There are 2 ways to do something: motivate yourself or cultivate discipline. What is the difference between them? Zbyhnev has explained it in details in the articles on advantages of discipline and practical discipline advice.

As for motivation, it’s based on an idea that a definite mental/emotional state is needed to finish a task. But it’s not true.

Discipline, vice versa, separates activities from moods, feelings, etc.

You shouldn’t wait till you’re in the right form to start working out. You work out to get the right form.


What’s more, it’s a form of procrastination when you wait for the right mood to come to start working. It looks like you’re asking yourself: “How do I get myself to feel like doing what I have rationally decided to do?”

The key thing here is to break the connection between actions and emotions as get yourself motivated is a totally wrong method. Moreover, there are some psychological problems connected with motivation.

The reason is that the world we live in makes us do things we can’t be eager about and “motivation” runs into an obstacle of trying to elicit enthusiasm for things that may not be beneficial for us. Trying to get enthusiasm for boring or soul-crushing activity is some kind of psychological self-harm.

The worst scenario is when a person succeeds at a wrong thing. Constantly.

Let’s compare the two approaches. Motivation is to wind up a crank to deliver a burst of fire. Discipline is like to start an engine. Once kickstarted, it provides energy for the whole system.

To sum it up, motivation is trying to feel like doing things while discipline is doing things even if aren’t very enthusiastic about it.

Another difference between motivation and discipline is that the first one is a bursty thing while the second one is constant and self-perpetuating.

So, how can a person get disciplined?

The only way is to build habits and keep to them. Begin with small ones and choose bigger ones sometime later. It will build a positive feedback loop.


Let’s go to a practical part containing some tips on building good habits in practice.


1. Baby steps
Human brain resists sudden changes. So don’t try to be a new person tomorrow otherwise you’ll burn out and revert. Be slow and steady. Make baby steps and you’ll be a totally new person in a year. But you won’t know the exact date when it happened. Keep in mind that big things consist of small things. Small thing you do every day will bring huge result in the end.


2. The principle of graduality

Divide big changes into small manageable steps. Resistance increases exponentially with the size of the change, rather than proportionally. And we can see this principle in many life spheres. For example, recruiting a spy doesn’t happen all of a sudden, right?

If you want to exercise more, take small walks. Do you want to lose some weight? Remove sweets from your diet.


3. Deliberate control of exceptions.

There’s only one effective way to manage your vices: accept and schedule them. If you can’t eliminate them, control them.

Control time and dosage. For example, if you diet, you can allow yourself something sweet in the morning. Otherwise, you can initiate a circle of frustration and self-hatred.


4. Nudges and commitment

Use resistance-less nudges in the right direction to circumvent your defences against doing good things for yourself. For example, if don’t feel like working out but you want to, put on your gym clothes. It will make your brain change the mood and start working out.

So, take small, symbolical step towards the intended change.


5. Recharge

Don’t be tired or stressed when you decide to change your life. When you’re worn out and exhausted, the things you do are far from your conscious decisions. Recharge your batteries before starting a new page o your life.

Meditation is the simplest way out. Just sit down, clear your mind, calm down and become an observer. You’ll feel revitalized and full of energy.

Get rid of distractions and various temptations, simplify your environment. It will help you to free your mind from millions of small things and focus on your goal.

Environmental management basics:

  • keep your place tidy.
  • get rid of all temptations.
  • place reminders and nudges so that you can see them.