Why It’s Important to Be Both Motivated and Disciplined

By Sam Woolfe on 19-09-2017
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Whether you’re studying, looking for a job or starting a new job, you may have set some goals for yourself. Perhaps you want to achieve certain results, to work in a particular industry, or to earn a certain amount of money.

Goals add value and purpose to what you do. You can set intrinsic goals (those that relate to your personal growth) and extrinsic goals (which include those just mentioned – getting good grades or having a high salary). Extrinsic goals involve worldly achievements and entail rewards and praise, while intrinsic goals relate to what personally offers you joy and meaning in life.

The Value of Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Goals

If you go through life focusing on extrinsic goals whilst undervaluing intrinsic goals, you may be a ‘success’ in some sense. But is this kind of success worth a gnawing feeling of emptiness, of having something you really want to do, but ignoring it?

It may be true that the happiest people pay special attention to intrinsic goals. However, the aim of this article is not to make this argument (which is nuanced and lengthy). No. The point of this article is to help you achieve your goals, whatever they may be.

Motivation vs. Discipline

Now when it comes to achieving one’s goals, people may get obsessed about either being motivated or being disciplined. Motivation tends to garner more attention, indicated by the popularity of motivational speakers such as Tony Robbins, as well as the prevalent use of hashtags such as #Motivation, #GetMotivated, #MotivationalQuotes and #MotivationalMonday.

However, there are valid reasons why it’s important to be both motivated and disciplined. If you concentrate on just one or the other, it will be more difficult for you to work towards, and achieve, your goals. But first, some definitions are in order.

What Are Motivation and Discipline?

Motivation can be defined as the process by which a person’s efforts are energised and directed towards attaining a goal. Discipline, on the other hand, is usually understood to be synonymous with self-restraint and control. It involves using reason to determine the best course of action regardless of other desires, and to stick to that course of action.

Motivation is the push and drive we feel to do something, while discipline means being committed and unwavering in following patterns of behaviour that we know are in our best interest.

Motivation Alone Is Not Enough

The problem with relying solely on motivation to achieve our goals is that it is fleeting. It is not constant and consistent. On some days, we feel more motivated than we’ve ever felt before and want to wake up early, be productive and work towards our goals. And on other days, we just feel like lying in bed, with the idea of going to the gym sounding like torture.

The experience of depression can be incredibly frustrating in this respect, since a common symptom of the condition is a lack of motivation. It’s a mental health issue in which apathy is the norm and being driven seems unthinkable.

By depending exclusively on motivation to get to where you want to be, you will stagnate on bad days, which only serves to push the achievement of your goals further into the future.

Discipline Alone Is Not Enough

The fleeting nature of motivation is why many people prefer to cultivate discipline instead, since it involves doing something no matter what, even if you really, really don’t want to do it. You go to the gym because you told yourself you would go the gym. In this sense, being disciplined is much more challenging than being motivated.

However, if you become obsessed with discipline but lose sight of why your goals matter to you, then your healthy habits could become a chore, rather than a process you want to go through in order to achieve something.


Motivation and discipline complement each other. On those days you feel super motivated, with your goals fresh in your mind and energising you, it can make discipline seem all the more important. And on bad days, by being disciplined you can still put the work in (however small it may be) in order to keep those goals alive.

Also, if you are disciplined in doing things which benefit your mental health (e.g. exercising), this is likely to keep your motivation more constant than it otherwise would be.

Sam Woolfe writes for Inspiring Interns, which helps companies find the perfect intern and career starters the perfect job, in everything from tech jobs to marketing internships.

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