Discipline vs Motivation

I’ve been really digging the Seinfeld Productivity Method. Basically you build habits by not breaking a chain of days you successfully did that habit. What you’re building (through guilt) is discipline, and it’s awesome.

Maybe “guilt” is a little heavy handed, but when you see that chain of days you’ve been exercising and today you don’t feel like exercising what do you do? Do you break the chain? Hell no! You get off your ass and exercise. The same goes for any other habits you’re trying to build; writing, programming, practicing something, etc. There is a lot of debate about the best way to keep track of your chain, but I’ve been enjoying lift.do which has a web app and mobile app. (And if you want to give me props, here is my profile.

At the root of this habit building is an emphasis on discipline over motivation. Motivation is a feeling that comes and goes. When you don’t feel like doing something you don’t do it. When you have discipline you do the thing whether you feel like it or not. It’s all about making a little bit of progress every day and learning to do the work because it needs to be done, not because you feel motivated.

You don’t have to make monumental progress every day. It’s about a lot of small progress adding up to real improvement over time. I can hear the naysayers (because I was one) saying “You’re tracking meditating; but you only meditate for one minute?” Correct! And after a year I will have meditated for 365 minutes (over six hours!) by utilizing a small amount of discipline whereas when I relied on motivation I meditated for 0 minutes (approximately zero hours!) If you’re keeping score: 365 minutes is greater than 0 minutes.

It’s not that motivation is worthless, but it is fleeting. Discipline is king for long term improvement. If you want to learn a new skill, improve a relationship, hone an existing skill, write, draw, play music, learn a language, or anything else, then practice deliberately a little bit every day.

Motivation lets you roll up your sleeves and spend a whole Saturday cleaning the garage.

Discipline makes you put things away after you use them so the garage is always clean.

Learn discipline.

Start now.