Me: What is discipline, exactly? How is it different than motivation (which is a set of actions we can actually do)?
Friend: Motivation is like pulling you toward something, making yourself want to do it. Discipline is pushing you to do something, making yourself do something you don’t want to do.
Me: OK, so if I have no discipline, how do I get it?
Friend: You practice. It’s a muscle that gets stronger as you practice.
Me: How do I practice if I have no discipline?
Friend: Just do something small, then keep practicing over and over.
Me: But it takes discipline to do that. What specific action do I take to make myself do something if I don’t want to do it?
Friend: You push yourself to do it anyway.
Me: But that takes discipline that I don’t have. OK, let’s say I’m sitting on the couch and I want to go out and run, or get up and write. How do I make myself do that? What specific action do I take?
Friend: Hmmm. You visualize about the end result, something that you want.
Me: That’s a motivation action, not a discipline action.
Friend: OK. Then you set up rewards. No, that’s motivation. Hmmm. You psyche yourself up and tell yourself you can do it. No, that’s motivation too. You tell people you’re going to do it. No, motivation too. You focus on the enjoyable aspects of it … or, maybe you only do the things you like doing. No, those are motivation things. Huh.
Every single specific action you can take to make yourself do something is motivation. Not discipline.
And that’s why discipline is a myth. It might sound good, but it’s not a useful concept. When it comes to taking specific actions to make yourself do something, the only things you can do are motivation. Not discipline. I’ve challenged people to come up with a discipline action that isn’t motivation for years now, and no one has done it.