Motivation Vs. Discipline: What Do You Lack?

When it comes to reaching goals, people usually look for many sources of motivation to get them going. But I always wonder: do they actually lack motivation, or is it a discipline issue?

How many times have you “liked” a motivational quote on social media such as:

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How good those motivational quotes actually are? They do express a truth that we agree and can identify ourselves with, but are they getting through us enough to make us motivated?

I recently added this quote to my Instagram feed: “Motivation is an outside source that gives us motives to become the person that we had already found motives to become.”

Think about it: It’s not that someone just found out that no one but themselves can change their own lives. We all know that already! We know it and the motivation just reminds us of what we want to become, who we want to be, and how we want to live our lives.

And, besides having motivational quotes all over our feeds on social media, we also have our family, friends, and our coaches motivating us day in and day out.

So, if we have so many reminders from so many outside sources, every day, how come people are still not reaching their goals?



Motivation will only get you so far. When we are about to start a new exercising program, for example, motivation works really well. We have already set our minds to something so, listening to a song that will make us exercise, or buying new exercise clothes or shoes, getting an exercise buddy and a fitness coach… all of that will work wonders to kick-start your new lifestyle.

The same goes for when we start a new job. We get so excited about our new routine that we end up buying new work clothes, getting a mani-pedi, and telling our friends and family about it (if they realize that we are happy with the change, they always say motivational words in response to our news).

blog quote 3And then, over time, the motivation starts dying off… not because our nails need to be painted again or because are workout shoes got dirty, but simply because we got used to the new routine and lifestyle. Getting our nails done again or buying new shoes will NOT motivate us again for as long as it did before.

The problem lies when people rely on being motivated all of the time, to be able to achieve their goals. That is unrealistic because the initial adrenaline that we get from the motivation of a new routine doesn’t kick in as much. So we start missing gym days, feeling too tired to exercise, trying to find comfort in junk foods, slowly walking away from our goals…. Setting ourselves up for failure and self-disappointment. Or we start hating our jobs, calling in sick (and even becoming sick because our brains are a very powerful thing!), disliking our boss, and finding every excuse we can to complain about the jobs that we once were so excited about.

That’s why I say that people should NEVER rely on motivation because motivation is not long-term. Instead, rely on discipline.



When we have discipline, we will achieve our goals – no matter what. If we have set in our minds that we will go to the gym every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, for example, we will make it happen.

Think about motivation as a fad diet while discipline is a change in lifestyle.

Fad diets only last a certain amount of time. You may be able to achieve your goals, but not for long and, when you go back to your old ways, things can even become worse because you may lose respect for yourself.

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Discipline, on the other hand, comes with a long-term change. When you have discipline, you do not focus on the results you got today, but on the results that you will have in your life overall. When you have discipline, you are not worried if you will fit in a dress by day 21, but how you will fit in your life for the years to come, with more confidence, happiness, and self-acceptance.



If you have realized that you are always in search of motivation to reach your goals, instead of relying on your own self-discipline, start taking the following steps so that you can get used to your new way of thinking:

On a piece of paper:

  • Write down each different area of your life (personal, professional, social, etc)
  • For each area of your life, make a list of your long-term goals. For example:
    • Personal Life: LOSE WEIGHT
    • Professional Life: FINISH TASK BY DEADLINE
  • Now, for each one of your long-term goals, write down the short-term goals that you need to achieve each long-term goal. This is an example of how it should look like:
    • Personal Life Goal: LOSE WEIGHT
      • Cook more,
      • Go to the gym 240 min/week (you can break down those 2 mins however you want!),
      • Download an upbeat playlist to phone,
    • Professional Life Goal: FINISH TASK BY DEADLINE
      • Delegate work,
      • Take breaks and stand up every 2 hours (this will make you refocus and become more efficient),
      • Shut off personal phone while at work,
      • Call babysitter/parents/in-laws ahead of time,
      • Make reservations ahead of time
      • Leave work on time so that you have time to get ready before your date.
      • Etc
  • Continue to add more short-term goals as you think of them.
  • Write down on your calendar when you are going to accomplish each of your short-term goals. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, when?? Write them down! EVEN your workout days! In the beginning of your new routine, write them down!
  • Now, write down on your calendar when your long-term goal will be able to be accomplished by: this week? This month? Next month? What day of the month? Write it down!

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Do you see that by doing this exercise you can have a much more realistic idea of how and by when your goals will be able to be reached? This way you don’t set yourself up for failure and, when every day is finished, you will feel accomplished instead, knowing that you are one step closer to your goals!

This is the reason why I love checkmark lists! LOL

There is an app called “Google Keep” that you can download to your phone and keep all of your notes and checkmark lists in order. It’s by far, one of my favorite apps because I get to organize my days very easily.

Now that you have realized that outside motivation will only get you so far, I hope that you can find that fire within to start having the discipline you need to achieve all of your long-term goals!


Health & Checklists to all,

Gabi Brandao
Disease Prevention Advocate, Blogger, Author, Speaker, Certified Holistic Health and Wellness Coach by the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, Board Certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, and Licensed Medical Massage Practitioner by the Virginia Board of Nursing



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