Discipline vs. motivation to become successful


Kevin Mangelschots

Most of us know that feeling of extreme euphoria when we are motivated. Whether it’s to lose weight, to gain muscle, or to become fitter. Only to falter in our pursuits when our motivation runs dry, and we’re left to rely solely on our discipline.

It’s true what they say. Motivation gets you started, but discipline keeps you going.

Thus, the way I see it, perseverance is better than being motivated in the long run. But time is precious, so use it wisely.

Let me end the debate about discipline vs. motivation once and for all.

Is discipline or motivation better to become successful?

Image of the quote, “small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time”.

Motivation gets us started, but discipline allows us to reach our goals

Personally, I believe in discipline over motivation. I think that motivation gets us started, but that discipline is the special ingredient that allows us to thrive, and reach our goals. We need that perseverance since beggars can’t be choosers.

Motivation is only truly needed in the beginning

The thing is this. Motivation is only truly needed to make the beginning, at the start of our journey.

Discipline is necessary in order to persevere

Discipline, however, is necessary for as long as it takes for us to reach our goals. This can be weeks, years, and even decades at times. Hence, why I think that discipline is better than motivation.

I shouldn’t really say better, because that’s not the right wording either. It’s just that I think that it should be considered more essential in the long run. One can get very far based on discipline alone, but the same can’t be said about motivation. Because being motivated without taking action is quite useless indeed.

We will not always be motivated to put in the work, either. We will frequently need to do things that we don’t want to do, but that are required to succeed. And that is precisely what discipline permits us to accomplish.

Furthermore, it grants us the ability to forego immediate gratification for a more satisfying, long term reward. For example, we need the capacity to quit watching YouTube, browsing Facebook, and posting on Instagram all the time if we wish to reach our goals.

Motivation can drive us to become more disciplined and at a quicker rate


Make this day great!

Nevertheless, motivation can be a powerful tool that drives us to become disciplined at a much quicker rate than someone who isn’t motivated. Because when we’re looking forward to doing something, and actually enjoy it, is when we do our best work. And this is true for every facet in our daily lives.

There’s this saying that winners need discipline, not motivation, and I believe this to be mostly true.

Yet, for there to be discipline, we must have the required amount of motivation to get started. And there needs to be an incentive to be motivated. A catalyst that makes sure that we apply ourselves to start making a change for the better.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What is motivation?

The word, 'motivation', written with small scrabble blocks on a wooden table.

Motivation is an internal process. It stands for a reason, an incentive to behave a certain way.

It is deducted from the word ‘motive’. Motive stands for the needs, desires, wants, drives, and urges that live within each individual. As a result, each person is motivated for certain things they deem important.

It is the process that starts, guides, and preserves behavior with a particular goal in mind.

A difference must be made between intrinsic, and extrinsic motivation.

Illustration depicting the differences between intrinsic, and extrinsic motivation.
Illustration depicting the differences between intrinsic, and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It stands for what you personally find critical, based on your values, ethics, goals, and dreams.

Think of things such as a sense of belonging, learning, mastery, meaning, …

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors. It means that you don’t find the goal itself all that influential, but that you value the external reward enough that you want to pursue it anyway.

Popular examples are, money, competition, fear of failing, rewards, …

What is discipline?

Discipline is the pattern, and practice of preparing, and educating individuals to listen to rules, or a code of conduct. Discipline regulates and controls behavior.
Self-discipline involves going forward, taking action, and doing what is needed in order to succeed in life, no matter the motivation, or if one actually wants to do it or not.
Disciplining someone involves utilizing punishment in one way or another in order to correct disobedience and to reaffirm the appropriate behavior.
Example how the disciplining process looks like.
Example how the disciplining process looks like.

Nevertheless, discipline is not the same as blind obedience. Since discipline involves practicing deliberate standards to accomplish goals that are meaningful to that individual, authority, or society.

Motivation vs. discipline quotes

  • Motivation gets you going, but discipline keeps you growing.
  • Motivation may get you started, but it takes discipline to keep you going.
  • Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.
  • You will never always be motivated. You have to learn to be disciplined.
  • Discipline is only punishment when imposed on you by someone else. When you discipline yourself, it’s not punishment, it’s empowerment.
  • Discipline is the ability to do what’s important before it becomes urgent.
  • Discipline is remembering what you want.
  • The difference between wanting and achieving is discipline.


Image of the word, “conclusions” written on a black backboard with white chalk.

Motivation comes and goes, but discipline remains.

That’s not to say that both aren’t important. But motivation without discipline isn’t worth all that much.

Because discipline is needed to pull through and to attain our lofty goals. And when we want to thrive, then we will need to do some things that we don’t want to do.

Motivation is mostly significant to get started, and can help speed up the learning process, and to teach you discipline at a faster rate. But discipline beats motivation in the race for success.

Ideally, both are present, since each one can aid you on your journey towards attainment.

Call to action

“Stop wishing start doing” written on a bottle.

Start by figuring out what you like and value in life. Chances are large that you’re motivated in these specific areas of your life.

Next, work on becoming disciplined by making small, incremental improvements such as for example working out 5 minutes longer each training session. This will compound, and consequently make you capable at a surprising fast rate.

And finally, practice foregoing immediate, short term rewards for the more rewarding, yet delayed long term reward.

But be warned, this can be incredibly tricky to manage, especially in a world that prospers on the continuous immediate gratification of the senses. Then again, good things rarely come easy.

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