The terms disciplined and motivated are characteristics most hiring managers seek in a candidate. Think about it: a manager wants their new hire to have discipline in the work place; someone who can be trained to obey their roles and abide by their code of conduct. Said manager also wants a motivated employee; someone who is inspired to do good work and brings enthusiasm to the table.

A lot of times we incorrectly use these two terms interchangeably. We think that because we went to college, have a job, maintain a budget, etc. that we’re equally disciplined and motivated adults. That’s where we’re wrong.

These two terms are actually quite different. Just because someone is motivated to do the work, doesn’t guarantee that they’re disciplined enough to complete said work. Conversely, just because someone is disciplined and does the work, doesn’t mean they’re motivated or inspired to do good work.

3 Reasons Why Discipline Trumps Motivation

So, which is a more important trait to have? While both are critical, at GenTwenty we believe that discipline is what you need to accomplish the things you set out to do in life. Here’s why:

1. If you wait until you’re motivated, you’ll never get things done.

Let’s be real: motivation is a feeling that ebbs and flows. We all have days where we feel super, extra inspired to crack down and get the job done, but we also have many days where the only thing we want to do is lay in bed and binge-watch a new series.

If you wait for “the right time” to want to get things done, these things will just sit on your to-do list, idling. You can’t control when you feel motivated or how motivated you are to do something.

Whether it’s catching up on chores, putting in extra hours in the office, or cracking down on your budget, you can’t guarantee you will follow through based on motivation alone. You need discipline to take action. It’s discipline that will clean your toilets, wash your clothes, complete your projects, and force you to skip that $6 cup of coffee you don’t really need. Discipline gets the job done.

2. Routine grounds you. 

If you ask the average person how they wake up early, exercise, shower, eat balanced meals, work, take care of their kids, walk their dog, pay bills, and get enough sleep on a regular basis, their answer probably has something to do with routine.

We’re generalizing, but most people don’t get everything done that they have to because they want to. Most people are able to because they create a routine that they’re disciplined to stick with.

Take my mom for example. She works full-time, has two dogs, has a ton of hobbies, goes to the gym, and cooks herself a meal each night. Does she always wants to? No. Is she consistently motivated? No. But, she has a routine that works with her schedule to ensure she hits everything on her daily checklist. Discipline wins again.

3. Motivation gets you started, but discipline keeps you going. 

We’re not suggesting that motivation isn’t important. Of course it is! But, we’re saying that discipline trumps motivation overall.

Let’s use college as an example. You were motivated to get your undergraduate degree. Maybe you need it to get the job you want. Perhaps you want it to prove your work ethic. The reason why you were inspired matters, but it isn’t the end all be all. What really means something is that you did it. You were motivated to start, but your discipline in school to show up to class, do the work, and graduate is what kept you going. You might feel motivated to start something, but you need discipline to make it a reality.

At the end of the day, discipline is what you can count on to get the job done. Whatever it is, whatever you’re doing, it’s discipline you need to see it through. If you’re wondering how to be disciplined in life, don’t fret.

Here are a few parting tips to help ground you:

  • Let motivation inspire you, but don’t rely on it to get the work done. Create habits in your daily, weekly, and/or monthly routine that you can realistically stick to in order to discipline yourself into getting the work done.
  • Remember that motivation is finite. You’ll have days where you’re inspired and bubbly, anxious to get started on a new project. But, you’ll have just as many days (maybe even more) where you’re in a slump or disengaged. Don’t let your mood determine your success.
  • Create a routine and set of habits that fit your lifestyle. It’s perfectly normal to feel like you don’t want to do something, but when you teach yourself that you have to (e.g. eating veggies, paying bills, etc.) you’ll learn that being an adult sometimes means getting things done because responsibility is a must.
  • Remind yourself that you can’t just wake up one day and be disciplined. You have to earn it! Break projects into smaller chunks. Work on accomplishing smaller goals, which will lead you to reach bigger ones. Discipline takes practice and consistency. You can do it!

We all know people who say they’re motivated to do XYZ, but never do because they aren’t disciplined enough to follow through. Don’t be like everyone else. Be inspired to set goals, but discipline yourself into taking action! Good luck!