example:

“a method of training your mind or body or of controlling your behaviour; an area of activity where this is necessary” (Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, 2020).

One could also say it is the ability to do what is necessary to achieve success when it feels like the hardest thing to do – meaning we have the ability, though not necessarily the desire, to do what is needed to be done when we least want to do it.

Examples of failure of discipline (rather than motivation) include:

  • Failure to get up when the alarm rings;
  • The inability to walk away from a late night of partying before game day; or
  • Eating a doughnut when you have committed to no processed sugar.

The Key to Discipline

There are two keys to discipline:

  • Practice; and
  • Consistency.

Discipline means repetitive – and sometimes boring – action, as there are no shortcuts.

An individual can thank motivation for the first three or four weeks of their successful gym attendance, but after that they need to credit discipline.

Discipline Develops & Builds

There is another clear line defining the difference between motivation and discipline.

Motivation in and of itself typically fails to build other qualities necessary for advancement, but discipline does not.


  • Develops confidence and patience; and
  • Builds consistency – and consistency yields habits.

It is those habits that, in the end, will ultimately define an individual’s success.


Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries. (2020) Discipline. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 09 May, 2020].


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