Motivation vs. Discipline

There are days you may wake up and everything seems easy. You get up when your alarm goes off, pack lunches for the kids and yourself, actually eat breakfast, pack a gym bag for a lunch-time Spin class, make dinner, do homework… you do all the things and you feel motivated doing it.

Then there are days when you snooze it for a while, barely get yourself (and any small humans in your life) out the door on time, don’t have time to squeeze in a workout, and end up with take-out for dinner.

This is the same with all the things in life. Some days I can’t wait to run, others I only get out the door by using my “10-minute rule”.

School, work, training, parenting, meal prep … all of these things are so much easier or harder, depending on motivation.

But what happens when motivation is gone?

That’s when discipline kicks in. Discipline is what we nurture, hone, and cultivate, it keeps us going whether or not motivation is present. While some level of discipline is related to personality/disposition, everyone can work on their discipline – the drive to complete tasks and accomplish goals when motivation is lacking.


How do you cultivate discipline?

  1. Remember why you’re doing something in the first place. Sure, there are plenty of things we all have to do every day that we don’t feel like doing. We all (well, mostly all) have to work to support ourselves and/or our families. But even underlying those obligated-tasks there is an element of the “why?”. Why you are doing what you’re doing? Using running as an example because that one comes easily to me, if I feel unmotivated to run, I get back to the “why?”: “why am I running? I don’t have to run today.” I run because, when I strip away all the numbers, etc., I love it. It healed me, it makes me feel genuinely happy and at peace, and I love that time that I take for me and only me to be outside, preferably in the mountains or canyons.
  2. Remember how far you’ve come. Whether it’s work-related, school-related, family-related (you didn’t always have a partner, kids, dog, etc.), fitness-related, etc. you weren’t always as far as you are today. That’s something to celebrate! Cut yourself some slack, recognize how far you’ve come in this thing called life, and keep on keepin’ on.
  3. Remember where you want to go. Maybe you want to pay off student debt or save for a down payment on a house. Maybe you want to save for your first baby or for college for your kids. Maybe you want to get your cholesterol levels to a healthy level or finish your first 5K. Maybe you want to do 5 push-ups from your toes. This is similar to the “why” question, but is future-focused more than rooted in the origin of your motivation. Visualizing yourself getting to your goal (crossing the finish line, paying off your mortgage, fitting back into your old jeans, attending a social event without your anxiety sky rocketing, being able to hear a song that reminds you of someone without a visceral reaction) is a great exercise. Trust me, I picture myself graduating about 7,894,327 times a day – it keeps me disciplined when I have zero motivation, am exhausted, and would rather be relaxing with people I love.
  4. Remember you are worth it. You are worth the improved physical and mental health, the promotion at work, raising kids (and all the responsibility that comes with), completing your fitness goals. No one will get you where you are but you. No one has gotten you as far as you currently are but you. Muster that sense of self-worth, hone that discipline, and get after it.
  5. Cut yourself some slack. Motivation is fleeting, discipline takes a long time to garner – and even then, some days you just won’t have it. And that’s okay. Some days (weeks, months, years) will be harder than others, but you wouldn’t notice the “easy” without the “hard”.


Happy March and happy weekend!

Run on, friends.



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