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When you don't feel motivated, try discipline instead

Discipline is not the most popular word in the human vocabulary, yet can have the power to change your life.

Discipline is a verb; a doing word. It means to apply yourself to a behaviour or practice you know is good for you or right.

Motivation on the other hand is a noun. It refers to a general desire or willingness to do something.

Motivation can come and go and is harder to have control over. Furthermore, we often mistakingly choose our actions based on the level of motivation we 'feel'. This results in inconsistency and can push our goals further away.

Discipline has the ability to actually turn our choices into actions, despite how we feel. This means we can be low in motivation, yet still do what we believe we ought to do or know is good for us. For instance, you might not feel like going on a morning walk, but you decide to go anyway because you know it's good for you to get outdoors and move your body.

Don't get me wrong, feeling motivated is a good feeling; it inspires, creates energy, focuses our attention and improves productivity. So by all means, when motivation hits, work with it!

But don't expect motivation to stay or turn up when you need it to. It's a resource that sometimes takes longer to replenish itself than we would like. When this happens, don't sit and wait around for it; your hero called discipline is there and ready to go.

What does discipline look like? It looks like that little habit you used many times before to achieve the goal you had already set and have probably already begun working on. The habit of eating a healthy snack... the habit of a short daily walk... the habit of calling a friend to say hello... the habit of cleaning up the kitchen sink... and so on.

And possibly the best news of all, is that when you use discipline, motivation tends to follow. This is because our body has activated some energy, our mind has started to focus again and we start to notice the small accomplishments that discipline has helped us create.

So the next time you don't feel motivated to do something, tell yourself that you don't need to feel motivated to do it and then remind yourself of the good reasons as to why you should do it anyway.


Clinical Psychologist, Sydney, Australia

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