Get Disciplined, Not Motivated


There’s a lot of problems with simple motivation:

Motivation is fleeting

Motivation comes and goes however it wants. It might not last to the end of the week, end of the day, or even the end of blog post you just read. It’s fleeting.

Motivation is situational

Motivation is based on your current situation. How do you feel? If you don’t feel like doing it, then you’re off the hook. You don’t have to do it – because you don’t feel like it!

But then you don’t do it and you just feel worse and more stuck than ever.

Motivation is everywhere.

Everywhere you go, you see people trying to get motivated to do something, to make a change. They’ll go read something, watch something or attend a conference and come away “motivated.” But that only leaves them “motivated”,  it doesn’t move them to action.

“I’m motivated to do this”. “I’m motivated to do that”. Stop being motivated and just do it already! You don’t need more motivation – you need discipline.

See discipline is a whole different animal.

Discipline is Consistent

The consistency of discipline is what makes it discipline. You go out and do it, day after day.

Discipline Is Habitual

Discipline doesn’t just “happen.” It’s intentional and it’s repeated. Every. Single. Day.

Discipline Is Rare

Discipline doesn’t sound like fun, but it’s how you see results.

Motivation is the start, but if it’s not solidified into a discipline,  it usually fades away into regret pretty quickly once you realize you never acted on it.

How To Be More Disciplined

Get Rid Of Your Excuses

Your excuses suck. Every single one. Get rid of them.

Create Routines

Don’t leave it to chance. When you discipline yourself, it’s like programming as a robot. There’s no more emotion involved. It’s simply “if this…then that.”

That’s why a plan of attack is so crucial. You don’t have to decide what you want to do every single day when you wake up. You don’t have 100 different decisions points. You decide once to follow the plan and then wake up every morning and reference said plan.

You’ve already decided you’re going to do it. You don’t have to decide anymore, you just have to do it..

Decide if it’s Worth It

Of course, making that initial decision will be tough.

Ask yourself, how bad do you want it? You will have to sacrifice something at some point. If you want it bad enough, it’ll be worth it. If you decide that it is worth it, then…

Invest In It

Literally. Money has a way of routing your priorities. Want to look at where you spend most of your time? Look to where you’re spending most of your money. There’s probably a correlation.

Get yourself personally invested in whatever you want to do. Make NOT achieving what you want painful.

When I was beginning my six pack challenge, I told Vic I’d give $500 to the absolute worst person I could imagine – my arch-nemesis.

Sure enough, I woke up every morning thinking about how pissed I’d be if I had to give Steve $500.

After the first two weeks, I had enough momentum that I didn’t even need that as motivation anymore, but the first few weeks you can be sure that that investment was enough to make sure I made my disciplines a priority.

Invest in your goal. Make a bet, hire a trainer, but invest it in a way that actually means something to you and will help route your priorities in the way you want to.

Keep Going

When you really, really, really want to give up, don’t stop. Keep going. Discipline doesn’t depend on your feelings. It happens whether or not you “feel” like it.

When you think you are done, you’re only 40% of what your body is capable of doing. That’s just the limit that we put on ourselves. – David Goggins

Keep going.

Get A Lobotomy

Remove your brain from your equation. Your mind sucks. It will tell you all of the things you’re not capable of doing because it wants to protect itself. It wants to play it safe. It wants to be comfortable.

Meanwhile, your body will sit there and not say anything to the contrary even though it knows it can run triathlons, marathons, climb mountains, and get a six pack if you just give it the chance.

Do a manual override. Tell your brain to shut up and just go do it anyways. Turn your brain off.

When you brain tells you it’s impossible, tell your brain,

That’s nice, I’m going to do it anyways.

Yes, this might mean that you’ll end up getting into arguments with yourself. Do it anyways.

Get Your Shoes On, Get Out The Door

If nothing else, put your shoes on, get out the door.

Your room/house/cubicle/wherever is the ultimate bastion of safety. If you stay there, you’ll never want to leave.

Just get started. Figure everything else out on the way. Getting out the door is half the battle.


You don’t need more inspiration. You don’t need more motivation. You need more discipline and you need to start now.


If you want to kill your excuses, and get disciplined while finally getting in shape, Impossible Abs can help.

photo credit: crypto

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  1. says

    Great stuff, Joel. When people ask me how I stay “motivated” or have the discipline to achieve a goal, I remind them that I employ the same exact tools that everyone else has – and applies – every single day.

    It is consistent action that produces an end result.

    I ask:

    Did you go out for drinks after work one night and wake up with a beer gut the next morning?

    Did you get through all four installments of the Twilight series in a single sitting?

    No! You engaged in consistent, daily action to achieve those results.

    We ALL have discipline. When we apply our discipline to achieving massively positive and fulfilling outcomes, then life becomes AWESOME.


  2. says

    Thought provoking post, Joel!

    Lack of “motivation” is usually the excuse but maybe that’s a knee jerk mis-diagnosis. You make some great points here about discipline really being at the heart of the issue.

    Sharing this one…

    Thanks for the post.

  3. Anum says

    Why didn’t I read this 2 years ago. Haha. You are SO right – we focus more on motivation than the discipline needed to get there. You’re never going to feel like doing something every day, no matter how much you want to attain a certain goal. You just have to make it a habit, something that is instinctive.

  4. Moon Limb says

    Thank you so much for this post. I always sought inspiration and motivation. I realized the hard way that the two are transient, and that discipline and hard work is what lead to true accomplishment, learning and growth. Thanks.

  5. Kenny says

    Great ideas here. Routine ( as you mentioned) is key. It can be tricky to keep the machine going, and you sometimes need additional motivation to take the machine to another gear once it’s running.

  6. Simon says

    Ah, marvels of the internet!

    I ended up reading this post because it was posted on Hacker News. I click on the link and… boom! a pic of the sign “discipline” I see every morning on my way to work in Nantes, France.
    It’s on a army ship that served during the Indochine war and that is now used as a museum.

    I checked, that’s a pic of this sign.
    How come this ended up illustrating this post?

  7. says

    This topic was on my mind lately and your words confirm what I suspected.
    “But then you don’t do it and you just feel worse and more stuck than ever.” Yes, that about sums it up.

    Hopefully I’ll be able to get rid of the lackluster enthusiasm. Indeed, an idea executed day by day shows impressive results.

    I only succeeded once with strict discipline (lately I lost 35 pounds (16 kg), and now I run 7,5 (12km) miles for a warm-up during workout). In other matters i relied strongly on motivation, and it did not went well in many cases.

    Now I only need a bit more discipline in my business endeavors:)

    Cheers. And thank you.

  8. says

    Discipline alone will produce mediocrity (eg.a bank clerk, an army soldier, a high paid investment banker /top consulting type clerk etc ).

    One needs to be genuinely fascinated /inspired and when discipline (required ingredient as a habit ) is added to that, excellence will come out and success will chase one.

    Fascination /inspiration is different from motivation.
    Motivation is desire; want. Any idiot can desire, want things.

    Fascination is wonder. It begets curiosity, awareness and reflection.
    Makes us intelligent in the holistic sense.

    I don’t think an army soldier can be fascinated about his job while he is doing it (killing people, enemy ranks of course). There is the discipline , but there is no wonder.

    Similarly, a bank /consulting clerk is disciplined, puts long hours consistently. But there is no fascination as such with the job.

    Fascination is love.
    There is flow in your work.
    And it brings happiness.

    What do you guys think ?

    • RH says

      I think you are wrong… in fact I know you are… No matter how fascinated, motivated or impassioned you are at the beginning of anything it will not last consistently because those things are emotion based… discipline is and always will be the key.

    • Spencer Van says

      I can’t agree with you more. Discipline alone is effective in areas that just need simple repitition to achieve goals, such as exercising to be fit or attending military. But when you look at other tasks, say, laying out your business plan, researching, etc, discipline will make you feel falling into endless pain river. And you will find it hard to perform a creative job, which is crucial to many mental works. I believe that motivation, fascination and discipline are all important in the success of advanced events.

    • SP says

      I agree with you. I may be speaking conventionally, but I believe in only two things: passion and discipline. If discipline is a vehicle, then passion is the fuel. It is necessary to identify them as co-dependent elements if we want to achieve anything. Putting your heart into something is a daydream, but putting your work where your heart isn’t is a nightmare. :)

  9. says

    Thanks Joel for the reminder. It really is all about discipline, especially if you’re planning on making any meaningful change (e.g., getting back in shape, going Paleo, learning a new language, starting a blog, not going back to a relationship that you know isn’t healthy, etc). Like you said, motivation is an awesome start, but motivation alone will never be enough. I remember hearing a quote that said “the pain of discipline is temporary, but the pain of regret is forever.” It does not get any more real than that.

    As for excuses, I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a more effective way to remove excuses from your life than watching this quick 60-second video from Nike. I challenge anyone to watch this and say that their excuses are still valid:

  10. says

    I can definitely see where discipline eluded me when it comes to being more athletic (which I’m not). But I can also see how that shows with the rest of my life.. You’re probably on to something with the physical challenges = mental challenge = dominating life. I can’t personally relate and even going so far as thinking that your blog doesn’t really ‘speak to me’ because its more on athleticism.. but its all a big copout on my part. after all, I definitely see where the DISCIPLINE of walking 660km when I did over a year ago made an excellent metaphorical basis to how I should be living my life.. maybe I need to be more disciplined with the physical (again) and see where else it takes me…

    PS: I also want to know what’s with the arch nemesis story 😀

  11. Susan Shadid says

    How True this is Joel. You nailed the diff between M & D. Loved the Lobotomy part – I busted laughing. It’s retraining the brain – oops I think that should be the title of one of your next blogs :) Thanks.

  12. says

    Hey Joel,

    Great work on this one. I’ve been talking about the value of discipline a lot lately. People underestimate it’s importance in hitting goals and achieving one’s own definition of success.

  13. Michelle says

    Awesome post. We are all motivated and then lack of discipline kills the motivation every time. I really needed to read this today. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Emily says

    Hey Joel, I love this article! Very blunt, true, and helpful, like a friendly kick in the backside. Just what I needed to ‘hear’ to discipline myself :). The best part is, I can link this to all areas of my life. Thank you.

  15. rimi says

    Hey Joel, Thanks a lot for your suggestions.. honestly speaking, I’m already least for now:)… hope your tips will help me to get disciplined as well. Thanks again.

  16. Mikko says

    That was a great article Joel, thanks!

    I’m not sure where to post this one, but I guess this comment thread is okay.

    I have suffered really bad sleeping habits or even sleeping disorder for years. This is the day I will finally do something about it: I will go to bed at 10 PM for three days a row. Starting today. That’s the first step.

    If I won’t do it, I’m the biggest loser in the world. This may sound crazy but to me this a monumental challenge. Wish me luck. It’s about discipline not motivation!

    • ttoftom says

      Did u do it? Are u the biggest loser! Lol. Your post corresponds with my life to a T. For the life of me…I don’t have the discipline to goto bed on-time.

  17. says

    Great article! I write a lot about motivation but it’s true that discipline is what it really takes. You can look at fitspo pics and motivational quotes all day but until you’re actually disciplined enough to follow through, it’s pointless.
    I like motivation to remind you why you’re disciplined. But it’s discipline that pushes you out of bed at 4am and discipline that pushes through that extra mile or that heavier weight.

  18. Anonymous says

    Discipline does tend to turn people into unthinking robots, which is why totalitarian regimes tend to be highly disciplined and rather stupid.
    I’ve had far more success being creative , flexible, and spontaneous.

    • RH says

      This is possibly the stupidest reply I’ve ever read! Discipline is necessary for any degree of success at anything… If your so successful because of your creativity and spontaneity how about showing your name mr anonymous and proving it? Im afraid I’m going to have to call bullshit on you mr anonymous…

  19. That Dude says

    You are the dude, man.

    Oh wait, that’s me.

    You are the man, dude.

    There that’s better.

    Ugh, that’s still referring to you as a dude and me as a man when obviously I’m the dude. But wait, I’m also a man. I’m getting a headache.

  20. Craig says

    I really like the way you distilled success down to the difference between motivation and discipline. You really nailed it and re-positioned the way I look at motivation speakers (I always thought they were lame but you articulated why so now I get it).

    We started a “No Excuses Award” at a company I started in about 2006 when we had about 75 employees. It was a weekly award given to an employee who went over and beyond expectations when so many others would have used an excuse. Some employees ridiculed the program and thought it was harsh, but invariably those were the employees that lose their jobs when the company down-sized.

    Anyway, thanks for building; I hope you’re successful with it, you deserve to be.

  21. Claire says

    Very grateful to have found this post an old teacher threw up on FB. I’ve struggled with this for, oh…let’s say…years, and it’s nice to have someone differentiate the two. Motivation? I got a shit ton of that in spurts, but it always goes away. I have a plan to maintain a healthy diet and exercise program and have been following it for a few days now. Shutting off the mind is key when it comes to the “I don’t wanna!!” nonsense. Thanks again!

  22. says

    That David Goggins quote is epic, and as a fellow ultra marathon runner, I can relate to it. We get second, third and fourth “winds”…if we would just be willing to push through a little further.

    I think the magic is discipline, is that if you push through on something long enough, it becomes a habit. Habits don’t require effort to keep going, they just become part of who you are.

    For example, I don’t need to discipline myself to go run or exercise, I just do it because it is part of my identity.

    I’ve written a bit about motivation (for example here:

    You could also reframe this to be about discipline and how to make disciplined tasks not so hard….there are a few things you can do to take some of the effort away from discipline…and make it more of a habit (read the article above and what I’m saying will make more sense).

    Looking forward to continue read your blog…just stumbled upon it.

    Personal Coach and CEO of Motivated Life.

  23. roberta says

    So true so many excuses! Discipline requires sacrifices, doing without, without discipline u cannot focus on your goals.


  1. […] When I stumbled upon Tom Frank’s impossible list, I ended up at the Blog of Impossible Things. While this isn’t a college blog, it’s a blog I think many college students can get inspired by. Joel Runyon, who runs the blog, decided to get challenged by giving himself a list of things he typically wouldn’t believe he could do… at that point. Things like traveling for a year straight, running a triathlon, etc. With this list, he documents his progress and challenges his readers to do the same. One post he just published discusses the difference between discipline and motivation. […]

  2. […] more than motivation, it’s discipline that we need. Start with Motivation, add Discipline. Let Motivation visit from time to time. Make Discipline your roommate. Your annoying (but helpful) roommate who wakes you up at 5 a.m. to get those running shoes and be […]

  3. […] Originally Posted by wade1mil What change do you credit with conquering the lack of self discipline you had in the past? I credit that mainly to recognizing that nearly everything I do is some kind of routine, whether good or bad. If you get up at 1pm every day, there is probably a reason for it. In my case the reason was that I started working too late which forced me to stay up longer => routine formed. If you are aware of these routines, you then can assess whether the routine is helpful or not. I then started to implement simple changes. Get up at 9am 5times in a row, get up at 8:30, 5 times in a row and so on. Overall I think awareness of the status quo + small, actionable steps + cutting the excuses. Some resources that helped me, linked below. The comments may also give you further ideas. The Power of Habit: Make & Break Habits with the Habit Loop | The Art of Manliness Get Disciplined, Not Motivated | Blog Of Impossible Things […]

  4. […] I’m not talking about motivation here. I don’t think it’s worth the time to try and motivate someone to do something for themselves. Anyway, discipline is not an issue I would advise other on so here are some great posts: Michael Hyatt’s 5 steps to developing more discipline, Pick the Brain’s steps to self-discipline and the issue you need more discipline, not motivation. […]

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