When Motivation Fails, Seek Discipline


Motivation and Discipline graphic.

“I have no motivation today… How am I supposed to get work done if I lack motivation… It’s difficult to concentrate during remote learning because motivation is hard,” are all phrases that we hear constantly from our friends, family, and maybe even our teachers. However, most people fail to recognize that it is normal for motivation to be fleeting. Why then, do other people seem more ‘motivated’ or seem to have more drive when it comes to school work? These individuals probably don’t have more motivation, but they have an extremely important characteristic instead: discipline. Motivation and discipline are often considered to be indistinguishable. However, these terms have different parts of speech which contributes to their incongruity. 


Motivation (noun): the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way; the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.


Discipline (verb): train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way.


Motivation is a noun because it is the reasoning behind decisive action, not the action itself. If the work or action that needs to be completed is not desirable, you will have no motivation to get it done. This is because motivation relies on your willingness and interest in the action. 

Therefore, motivation alone is not sufficient as it cannot be applied to the majority of tasks that high school students have on their plates. 

While motivation is the why behind a certain action, discipline is the how. Discipline is a verb, as it involves creating lifelong habits that will prolong despite a lack of motivation. By changing the way that you think, act, and plan, discipline can allow you to set yourself up for success by propelling you to take action, even if the work is unappealing. While some individuals may actually enjoy school work and have the motivation to complete their assignments, it is more likely that discipline is their driving force for action. 

This perspective change can boost your productivity. 

So how do you implement self-discipline?

Let’s face it, it can be difficult to actually have self-discipline. There are three important things that you should remember when trying to push yourself in undesirable circumstances. 


  1. Know your weaknesses and remove those temptations. 

If outside forces like Netflix, your phone, or a really good book are distracting you, put them in another room. By placing those items out of reach, it takes a lot more effort to get to them. If the temptation becomes too overwhelming, the longer journey to these items might be enough to invoke guilt and redirect your focus. 


  1. Come up with a daily schedule

It’s extremely important to recognize the exact amount of work that must get done each day and how much time to allocate for each activity. By physically writing down everything that needs to be accomplished, either on paper or using the stickies feature for your desktop, it will allow you to visually understand your goals. Creating a schedule will foster self-discipline as prioritizing is key to conserving time. 

  1. Make self-discipline a habit 

It can be really easy to implement goals and carry them out for a couple days. However, it takes at least 66 days for an action to become a habit, so keep working at it! Eventually, it’ll become second nature.


“Discipline is choosing between what you want now, and what you want most,” according to Dr Anne Vertel. It’s common to forgo discipline and focus on the present as self-will doesn’t bring about instant gratification. However, it is extremely useful for long-term goals and establishing healthy habits that will help you succeed in college and beyond. Next time you wake up ‘without any motivation,’ remember that motivation is a myth, and begin your day because you have the discipline to accomplish anything.