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  • Writer's pictureArya Sitolay

Discipline Over Motivation: A Teen's Insight on Productivity

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

I was reading one day when I came across a line that said, “Don’t rely on motivation to get where you want; use your discipline.” Contrary to how I feel now, at first, I was taken aback by this and thought this quote felt like a harsh way to see life. Later, I reflected that I probably subconsciously knew it just rang a hard truth I needed to know. I moved on, and didn’t think about it for a while afterward.

However, just a few days later, this quote came into play. I was sitting at my desk, trying to study, but I just didn't have any motivation to do so. I had relied on motivation to get along with my work, where I would suddenly become very productive in spikes. I depended on those spikes. They weren’t consistent, but they were enough to allow me to procrastinate and, somehow, miraculously finish my work on time in one day. This is a very common problem among high schoolers, and it has even become a running joke at school. No one completes their work until right before it's due. Why? Because they all wait for the motivation to begin.

This quote, however, really cracks down on this belief. Discipline will get you much further than motivation ever will. Motivation comes in waves. Granted, when you do have motivation, it helps you be productive and start somewhere, but it goes away after a while. So, what should you do then? Stop? Of course not!

For example, take running a marathon. In the beginning, anyone would be excited — seeing the crowd, being cheered on, having this idea of completing it. This is your motivation. You’re pumped up and ready to go. However, in the middle of the race, when you are struggling to maintain your breaths, your legs hurt, and your motivation is long gone, it is easy to stop and it feels like the best option. But what gets you through is your level of discipline. Those without discipline won’t move on when it gets harder. Therefore, they won't experience the fulfilling feeling of completing something challenging. It takes discipline to finish a race.

Everyone loves the idea of winning, but not many truly examine what it takes to get there. Very few times will motivation alone get you from start to finish. Having discipline, doing that thing when you just don't want to, when you’re 'not in the mood', or when you think 'you can do it later', is what separates you from the crowd. If you want to be above average, you cannot stop where an average person would, or make the excuses acceptable in an average society.

I'm sure we have all, at least once, sat at our desks, gotten our work out, and then proceeded to check our messages or watch TV. This is because, once again, we are not motivated. But imagine how different things would be if we were all disciplined. It may be hard, but we do it anyway. So much more could be accomplished. Instead of being productive in spikes, we could be consistent. In fact, after starting this hard thing you have been dreading, you begin to gain your own intrinsic motivation. It’s like a cycle. You pick up that pen, start writing, and before you know it, you have dug yourself out of this ditch where you felt like doing nothing.

Back to my initial story. I was sitting at my desk, thinking about how I could finish my work later, when this line I had come across a few days ago went through my head. I may not be motivated to start, but I know I should. And so, I will. I will challenge myself to do something that I know I should. I should be in control of what I decide to do, and I have decided that I will be disciplined and do it anyway. And so, I started my work. This may have seemed like just a small instance, but the more I began to rely on self-discipline rather than motivation, the easier it became. Every 6 AM alarm over the weekend was followed by a few less 'snoozes', every assignment I knew I had to do was finished earlier. And I became happier.

So, whether it’s studying, going to the gym, or waking up early to start your day, decide to use your time wisely. Take control, and start little tasks with discipline that only you can control. Don't wait for motivation to come along and help you. As you continue to do this, the easier it will be, and you will be in control. And remember, when it gets hard, this is where most people quit.

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