Motivation vs. Discipline


Motivation vs. Discipline

After years Personal Training in Potts Point Ive seen these two terms widely interchangeable, especially in the fitness arena, so in todays blog I want clarify the difference between each term and how each can help you and I achieve better results in fitness, business and in life.

The definitions we will be using:

  • Motivation: (n) the state or condition of being motivated or having a strong reason to act or accomplish something*
  • Discipline: (v) to train by instruction and exercise; drill*


Motivation, in this context, is a noun. There is no action involved, so it’s out of our control how and when we feel motivated to do something. Discipline, in this context, is a verb. It’s all about that action. Say weight loss is your goal, the action gives us control over whatever it is we are training ourselves to do.

Your fitness/strength/lifestyle journey, at the core, is very similar. Something motivates you to make a change and in the early stages, you are motivated to take on the task. At some point, that motivation fades and you then have to tap into discipline to keep it going. Discipline helps push through the times when motivation is low, so you can keep practicing.

Motivation Is Inspiring but Fleeting

Motivation is a wonderful thing. It inspires us to take on new challenges, to make needed changes in our lives, and it makes it a bit easier to keep practicing the new habits or skills we have chosen to pursue, especially in the early phases of practice.

When motivation is high, run with it. Take advantage of the time you have together. It will inevitably, but temporarily, slip away, and in those times, leaning into building discipline around your habits will help ensure the long-term success of those habits.

Building discipline around a habit will look different for each habit you take on, so let’s look at how habits are built.

Navigating “The Habit Loop”

“How to Start New Habits That Actually Stick”, which is actually an excerpt from his fantastic book, Atomic Habits, James Clear describes habit formation via a four-step, looping process:

  1. Cue – Triggers the brain to initiate a
  2. Craving – The motivational force behind habits, our reason to We don’t crave the habit; we crave the result or change in state practicing the habit brings.
  3. Response – The execution of the habit, which can be physical or mental. The amount of physical or mental power needed to execute the habit will determine whether or not you can/will actually do
  4. Reward – The end goal of each Rewards serve two purposes: (1) Satisfaction – Provide temporary relief from the craving. (2) Education – This action is worth remembering for the future


Whether we realise it, or not, our lives are built upon this framework. Relative happiness, success (financial or otherwise), and fitness levels are all built overtime via this looping process. This process is constantly running, so the question is: Are you going to be a passive participant and wait for motivation to guide you, or are you going to actively build the discipline to gain more control over your current situation?

No matter what habit you choose to build or improve, remember that any meaningful change will take work. The time it takes doesn’t really matter. It’s about starting on Day 1, then Day 2, then Day 3, and so on. Take the focus off of time. It’s irrelevant when practicing habits.

Remember, we are reward-seeking creatures. Sometimes the reward is huge–a PR lift, a job promotion, or a gold medal. Most of the time, the reward will be in simply completing the task, getting the work done for the day, only to do it again tomorrow. There’s beauty in that.

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