Motivation or discipline – which one of those would you rather have?  Before you answer that question let’s define motivation and discipline because they are very similar topics.

So, I consider motivation as being similar to inspiration, or just drumming up the desire to do more to start something at the beginning of a project or a job. Anything like that at the beginning of starting something.

Discipline is following through, not necessarily getting that spark of inspiration or motivation.  There is a book called Grit, similar to grit, discipline is sticking to something and seeing it all the way through and completing it.  In my opinion, motivation is the motivation to start something, and discipline is the aspect of being able to finish it.

Motivation Versus Discipline


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To me, I am exceptionally good at motivation. I come up with new ideas and I begin new things every day.  I would say, I don’t know, a quarter of the things that I start are actually “finished.” So, I think that I personally lack discipline and I would like to have a lot more discipline in my life than motivation. This is because I am probably 80/20 of one way of motivation versus discipline.

One reason that I listen to podcasts every day, the one thing that Daniel Pink, a really great author and has authored a lot of great books, one thing he just talked about was being able to motivate yourself or your children or anyone else by asking them a simple question.  On the scale from one to ten, how much do you want to do X?  So, he was talking about a child needing to study for an algebra test, so he asked this child how much you want to study for this algebra test.  The child replied, well a three, and he would then ask them instead of demanding like you typically would do.  You should write that you should study for this now, what do you mean it’s only a three? It’s so important for your life, that is more of the command and conquers aspect or the control aspect and you can’t really control people.  As he was saying people are either going to comply or they are going to defy.  And, if they are a teenager they will probably defy you.  He said take this different approach, I think it’s a really interesting approach that he mentioned.

Taking a Different Approach

If you asked this child, how much do you want to study for this algebra test and the child would say three.  Instead of you railing on them and telling them it should be more important than a three, you ask them more questions. By doing so, you get them to motivate and see their own ways.  It’s much more powerful, you will be able to get people to do many more things instead of commanding, having them, helping them see that it was their own idea, or make them come to that conclusion themselves.  One way of doing this is to ask questions.  He would then ask, so you’re at a three, why are you not at a one or a two, so you tease out the left half of the spectrum.  Ask them why do you not want a one or two, this brings to light the reasons that they need to do it. The kid may say, well if I don’t do good on the test and I will fail, and if I fail I might have to take the grade over again and on and on and on.  This is a good starting point for them to come up with the reasons why, so you’re not telling them the reasons why. They are coming up with the reasons themselves, they are much more likely not to defy.  Because at that point they are thinking mom and dad are not telling me this, I am coming up with them myself.  And if I am coming up with this on my own, this actually may be something that I need to do.

Motivation Strategy

That is a part of the motivation, but I got to start thinking about this concept, I could use that strategy and we could all use that strategy for a number of different things in life and career.  It’s all about if you don’t want to do something but you think you need to. This is the constant thing I’d struggle with every day.  I think that if it was me I would just do my own thing and just do the day-to-day and not worry about the next day or the next month, or how to make money with my TechSnips start-up. I am just going to do the fun stuff that I want to do and spend all day coding and building automation workflows.  I could do that and it would be fun, but it would be fun for maybe a couple weeks or something until I realized that if I keep on that same path, the startup will die and everybody will leave and the community will die.  So there has to be some kind of trade-off, there has to be some kind of discipline in that aspect.

Asking Questions to Get Motivated

This is one thing I am going to start trying whenever I feel that I need to do something, but I don’t necessarily want to do it. So, let’s say I need to track down new clients, that is one thing that I just do, not like doing but it is a requirement of the job and I realize that, and I have to do it.  So, let’s just say that I don’t really feel like tracking down new clients today, so I would ask myself how motivated you are to track down new clients today.  So, I would probably say I don’t know maybe a two or a three, and then you ask yourself why you aren’t at a one? So, you would answer these questions in your own head.  So, I would probably answer with the reasons that I just spoke of, because I want TechSnips to succeed, I want my business to succeed, I want others to succeed, and I need the capital to do that.  This all goes back to the primary mission of the startup and once you are able to ask those questions of yourself and have yourself answer those questions, it seems to be much more rewarding, much more motivating to me.  I can’t actually put my finger on, I haven’t actually done this yet but it’s a really interesting concept that I just heard.

Using Habit Forming Apps to Increase Discipline

Taking the motivation one step further is the discipline aspect of it.  One thing that I have been recently doing was trying to learn about habits.  So, The Power of Habit is another good book about habits, I have talked about this in the past too.  Once you are motivated to do it, once you’re motivated to start it, it needs to be a habit of something that you need to accomplish.  One thing that I recently started doing is using an app, it’s called Done.  It is an iOS app, I think there are a lot of other of these types of apps in the app store.  They are about giving some kind of reward if you do something a certain number of times a day, a certain number of times a week.  For example, I am trying to get myself to meditate and to work out regularly, so far meditation is a lot easier than working out so I have been doing really well at that.  But, I really have not made it a habit because you just forget or you don’t, you just skip a day.  For some reason a part of your brain kind of clicks whenever you have, even if it is just a dumb app that reminds you (you should be doing this, or you are going to break your streak), it’s all about streaks.  At first, I thought it’s dumb, I am never going to care about this dumb app telling me I’m going to break my streak, I don’t care.  But, there is something deep inside your lizard brain that thinks, NO I can’t break my streak, this is a bad thing. So, I actually have been meditating every day this week just because of that dumb app, that pings me every night and says, “oh, did you forget you’re going to break your streak? You better meditate.” For some reason that motivates me more, I think that combined with the motivational technique of asking yourself the reasons that you don’t want to be motivated and couple that with some discipline.

One example is to use the app Done or another habit-forming app, I think those two combined will really allow you to start a new project that you would never think even possible, the stuff that you say, “well, I don’t have time for that.”  If you make it a purpose to define all of these, to figure out how important all of this stuff is to you, then take the extra effort to make it a habit and have some discipline to follow through.  I really think that I am going to be doing a lot more if I can continue this kind of mindset. Here’s hoping and here’s hoping you can too.

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