Motivation & Discipline: Synonyms or Nah?

What’s the difference between motivation & discipline?

GREAT QUESTION! Funny enough, I always thought they meant the same thing & often used them interchangeably. But, over the course of fighting to overcome a few of the hardest challenges of my life (a life-threatening battle with anorexia nervosa & a generalized anxiety diagnosis), mentally, physically & emotionally, I learned that there’s actually a huge difference between these two terms. 

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Discipline is about self-control and shaping our behaviour and thoughts so they’re in tune with our motivation, whereas motivation is what drives & initially fuels us to build that willpower. Still sounds somewhat the same, right? 


To put it simply, think of motivation as the “WHY” and discipline as “WHAT” keeps us going when the “WHY” isn’t as obvious or when we start to doubt or question our purpose.

Motivation comes from emotion and feeling, whereas discipline is self-taught, based more on reason and gets stronger with time, experience & exposure.

In life, I truly believe we need both and this holds true whether we’re struggling with one of life’s many challenges or simply just living our day-to-day lives.

When we set our mind towards a goal, we need the initial why. We need that underlying reason, that motivation that gets our foot in the door. The better we know & understand what drives us, the more likely we are to strive for the results we aspire to obtain.


But what keeps us in the game? What keeps us pushing past that door when the why is less clear & we feel stuck? That’s where discipline comes in. Reality is, we’re all human and unfortuantely, we won’t wake up every morning with the exact same level of of motivation; some days, we’ll wake up ready to conquer the world & stay committed to our goals wholeheartedly, but other days, we’ll wake up wanting to do nothing more but lay in bed all day & forget about real life. Anyone who tells you otherwise is pretending to be superhuman, okay?

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Point is, when motivation fails us, a strong sense of self-discipline helps us correct our behaviour & reminds us why we committed to a certain lifestyle habit or goal in the first place. Discipline helps make motivations clear when we feel lost, confused & blinded.


Let’s apply these two terms to real life for a second. 

I’m a motivated person when it comes to waking up & going to the gym. But sometimes, I just want to stay in bed & scroll through my social media feed for hours. On those days, it’s not my motivation that gets me out of bed; it’s my self-discipline & my fostered ability to rationalize & work through my thoughts to do what I know will make me feel my best long-term. When my body is telling me yes, but my mind is trying to tell me otherwise simply because I’m lacking that spark of motivation, discipline reminds me of how I feel after a work out & suddenly, I’m panting out the door, water, yoga mat & sneakers in hand. 


On a more serious note, when I reached rock bottom in my struggle with anorexia nervosa, it got to a point where I found the motivation to get my life back and pursue recovery. But, it’s no secret that if you have personally gone through the same thing or know someone who has, there are days in recovery where all you want to do is resort back to the comfort of your eating disorder, your “safe” and “comfort” foods & isolate yourself from the rest of the world. 


Take it from me when I say that on those days, that initial motivation to recover didn’t cut it for me. What did? My discipline. My commitment to the long-term goal of getting my life back, the reminder that in order to get there, I had to change my behaviour in ways conducive to recovery and that if I didn’t, I would fall back into the trap of my eating disorder and miss out on life even more. Discipline kept me in line when my eating disorder was telling me to do things that weren’t right, to engage in old rituals & behaviours that would not help me meet my ultimate goal.

I know, I’m making it sound so simple, but it’s not. You can’t snap your fingers and get motivated or become self-disciplined. We’re all motivated by different things & discipline comes from getting to know yourself and developing a relationship with your body and mind where you’re able to decipher between what’s right for you & what isn’t. You can’t discipline or correct behaviour if you don’t know what’s right.

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So what’s the first step? Figure out what’s right FOR YOU and when you know, commit to those decisions until they become habits. Always remember your thoughts shape your feelings and that’s why it’s so important to feed your mind with positive thoughts so that your motivation and discipline can bring out the best in you!

If you’re feeling less motivated today, I want you to know you’re not alone. It happens to the best of us, even those of us who have made it our mission and purpose to be there to inspire and help others. We’re all human and we’re all a work in progress and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. 

Self-control & self-discipline is acquired, with time, commitment, experience and exposure. Motivation is felt & we’re all initially driven by different things. What lights a fire in my soul may sound boring to you & vice versa. That’s nothing to be ashamed of either. Case in point, I truly believe every single one of us needs both in order to successfully commit to & accomplish our goals. It’s not so much about what those commitments or goals are, but rather about what leads us to keeping our eye on the prize & accomplishing them!