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Unlocking the Power of Discipline and Motivation: A Guide to Success

It is a chicken and egg scenario. What comes first, motivation or discipline? Do you need to be motivated to be disciplined or do you need to be disciplined to get the results that motivate you?

Is one more important than the other?

This blog covers some of the points covered in a recent 'Discipline and Motivation' workshop and shares my perspectives on how you can unlock your full potential to achieve success by understanding and harnessing motivation and discipline.

a large gold key on a black background. The bit or blade is shaped to spell out the word 'success'
Motivation & Discipline - The Key to Unlock Your Success

Motivation Types:

There are many different types of motivation, I tend to cover four types of motivation that drive our behaviour; intrinsic and extrinsic, as well as positive and negative.

Intrinsic motivation - This is an internal motivation, we are motivated by something within us, our values, our purpose, the way we feel, such as pride, joy, sense of accomplishment. Intrinsic motivation brings internal satisfaction, it is personal to us and is shaped by our frame of reference and how we see the world.

Extrinsic motivation is external to us. We are motivated by an external reward, for example passing exams, a pay rise or bonus, a trophy or medal. It can also relate to the avoidance of an external punishment such as failing exams, losing your job or losing your place on the team.

Negative motivation, also known as 'away from' motivation is when we have identified what we no longer want and we are motivated to take action that moves away from this.

Positive motivation, also referred to as 'towards' motivation is when we are motivated by what we want and our focus, and behaviours are centred around moving towards achieving this.

These are often interlinked and we can be motivated by all four even if one or two are more dominant than others.

Understanding what motivates us can affect the goal-setting process. All four of these drivers can influence how we are motivated and we can use our understanding of this to determine how we can create discipline around this.

Discipline Definition:

There are two key elements to discipline.

The first one involves training to control yourself, often with the imposition of rules and punishments.

The second focuses on the ability to control your behaviour and responses habitually, especially in challenging situations.

Discipline is the ability to behave and respond in a controlled way which involves obeying particular rules or standards which may be set by yourself or others.

We can tap into what motivates us to help us create a set of rules or guidelines that we want to be consistent and disciplined with. Creating these ourselves can often be more meaningful and therefore successful than when they are set by others.

As I say to my clients - you know you best! You know what works well for you, harness what you know to create something that works well for you. A coaching conversation can often help clients get clarity around this and create something that they know brings out the best in them.

The Connection Between Discipline and Consistency:

There is a strong relationship between discipline and consistency. Consistency is a form of discipline.

Discipline results in consistency. Consistency brings results. Results help us to feel motivated. Motivation leads to discipline ... and so the cycle continues.

I would argue that you can be disciplined and consistent without motivation as these are actions and behaviours where as motivations are often feelings.

Showing up regularly and doing a little bit more than expected contributes to success, whether in sports, business, or personal goals.

The most successful people don't wait to feel motivated to take action. They are disciplined to take the required action when it is needed to achieve the results they are working towards.

The 5 olympic rings are shown with a variety of athletes demonstrating their sports within the rings, running, javelin, high jump, long jump are depicted
'Don't wait to feel motivated to take action'

Flexibility in Discipline:

Incorporating flexibility into a discipline can make a significant difference in our ability to be consistent.

We need to build contingency within our plans and to be flexible in our approach.

Setting different standards (bronze, silver, gold) and being adaptable when unexpected situations arise this allows us to still show up and take action, even when circumstances are not ideal. It helps remove the 'all or nothing' mindset.

Bronze - the bare minimum you can do. Imagine your busiest most stressful day - what could you still do on those days to take action towards your goal?

Silver - the average you can do. What can you do most days? What could you do on an average day that helps keep the momentum going and progress towards your goal?

Gold - the extra you can do. On a good day when you have a little more time, energy or resources, what can you do that helps give your progress a little boost?

Understanding Motivation and Belief:

Our internal conversations, beliefs, and motivations all shape our behaviour. Changing behaviour requires not only willpower but also changing the underlying beliefs that drive certain behaviours.

Understanding our motivation can help us to identify the beliefs that drive the thoughts, feelings and actions that we take.

To change how we think, feel and behave we have to change the beliefs that drive them.

Notice how you are motivated. What are your internal beliefs that influence this? Is it helpful? If not, what belief will drive your desired behaviour and outcome?

Habit Formation:

Creating habits that we want to be disciplined with helps us make progress towards our goals.

Habit formation involves cues or triggers (reminder), the action itself (routine), and the benefit gained from it (reward).

Habits are formed either by default or design.

Are your habits taking you closer to success?

What habits need to go?

What habits need to be introduced and embedded?

Attaching new habits to existing routines, known as habit stacking, can facilitate habit formation. Determine the habit you want to introduce and attach it, before or after, a habit you already do well.

Discipline and Motivation: - Logical Reasoning vs Emotional Impulses

Discipline involves making decisions based on logical reasoning rather than emotional impulses. When we are disciplined we are taking the action that we 'need' to take to make progress towards the desired result rather than what we 'want' in that moment.

Motivation can be maintained by focusing on intrinsic rewards and values-rich behaviours.

Recognising what motivates us can help us to manage the emotional impulses that may distract us from the behaviours we need and create an environment that enables and creates the emotions that we want to have that will also help us to make progress.

Planning, Preparation, and Perseverance:

Effective behaviour change requires planning for contingencies, preparing for unexpected events, and persevering even when motivation is low.

These '3 Ps' are key to success.

When we plan and prepare, this sets us up to be able to be disciplined and therefore consistent. Once we have a plan in place and we have prepared all that we can to set ourselves up for success we then need to persevere (and be persistent) to actually follow the plan!

You have done all the work and preparation, now show up, be disciplined in your behaviours, and make it happen.

Continuous Learning Cycle:

Implementing a continuous learning cycle involves identifying root causes, developing and implementing improvements, and verifying changes to ensure effectiveness.

Checking and adjusting strategies are crucial for maintaining progress and motivation.

Being disciplined with something that is not working and not resulting in you making progress is a common problem. Doing the same thing over and over and yet not getting the outcome you are looking for often results in people trying harder or trying to do more of the same thing.

Taking a step back to review what is not working, identify alternatives and take new action helps to ensure that the habits and behaviours that you are being disciplined with, are the behaviours needed for you to be successful.

We often need to adjust our habits and behaviours to keep momentum going. What got us here, won't get us there so it is important to ensure regular reviews to assess our input and outcomes and that they align with where we are trying to get to.


  • Discipline and consistency are imperative in achieving goals.

  • Recognising the psychological aspects of goal-setting, motivation, and maintaining discipline to achieve desired outcomes is important.

  • It is important to develop an understanding of one's motivations and beliefs in driving behaviour change, as well as implementing effective strategies to build habits and maintain discipline.

  • A comprehensive approach is needed that addresses both motivation and discipline to achieve sustainable behaviour change. It underscores the importance of self-awareness, planning, flexibility, and continuous improvement in reaching one's goals.

For more on this topic, check out our free monthly workshops HERE

You can also get your FREE Download 'How to Live a Life That Aligns With What is Important to You' HERE

If you would like to talk through how Coaching can help you with the tools, mindset and confidence to achieve success, then you can book a free consultation call here.  

Stay connected for more blogs and free resources to help you with the tools and confidence to reach your full potential.


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