Personal Development

Motivation vs Self-Discipline "“ Which Is the Key to Habit Formation?

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Habit formation is challenging to everyone out there because you have to adapt and stay focused on the goal while juggling other daily tasks. On the other hand, forming good habits can completely change your life for the better. But whatever habit you choose to work on, you need to be motivated to stay on the track no matter what and possess a certain level of self-discipline that will carry you through the process.

So which one is the real key to habit formation? Can motivation work without self-discipline, and vice-versa? Or are they simply inseparable?

How motivation works

To put it as briefly as possible,  motivation is the first step of forming a habit. If you are ready to change and focus on something, you need to feel driven to start. The majority of people do struggle with this a lot, and they might wait until the very last minute, especially if they have a deadline.

For instance, if you want to be more productive on your job and complete more assignments on time, you should be excited about the work ahead of you. The eagerness will make the whole process feel like a breeze because your enthusiasm will carry you through any obstacle. But if you feel disconnected from a project you are working on, the chances are you will postpone it for as long as you can. This is the perfect example of  why motivation is so important to habit formation.

Unfortunately,  motivation does not last for a very long time. If you ever tried exercising for at least four times a week, you have probably noticed that as the days go by, you simply lose the interest in following the program. You can have a perfect track for a couple of weeks, then skip a workout or two, and you will end up completely off the track before you know it.

Motivation is a reflection of your emotions  and you cannot rely on it completely when it comes to forming new habits. Instead, you have to combine it with self-discipline. That word might seem scary to some of you, but the truth is you can't be sure that your initial excitement about a new habit will be at the same level after a few weeks.

How self-discipline works

Self-discipline is the challenging part of the process  but it can be learned. Motivation will get you through the door if you want to train for a half-marathon, but self-discipline will make you pull on those running shoes even when it is raining outside, and all you want to do is curl up and watch TV shows. Self-discipline is essential for reaching your goals because it will make you  push the boundaries and discover a brand new side of yourself.

You will experience bad days on your habit-forming journey and that is perfectly okay. After all, you are trying to improve and it will not always be easy, especially after the euphoria disappears. However,  self-discipline will make you stay on track and continue moving forward. And after some time, your  new habits will become a part of your life.

How to combine self-discipline and motivation

If you want to form a new habit, you need to be dedicated. As a matter of fact, one study showed that it will usually take you  sixty-six days before a habit becomes a normal part of your everyday life.  You need to stick with it until a habit becomes a routine. But how will you use self-discipline and motivation to get you through this period?

As we have previously mentioned,  motivation is crucial for the first step of your journey. It will make you feel the excitement and you will be eager to change. Your emotions and focus will be high for the first couple of weeks. Sure enough, it will wear off.  Self-discipline should take over when this happens. But keep in mind that you are not a machine and that you can allow yourself to skip a day or two. That is perfectly fine as long as you are aware of what is going on. You should continue going forward the next day.

After all, you don't need a perfect score because your goal is to improve yourself. Missing one workout, or taking  a day off to get some rest will not be a huge step back. But  you have to remain committed.


Forming new habits will feel like a wild ride because sometimes you will be motivated to go through your whole to-do list and complete every single task in a day. But there will be times when you cannot even start typing. This is why  both motivation and self-discipline are significant parts of habit formation. Once you combine them, you will get the key that will eventually help you form a habit.

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About the author

Lucy Benton

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 blog ProWriting where you can check her last publications. If you're interested in working with Lucy, you can find her on FaceBook and Twitter.