Discipline takes care of you in ways that motivation can’t.
Because your action isn’t conditional on feelings or mood, it hinges on commitment.
Your fuel is not desire but will.
Whereas if you work from a place of motivation, there is a particular mental and emotional state necessary to complete your task. Which you may or may not be able to access at any given moment.
And that gives you deniability around your own procrastination. The conversation inside your head goes, I would have meditated and worked out, but I just wasn’t motivated. Sorry, there’s no other possible thing I could have done to complete those tasks.
Compare that approach to coming from a place of discipline.
Where the feelings become inconsequential.
They’re still real and acceptable, it’s just that the choice was made long before you started feeling that way.
Bottom line is, you are doing this thing whether you feel like it or not. The overwhelming obstacle of trying to elicit enthusiasm for a task that clearly doesn’t deserve it, forget about it. Discipline cuts the link between feeling and action, and you move forward anyway.
Think about it mechanically. Motivation is this complex engine that needs the perfect amount of combustion, the right fuel and air mixture, a sizable spark to ignite it, and a lead foot pressing down on the piston to generate power.
Who has time for all of that? And even if they did, who can sustain that kind of production schedule?
Discipline, on the other hand, is this simple, inner engine that only requires one thing to start.
Once you make a choice to kickstart the machine, energy generates into the system. Nobody wakes up early to exercise, meditate or journal before work because they want to. They only do it because they’ve set an intention to go through present pain to achieve future gains.
Now, that’s the hard part of the discipline approach. It requires trust.
You trust that by merely showing up and starting, the system will ramp up to operating temperature.
You trust that by setting your feelings aside and executing regardless of motivation, the universe will respond in kind with positive outcomes.
You trust that no matter how little you feel like doing this task right now, you will feel satisfied when it’s over.
It’s interesting, because the word discipline has a few meanings. One way to think about it is, the practice of training someone to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.
Another way to think about it is, to train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way.
Different as those definitions sound, both revolve around a commitment to an established mode of conduct. And so, when we think about disciplining ourselves to do things we don’t feel like doing, it’s not like we’re whipping our own ass cheeks with a bamboo cane until blood spurts and bits of flesh fly.
It’s less violent and more loving than that.
What you say to yourself is:
Look, I know this sucks. I know you’re tired. And course you don’t want to get out of bed. Of course you shouldn’t have to do any of this. Nobody should. It’s total bullshit. But you know in your heart this is good for you. You know you’re going feel better within five minutes of starting. And you know that when it’s over, you’ll be really glad you did it. All of your feelings are totally valid, so let’s set them aside and get moving. They’ll be waiting for you when you get back.
What brings you into contact with your own capacity for discipline? What if you could unlock fulfillment by committing to an established mode of conduct?
What’s most curious to me is watching people badmouth themselves about their lack of discipline. They constantly rebuke their inability to show up every day or every week for some kind of routine.
Part of me wants to put my arm around their shoulders and say, well, you’re certainly disciplined at beating yourself up. You do that every day without fail. Maybe you could try redirecting that energy into a more life giving activity.
Naturally, nobody wants to hear that. Certainly not from me. There’s nothing less motivating to an undisciplined person than hearing how simple and easy discipline is. In fact, if you really want to piss someone off who can’t get motivated, give them a scripture like:
Discipline produces a harvest of peace for those who have been trained by it.
Nothing will anger them more than hearing what the holy book has to say about establish modes of conduct.
Ultimately, I’m not sure there is easy answer when it comes to the highly complicated and deeply personal principle of discipline. Each of us has to create our own standards of it.
In my own experience, learning to rely less on motivation and more on commitment has been tremendously helpful in virtually every area of my life.
Discipline takes care of me in ways that motivation never could. And I find that the discipline of doing something when I see no point in doing it, is precisely what gives it its value.
Because within that framework of discipline, enthusiasm grows on its own and builds on itself.
I do believe building discipline is like building any other skill, in that it all starts with commitment. And if you start small, it will slowly translate to more substantial elements of your life.
Either that, or you’ll never get out of bed, slip into a horrible depression and starve yourself until you’re wafer thin and your kidneys collapse from renal failure.
What excuses are you using to justify your procrastination?