Can you have discipline without motivation? The Power of Self Discipline

Focusing on Motivation can help you do things when you feel like doing it but Discipline will help you do it regardless of how you feel. Discipline is the priority, not motivation.

Once you realize you don’t need motivation to get any work done – then it changes a lot for you.

When I was in college – every time I focused on motivation to get work done – my grades suffered. Once I switched to Discipline – they went back up.

Same thing applies to business and skills you want to gather under you belt.

Discipline and motivation are interconnected

We often think that discipline and motivation are two separate things, but they’re actually interconnected. You need discipline to maintain your motivation, and you need motivation to stick.

It’s easier said than done.

  • Going to the gym when you have 0 motivation to go is always the hardest.
  • Writing and posting consistently even when you get little engagement is hard.

But if you stick to it, you improve with time.

How to improve self discipline without motivation

The most successful people I know including Entrepreneurs, health workers, religious authorities, fitness enthusiasts etc. are self-motivated through discipline. It’s the key to:
  • Staying in shape: when your motivation to go to the gym is at an all time low
  • Becoming healthier – saying no to junk
  • Achieving your goals – taking the right action.
  • Sticking to your purpose – amidst 1000 shiny objects.

Discipline is the key to achieve your goals even without motivation

Back to the college story, there were many points where we woke up with 0 energy and motivation knowing but knowing we had tests or exams the next day we had to put in the work.

We knew you never had to rely on motivation or you’ll probably last a few weeks in school. If others could study and graduate with good grades so could we no matter how difficult it seemed.

When Discipline Matters Most:

There are certain times in life when having discipline is essential, even if you don’t feel motivated. E.g.:

  • In your Career & business, so many distractions and when you lose interest.
  • A Parent that is trying to help their teen figure life out.
  • Aged and retired ones that start feeling zero motivation to get up after a certain age.
  • Going to the gym after you’ve had a messed diet or when you’re not making enough progress.

Once you realize you don’t need motivation to get any work done – then it changes a lot for you.

The Power of Self Discipline: even when You’re Not Feeling Motivated

1. Focus on your why

Have a strong WHY. What impact do you want to create? Everyone has their own reason for wanting to be disciplined, whether it’s for personal or professional success. Figure out what yours is and use it as fuel when things get tough.

Without a purpose behind any struggle, you’ll easily give up or resent what you do. The latter is one of the most dreadful moments in an entrepreneur’s journey.

Successful people know that it’s easy to lie in bed at 5-6 am in the morning. But the moment you figure out that Motivation comes when you know what you are working for. You quit the hesitation and start taking action.

2. Build your Character through discipline

Discipline is one of the best ways to build a solid character. If you focus on discipline, you can build a solid character that keeps you grounded and you find it easier to say no to certain things & temptations that are not aligned to your values.

People find themselves into bigger positions where they’re exposed to money & fame and sometimes misbehave. It was not the bigger money, exposure or lack of enough motivation from their organization that made them fall out of their best behavior.

It was because they had not taken time to build their character before getting into such positions. Hence, money & fame exposes their true character and they find it difficult to resist any temptation.

If you focus on discipline, you can build a solid character that keeps you grounded and you find it easier to say no to certain things & temptations that are not aligned to your values.

3. Take Responsibility 

Most forms of external motivation do not last. With discipline you can prove to yourself each day as you wake up what you can do.

Most people need an external force to motivate them into action, or to keep them in check morally. You may still need a form of accountability (next point), but true responsibility starts with following through what you said you would do – through discipline.

Can you have the self-control to do something that’s beneficial even when you don’t want to? To quote Nietzsche:

“He who cannot obey himself will be commanded.”
Freedom is the will to be responsible to oneself.

4. Create accountability

Consider working with a Coach who has expertise helping people in developing self-discipline.

Another way is to tell your spouse or significant other what you’re going to do & add some accountability & social pressure.

Surround yourself with people that help you level up through building self-discipline.

5. Create Routines and form Right Habits

Can you remember when you were a kid? You needed your parents to remind you to brush your teeth everyday. External motivation.

But today why do you brush you teeth everyday. The pain of a bad colored teeth or mouth odour is greater than the discipline of a few minutes of your day.

Focus on developing habits instead of getting motivated.
Once something becomes a habit, does motivation even matter?

6. Plan your day from the night before

One of the best things you can do for yourself to have more discipline is to take a few minutes each night to plan against your next day.

Would you leave your forthcoming day to chance and how much motivation you feel or would you rather have a particular goal you want to achieve?

The latter makes it easier to spring up & win!

7. Delay Gratification and be consistent 

Consistency makes discipline the key to success, even when you don’t feel motivated. Show up every day with a winning mindset and long-term attitude.

One key aspect of discipline is being able to delay gratification. That is, being willing to put off immediate pleasure in favor of long-term gain.

Do the work – it applies to your health, business, gym & sustaining solid habits. Same mindset you need to train is the same mindset you need to maintain a business.

People who are seeking motivation are always asking whether its possible to just do what is required and nothing more? But this is a recipe for remaining mediocre.

8. Stop seeking external validation and/or motivation

When you don’t care about what others think, you experience real freedom.

Trust yourself with a smile when everyone doubts.

Never let the validation of men be your motivation – instead focus on building discipline.

Avoid the chase of motivation and premature dopamine.
Use dopamine to push yourself through rewarding yourself AFTER working.

9. Fall in Love with the process

I’m all for doing what you love and working with clients you like.

But it’s possible to be disciplined without necessarily enjoying what you’re doing.

Sometimes we have to do things we don’t like in order to achieve our goals E.g.

  • Working with a client you don’t like for the first time (no one plans for this).
  • Learning to eat healthy foods again (when your taste buds have been f**ked up by sugar)

Smart Employers these days hire for motivation, attitude, and skill set in that order because you can’t teach the other two.

To eliminate your need for motivation – fall in love with the everyday grind and it becomes enjoyable.

The process becomes its own motivation. As focusing solely on the end goal decreases your joy and increases your need for extrinsic motivation instead of discipline.

10. Learn from your failures

It takes discipline to learn from your failures. We naturally want to forget failures and move on to the next big thing. But its only after connecting the dots, can you learn what not to do next time and succeed on your next attempt.

Infact you can use Failure as a motivation. Failure gives us a chance to learn something.

All these points are to remind us to focus on training our discipline to achieve our goals because discipline is more important than motivation.

The Importance of Motivation

If you don’t have motivation, it’s hard to keep up with a disciplined lifestyle.

Even if you’re not naturally motivated, there are ways to find motivation from within yourself.

I like this analogy of matchstick and candle from a thread by Jack Coulson:


There needs to exist a healthy balance between discipline and motivation. One doesn’t necessarily work without the other – it’s important to find a balance between the two.

But in all you do, make discipline a priority.


4 thoughts on “Can you have discipline without motivation? The Power of Self Discipline”

  1. It is possible to have the discipline to do something without being motivated. However, motivation usually leads to discipline, so it is rare to find someone disciplined without motivation.

  2. I agree with your post. For me discipline comes first and then Motivation. It took me a while to understand this. Thanks for sharing!

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