Motivation Is Unreliable, So Rely on Discipline Instead

Motivation gets us started, while habits keep us going.

Jacob Bergdahl


Use your bursts of motivation to build discipline, but don’t rely on motivation to keep you going. Photo by Braden Collum.

Moments of motivation find you whenever it feels like it, lingering for a little while before leaving you yearning for more. Much like energy can be obtained from a morning cup of coffee, motivation can be obtained through meditation, a phone call with a friend, or even an inspiring Reddit post. But much like your energy level is often influenced by events outside of your control, so too is motivation an unreliable force.

In my early 20’s, I used to think that successful people were constantly motivated. How else would they be able to get so many things done? I figured motivation was the key to success, and I would try different techniques to motivate myself every day. Sometimes it worked, but most of the time, it didn’t. I couldn’t control when to feel motivated. I couldn’t schedule motivation in a calendar. Instead, bursts of motivation would come and go like the next-door cat. No, what I didn’t realize is that what really keeps people going is discipline. While motivation is out of our control, discipline is ours to command.

Discipline acts like a muscle: it can be trained. But if you don’t exercise it, it will depreciate, much like biceps left unmaintained will start to fade.