Monday, July 23, 2018

Guest Post: Motivation vs. Self-Discipline – Which Is the Key to Habit Formation

Habit formation is a time-consuming and tough process. Many factors need to be taken into account, the most crucial of which are motivation and self-discipline.

Some may claim that motivation alone is enough, while others swear that self-discipline works better when it comes to forming a new habit. So, which is more effective: discipline or motivation?

To figure it out, let’s dwell more on the difference between these two concepts.

The Essence of Self-Discipline
The experts at Inc. have compared self-discipline to willpower: self-discipline is a great ability that enables you to push yourself and do something that is planned. The same is with willpower. The stronger the power of will you have, the more persistent you become.

Unfortunately, willpower, as well as self-discipline, have turned out to be an exhaustible resource. According to the American Psychological Association, self-discipline often involves depriving yourself of something, which eventually takes a toll on your mental health.

This effect is called “ego depletion” and it has been known to psychologists since the 1998 study by Baumeister, Mark Muraven, Dianne Tice and Ellen Bratslavsky. They discovered that strict self-discipline that involves self-limitation inevitably leads to frustration and loss of interest to the goal that has been set.

Everyone has faced ego depletion at least once in a lifetime. The most common one is when students are so tired of tons of assignments that they try to figure out how to get out of doing homework. This is the reason why students came up with “My dog ate my homework” excuses and ask for assignmenthelp. Self-discipline can sometimes put too much pressure on our minds, and if we don’t fuel our brain with something, it will eventually refuse to comply.

The Essence of Motivation
Motivation is a popular concept nowadays. You can see it everywhere: in TV commercials, on billboards and in tons of articles on the Internet. If a potential employee doesn’t have a word ‘motivated’ in a resume, he or she probably won’t get hired.

Nike Motivation Poster. Image Source: Pinterest

Motivation is defined by psychologists as a process that launches, directs and sustains a certain activity aimed at reaching a particular goal. Motivation can also be called a power that guides us and helps us accomplish our goals.

Motivation is an important aspect of forming a habit. However, like self-discipline, motivation is also an exhaustible resource. The primary reason for losing the motivation is because it is attached to our emotions, which also tend to burn out.

Emotional burnout and lack of motivation can be observed, when a person, who wants to lose weight and is determined to go to the gym the night before, wakes up completely unmotivated the next morning. There’s a limit to our emotions and to the ability to motivating ourselves.

  • Autonomy: researchers from the University of Rochester determined that when people get in charge of something and take on the responsibility, they feel more motivated. You can see a close connection between motivation and self-discipline here, as you get motivated once you discipline yourself to do something and to be in charge of something;
  • Value: when you stay committed to your values and beliefs, you feel more motivated to pursue something. Psychologists from the University of Maryland have found that the students who felt committed to a certain subject, also felt motivated to pursue a more in-depth research;
  • Competence: the more time you spend on learning something and the more knowledge you gain, the better is your motivation. Competence fuels confidence, and confidence triggers motivation.

As you can see, motivation is a resource that also needs to be constantly “refilled” and fueled. And when it comes to forming a habit, all the three elements of sustaining motivation are crucial.

Say, if you want to get a habit of going for a run every morning, you need to:
  • take charge of it yourself, as no one else will do it for you. Only you are responsible for your own health
  • value the major principle behind it: you want to get healthier
  • competence: the longer you commit to your new habit, the more competence you get and the better your health becomes.

These three elements only work in conjunction, and they bring you motivation as a result.

So which one to choose?
Both. As both motivation and self-discipline are exhaustible resources, you can use both of them as fuel for each other. Motivation and its three elements of sustainability can trigger self-discipline, and self-discipline pushes you to stick to these principles and supports your motivation.

After carefully analyzing, what experts say about both motivation and self-discipline, it’s hardly possible to vote in favor of only one of them. Both motivation and self-discipline are crucial when it comes to forming a habit.


About The Author: Lucy Benton is a writing coach, an editor who finds her passion in expressing own thoughts as a blogger. She is constantly looking for the ways to improve her skills and expertise. Also Lucy has her own writing blog https://prowritingpartner.com where you can check her last publications. If you’re interested in working with Lucy, you can find her on Twitter.

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