Being an independent artist is one of the most soul-fulfilling careers you can ever have. After all, who doesn’t want to get paid to pursue their passions?
Although the market is saturated with millions of talented artists who are all working toward the same goal of making their dreams come true, the reality is that most people will drop out of the rat race before they ever see success.
It’s not because they’re not worthy or for lack of trying, it’s because along the way they lose sight of the two things that are absolutely necessary to achieve their goals : motivation and discipline.
I came to this realization on my own path. Less than a year ago, I decided to become a writer full-time and I never looked back.
I refused to go back to the mundane life of working a 9-5 and I’ve been on my own ever since–just me, my computer, my determination, and my endless collection of composition notebooks and notepads.
I thought it was all I needed to get by but I often found myself staring at a blinking cursor and an empty screen as if I could somehow will the work into existence.
I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong. The passion was there but try as I might I still found myself falling victim to bad habits, distractions, and inconsistent behavior.
To put a stop to this madness (and to get my life together) I did what all millennials do in times of crisis, I turned to the internet.
That’s when I found this quote on Pinterest
You will never always be motivated, so you must learn to be disciplined
The discovery of this was one of the most profound moments of my adult life and writing career.
I found myself wondering:
- “Is it discipline that I lack? or motivation?”
- “What’s the difference?”
- “Can you have one without the other?”
- And last but not least “Which of these do I need more of to achieve my goals?”
After months of rummaging through articles and picking the brains of industry professionals, here’s what I learned about motivation and discipline.
How Motivation Works
You can be motivated in one of two ways: intrinsically and extrinsically.
Intrinsic motivation is a motivation that has no intentional ties to a reward or incentive, the sole purpose of you doing it is because of a passion or a strong willingness to do.
Take me writing this for example. I didn’t write this for critical acclaim, fame, or money. I wanted to write this post because I have a desire to help people. I like the idea of using my words and personal experiences to inspire others.
For you, it may look like:
- Joining a dance class because you love expressing yourself through dance
- Climbing a mountain because of the thrill or sense of accomplishment
- Starting your own business because you want to be your own boss
If the ties to your reason why are personal, or psychological, it’s considered intrinsic motivation.
Research suggests that intrinsic motivation is more powerful than its extrinsic counterpart. According to psychologytoday.com, Intrinsic motivation is more effective because “it is integrated into identity and serves as a continuous source of motivation.”
Basically, it hits different when you inspire you.
“It hits different when YOU inspire you”-Kaillaby”Tweet
Extrinsic motivation is a motivation that’s related to an incentive or reward. This could be anything from money, praise, or attention.
I definitely have extrinsic motivations, money is the first that comes to mind. I became an entrepreneur because I wanted to live a certain lifestyle and generate a level of income I know I wouldn’t have been afforded working at my office job.
For you, it may look like:
- Cleaning the house to avoid complaints or nagging from your spouse.
- Getting all A’s on your report card for the praise or high status.
- Going to work because you need the money.
- Giving a good performance at work out of fear of being reprimanded by your boss.
If something or someone else is your reason why then it’s considered extrinsic motivation. Although extrinsic motivation has its benefits (after all, who doesn’t want to be rewarded?) it can be risky if the reward loses its luster. Once you’re no longer impressed by the bribery, you’ll lose your momentum.
It’s important to note that regardless of whether the inspiration is internal or external, for a payout or personal satisfaction, it’s always best to lead with positive reinforcement.
Inspiring through fear (like threats or punishment) or negativity (demeaning or insulting) won’t get you as far. You end up causing more psychological harm than good and it could end up backfiring.
Ruling with fear or scare tactics may be effective in the short term, but that fear will eventually grow to resentment. Once the fear is gone, *poof* there goes the motivation.
You can learn more about the types of motivation from this article I found on psychologytoday.com
How Discipline Works
Discipline requires willpower– it takes mental prowess and structured behavior.
Think of it as the following formula:
Your work ethic x your routine + consistency = discipline.
When it comes to discipline, it’s all about commitment.
Commit. Commit. Commit. Commit.
It’s not enough to come up with a plan, you have to stick to it to achieve your goals, something I didn’t realize was preventing me from achieving success.
Take my skincare journey for example.
I suffer from acne and hyperpigmentation.
I found a skincare system called Curology that I was convinced to try after viewing their ads and reading their testimonials online.
When I first tried it, I thought it wasn’t working because after a few weeks I wasn’t seeing much of an improvement in my skin. My impatience almost persuaded me to quit and try something else.
Instead, I reached out to one of their skincare professionals and asked them when I should expect to see significant results. Turns out, I wasn’t committing long enough. They told me it could take up to 6 months to see the results I was looking for.
The conversation motivated me to give it another shot. I stuck around, committed to the recommended routine, and low and behold: I’ve been seeing better results!
A lot of people underestimate how much commitment is required to achieve their goals, this can be said for anything from losing weight, to gaining fortune and fame to eliminating debt.
The internet age has us addicted to instant gratification and everyone wants to see results right away but, the reality is, you may not see any results at all for months. Maybe even years, depending on what your goal is. I know my impatience tends to be MY downfall.
It’s important not to be deterred just because you don’t get what you’re after right away.
Before you admit defeat, ask yourself:
- Are you being consistent?
- Have you created a routine and stuck to it?
If the answer’s yes and you feel like you’ve hit a wall or a plateaued:
- Are you working around it?
- Are you coming up with new, inventive strategies?
Use your motivations to keep your eye on the prize and continue building on your discipline until you get to where you’re going. Sure, it’s easier said than done but stunting your process will result in prolonged success.
What’s the difference?
When it comes to accomplishing a goal, think of motivation as the why and discipline as the how.
What separates motivation from discipline is action.
Motivation is what brought you to this post. Discipline is what will put these words into practice.
Although motivation will give you the wind beneath your wings, it is the discipline that will propel you forward.
Another difference is motivation doesn’t have to be consistent, it can be sporadic and can strike at any moment like lightning in a bottle but discipline will require commitment and consistency.
After all, the entire basis of discipline is rule and order.
Motivation is the energy you need to achieve your goal but discipline is the strategy that you’ll need to take to get there.
Can You Have One Without The Other?
It is possible to be motivated without being disciplined.
Who else is guilty of just sitting on a load of passion with no direction or plan to execute it?
You can also be disciplined without being motivated by just living your life according to rules and structure but lacking the drive or passion behind it.
Having one without the other is counterproductive to success.
If you want to achieve a goal, you’ll need to find a balance of both.
Which Of These Do I Need More Of To Achieve My Goals?
Although having both is best, in my research I’ve found that you’ll get nowhere without motivation.
I spoke with Mrs. Ivelisse Villalona, MSW a social worker in the NYC D.O.E who had this to say about the significance of motivation
“Professionally, when I work with kids, for example, it’s difficult to work on changing their behaviors if it’s not something they are motivated to do. So I can talk to them about making better decisions but if it’s not something that’s internal, like if the motivation is not there to make those good decisions, what I’m saying is it’s not going to work.” She continued “You can be disciplined but not necessarily reach your goal unless you have the motivation to do so. So unless the motivation is there, no one can-I feel in my professional opinion and personal, no one can influence your desire, your will to do something.”Ivelisse Villalona, MSW
Even if you have the structure and plan you need, if you’re not motivated to stay on track there will be no movement.
The Bottom Line
If you’re having trouble reaching your goals, I recommend doing some self-reflection.
Therapist Jenny (Jinhee) Lee, LCAT, ATR-BC agrees! She recommends “finding a greater purpose to the goal and meditating on the purpose daily for reminder of what the work in one’s motivation is for. Having a greater purpose outside of the self can help motivate oneself to get through the process.”
After months of seeking, I got my answer: what I was missing was discipline.
Now, I’m fine-tuning my routine every day and I’m happy to say I’ve been finding success! But, I won’t stop here. I’ll keep using my passions and aspirations to feed my commitment and build on my routine until I reach my finish line. Cue Keni Burker’s ‘Risin’ To The Top’.