Motivation Doesn’t Work

Discipline does

Geoff Gates

A moving speech, an honest friend telling you to get your shit together, a pending vacation where you’re sure to be in a bathing suit for the entire duration. All of these events in our lives shoot us up with motivation, an adrenaline filled exuberance that fills our minds and bodies with excitement for what’s to come. We feel euphoric, in a state of mental readiness that prepares us to accomplish a specific goal. Sinuses clear, vision improves, reflexes are at the ready.

So much energy!

But be warned: what follows this feeling is more often than not a sense of forgetfulness, a specific goal is moved from the pending column to accomplished, and the proverbial foot is let off the proverbial gas pedal. Motivation comes in short-term bursts. Think of it like a sun flare, a huge blast of some of the most powerful energy known to (wo)man, but something that’s neither long term nor sustainable. It fizzles out. It fades away.

Discipline, though, is motivation on steroids. Discipline is a fucking freight train that shows zero signs of giving a fuck. Discipline is the muscle memory for behaviors. No longer preparing for a specific event, but advancing into the life envisioned.

But it’s much more difficult to achieve than motivation. It takes time, patience, and the ability to see the bigger picture. Through hard work and mental apt, the possesor of discipline must be able to work harder than ever thought possible.

There’s a quote that I’ve come to fall in love with, and it’s something I start every day reading:

“The thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.” — Malcolm Gladwell

Now, one should take this with a grain of salt. The basis of Gladwell’s book (Outliers, buy it, it’s fantastic) is that no successful person got to where he/she is without some help along the way. But there’s one intertwining behavior; each person worked his or her ASS off, undeniably out-working everyone else. Know what it takes to do that? DISCIPLINE.

I’ve used cycling as an example of the above. I’ve reached the point where I can wake up at 5 a.m., get a long ride in, get into the office early, crush a full day, go home to read/write, and get a good night’s rest. But it took time and hard work to get to this point. And keep in mind, this life isn’t for everyone. For instance I don’t function at my peak in the later hours of the night, couldn’t imagine staying up late to get work done. But timing doesn’t/shouldn’t matter. What matters is that you’ve taken the behaviors that fuel motivation and boosted them to the next level.

Motivation loses 10 pounds, discipline keeps it off.

Motivation takes you to practice, discipline wins championships.

Motivation asks someone out for a drink, discipline puts the ring on a finger.

Motivation gets you running on a sunny day, discipline gets you running on a blistering cold Tuesday morning.

Motivation gets you the promotion, discipline is where you prove why you deserved it in the first place.

Motivation excites someone for a month, discipline excites someone for a lifetime.

In order to be successful, you need to showcase a certain amount of discipline in your life. It starts small; making your bed every morning, buying groceries to prep meals, reading a chapter a day, getting 30 minutes of physical activity. Don’t feel like you have to overwhelm yourself at first, the process takes time. But I assure you that before you know it, you’ll be a well-oiled machine ready to punch whatever the day may throw at you directly in the nose.

Start something with motivation and continue it with fervent, unrelenting discipline. I promise you won’t be disappointed with the results.


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Do you have a discipline story of your own? Share it with me on Twitter @GeoffGates or email.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.

Geoff Gates

Written by

Associate Director, Social and Content @lakers. Former @trboxing, @vaynermedia, and @sfheat. | LA | http://geoffgates.com

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.