Motivation or discipline? Which comes first? Which is more important?
These are three questions I’ve been considering lately and here’s why I think discipline comes before motivation from my experiments. But, let’s have a discussion together.
Whenever we find ourselves saying things like “ah I wish I had the motivation right now” or “can’t be arsed” it’s probably a sign that we appreciate the importance of the task at hand - otherwise why would we even bother contemplating it at all? It’s just that we aren’t disciplined enough to get started. I don’t think we can ever be motivated “enough” to voluntarily do most things on most days.
For example, most days I genuinely can’t be bothered to wake up early. For the best part of university, I got away with not having to. But now that I’m working a full-time job, I’m forced to each day. I guess we can call this forced discipline. However, what this forced discipline has taught me is that I’m actually far more productive these days and I actually manage to get a lot more done in my days because I have a much better structure. Thus, I’m now motivated to wake up early even on my off days.
Similarly, I’ve never really been motivated “enough” to go to the gym. But every single time I force myself to turn up and get started, it only really takes 1-2 sets of my first exercise to find that motivation and for the rest of the session, I get so pumped that by the end, I don’t want to leave.
So, this is what I’ve learned in my quest to establish whether discipline or motivation comes first. But, this happens to be one of those topics where the answer is never straightforward. Just like whether the chicken or the egg came first. Arguments can easily be made for why “it’s not really about motivation vs. discipline” and that “it’s actually about motivation vs. discipline vs. passion vs. grit vs. self-determination” and so on.
But my firm belief is that we should favour discipline and that motivation arrives with the repeated pursuit of any activity.