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Why Motivation won't Help You to Reach Your Goals

Updated: Mar 28, 2020

“You won’t always be motivated, so you must be disciplined.”

I don’t know who came up with this quote, but I found it a few days ago and immediately got inspired to write this post. So here it goes.

People always talk about how they haven't started something because they "just don't feel motivated enough yet." While motivation can be a good thing, it's fleeting, and if we're just gonna sit around until we feel like doing something, we're going to be waiting for a long time. So instead of waiting to feel motivated, we should become more disciplined. Self discipline is something that can be translated into everything we do. It’s “the ability to control one's feelings and overcome one's weaknesses” or “the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.” 

Self discipline is especially useful with things that you don’t care about doing...things sort of like doing well in school. I don’t remember the last time I actually felt like doing homework or studying for a class.  When I’m at school, practically all I can think about is how amazing it will be when I get to jump in my car and go home. I imagine myself laying out on my bed and sleeping until I need to get up the next day.

Despite what I feel like doing, what I actually end up doing is coming home, taking a quick food break to decompress, and then I write down all the assignments I need to do and get to work. My mindset is that if I finish a set amount of school work, or the “things I have to do” first, then I can spend the rest of my time doing things that I want to do like hanging out with friends, watching TV, making cool things, or going on my phone. 

Self discipline isn’t only needed for tasks we don’t want to do, but for our passions as well. When I work on creative projects, I don’t always feel motivated or inspired. Most of the time, I don’t know where to start and put off starting because of that. But, I have to stop thinking about how I feel in the moment and think about how it will feel when I finally finish whatever it is I have set out to do.

Self discipline is the reason why you go to bed early to prepare for the next day instead of hanging out late with your friends. It's the reason why you finish all of your homework before doing something fun on a Friday night. It's the reason why you lock yourself in your room and don't come out until a goal has been met. It's the reason why you still treat people with kindness even though all you want to do is clap back. It's the reason why you're still here even though you feel like quitting. Self discipline trains you to keep going even when you don't feel like it.

Self discipline is something that needs to be practiced. You can’t just try it out for one day and expect it to be easy to choose discipline over desire. It’s best to start out with the little things. If you want to be better at playing an instrument, you can be disciplined enough to practice. If you wanted to read more, you could sit yourself down and read 10 pages a day. The idea is to make the goals small and build on them to make them habits.

Here are some practical things that will help you to stay disciplined:

  • Remove the temptations -- Put the “do not disturb” feature on your phone to use.

It’s easy to abandon your goals when you have a choice between gratification that you can see right now, or a reward that is far down the road. To help you not have to make such a tough decision, it’s best to just get rid of the things that are distracting you. One of the most common distractions is our phones. On days where my time is cut short, in order to make sure the work I really need to do gets done, I put both my phone and computer on do not disturb and don’t check any notifications or really talk to anyone until I am done, which brings me to my next tip,

  • Reward yourself.

There are psychology ties to rewarding yourself and reaching your goals. Rewards act as reinforcers. Receiving something you like after completing some task can make you think more positively about that task and can make you more likely to get in the habit of performing that task. All of this has to do with behavior psychology, dopamine, and other stuff that you probably don’t feel like getting into. On some days when I get home, I don’t go on my phone until I’m completely done studying, which can be a few hours, but other times, I let myself go on my phone for 10 minutes in between 30 minute study sessions as a reward. Other ways I reward myself with food, snacks, naps...anything to help motivate me to finish whatever needs to be done. “If you finish this, you can have this.” 

  • Have friends hold you accountable.

It might help to tell the people you talk to the most that you won’t be on your phone. This way, they don’t text you while you’re trying to focus, and if they do happen to notice that you’re on your phone, they can be like “hey, what are you doing???” Ya feel? Ya feel.

  • Write down your reasons to be disciplined and look to them when you don’t feel motivated.

And finally, goals become easier to reach when you have them in front of you. You may not be motivated to do the work it takes to get to the goal, but thinking about the reasons why you are doing this difficult work can help to keep you from giving up or getting too distracted.

Don’t feel discouraged if you’re lacking motivation to get started on something that you need to do, learn to be disciplined enough to fight through your feelings and get things done in spite of them.

Thanks for reading,



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