Discipline, not motivation

On my Instagram feed, I follow Kayla Itsines, an HIIT fitness guru from Adelaide, Australia. She’s incredible in many ways – she’s in her 20s and already has a global cult following. Women across all ages do her fitness regimen called BBG (Bikini Body Guide). She herself is physically so strong.

She writes her own Instagram posts. This surprised me. On further reflection, however, it feels plausible because the posts have an authentic ring to them. She writes, more often than not, about things besides exercise and fitness: how important her family is to her, having off days, recovering from sickness, and other topics that touch the everyday anxieties that besiege women all over the world.

I want to focus on one thing she said recently: someone asked her how she stays motivated. Her response was that it’s not motivation that keeps her going, it’s discipline.

Think about that for a second. Most of us see the achievers in the world, whether sports, arts, politics, business, or any field practically, and try to find what motivates them to reach such heights. It’s like we’re looking for the secret ingredient that explains their success, and if we discover it, we, too, will be successful like them.

So, it’s revealing to hear a leading fitness icon say she doesn’t rely on motivation to accomplish her dreams. Instead, she does it with discipline.

That rings powerful and true. When I think about the various individuals that I look up to, they all have referred to a regular pattern of industry and perseverance. Benjamin Franklin is probably the most famous for his structured approach to engaging with his day in order to achieve his goals. Robin Sharma talks about the 5am Club, a concept about getting up early to reflect and plan in the quiet of the new day, every day.

Not relying on motivation has a neuroscientific basis too. The hormones that juice our excitement and passion only do this temporarily. It’s why the highs of a new love die away after the initial, lusty buzz. Our bodies are not wired to keep us excited. It would not be healthy.

Discipline is showing up even when you don’t feel like it. Inspiration is flighty, I’ve written about it before in another blogpost that bemoaned my inconsistent pace of writing. It can’t be relied upon. Discipline is reliable. It keeps you moving forward. It takes you through the dark troughs, the prickly challenges, the dispiriting moments when it does not feel worth it, until you emerge onto a glorious, sun-filled peakpoint and are able to look down and comprehend the thousand steps that led to this apex. Without discipline, those steps would not have been taken.

It’s not motivation, it’s discipline. I feel like creating a t-shirt that says that.


About Archana

I'm Indian and Canadian, and many other countries in between. I read comics every morning and believe the world could do with slowing down.
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3 Responses to Discipline, not motivation

  1. Great post! And very true! So many people just think they will feel like doing something later or put it off for tomorrow when they are not so busy or tired or some other excuse. These are the same people that will look at others with success and be like ‘its easy for you; if I only had your advantages…’ when in true fact that other person has probably had to put in a lot of hard work in order to achieve. And hard work involves discipline. As Mel Robbins says ‘motivation is garbage, its never there when you need it.’

    I also love that you mentioned the 5am club as this is a discipline I am currently working on myself. It is hard but also so very rewarding. Thank you for posting this, its the ‘non-motivation’ I needed 🙂

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