People often use the words motivation, discipline, and drive interchangeably.  However, this is wrong.  This is also why many people fail at achieving their objectives whether it be health and fitness goals, career goals, or just being a better person.  This article will detail the key differences and hopefully inspire you the reader to rethink your thoughts on success.

Level 1:  Motivation

Motivation is simply the reason(s) that a person behaves in a certain way.  This can be good, bad, or indifferent.  A person can be motivated to lose weight, improve their health, and get stronger.  That motivation could stem from self-esteem, wanting to live a better life, looking better naked, or just flat out being better today than yesterday.  A person can be motivated in their career for a variety of reasons.  Career progression, higher salary, wanting to do something different, wanting respect, etc.

All of us at some point come across something that motivates us.  We listen to a great speech or see someone do something that we want to be able to achieve.  You might see an inspirational quote or meme on the Internet.  This is all fine and dandy, but these motivators are usually temporary.  How many times have you seen something that makes you want to kick ass and take names, then a few days later you changed course?  Motivation is temporary and it does not define us.

Level 2:  Discipline 

A great quote to define disciple is “Only the disciplined are truly free.  The undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites, and passions.”  – Stephen Covey

Discipline is the practice of training people to obey certain rules and/or a particular field a person takes part in.  We can translate this as discipline being a part of someone.  When a person is a disciplined person it means they stick to their values.  A bodybuilder needs to be disciplined in what he eats and how he trains to achieve the best physique possible.  A disciplined investor needs to understand the stock market and not make changes, because he had one bad day.  The rules that one follows are unique to who they are and what they want to achieve.

If a person wants to lose weight and look better they can’t just be disciplined some of the time.  If you want to achieve a world record deadlift, you can’t go skipping workouts because you went out drinking the night before.

Discipline is more of the “what” as opposed to motivation is the “why”.   Monitor a toddler and see how disciplined he/she is.  They do what they want until they are corrected.  The same can be said for adults.  How many people do we know that just go through the motions in life.  They may set arbitrary goals, but don’t follow through.  They say “I should do this” or “I should do that”.  However, failure is evident due to their lack of discipline.  Luckily, discipline can be taught and learned.  It just takes the willingness to do so.

Since I am a man of action, I put discipline above motivation.

Level 3:  Drive

Drive is the ability to move in a specified direction.  Particularly, the ability to move toward one’s objectives.  People who are truly driven do not let any obstacle stand in their way.  They always find a path forwards.

Say you set out to climb a mountain.  Things are pretty easy going near the bottom.  Then you get halfway up and the weather takes a wrong turn, the wind picks up and it starts snowing.  You get a little further and trees are down and your path is blocked.  You have two options.  You can turn back or your push forward.


Another example I like to use is that of an entrepreneur.   These individuals come up with an idea and build a business based on this idea.  Generally speaking, a business takes time to grow and requires marketing, sales, and the building of a brand.  All this takes time and the road is rarely an easy one.  What separates a successful business and a failed one is drive.  The successful entrepreneur will work all day every day to ensure their destiny is met.  Motivation and ideas are the beginnings of all businesses, but the ability to adapt and overcome via drive is the difference between success and failure.

In terms of health and fitness, a driven person sets objectives and makes the sacrifices necessary to met those objectives.  They don’t set goals, because goals are meaningless.  A goal is “I want to lose weight” or “I want to be less fat”.  These goals are hard to measure.  An objective is “I will lose 20lbs in 20 weeks and I won’t stop until success is met”.  This is measurable and holds the individual accountable.

Driven individuals have a passion for what they do and they certainly all under the Type A personality theory.  Driven individuals have a plan for success.  Things may not always go according to the plan, but they have the ability to adapt and overcome.  Driven individuals are both hard workers and smart workers.  They are competitive and hate losing.  They don’t follow the mantra of “at least you tried”.  If they lose they will turn it into fuel to improve themselves.  Finally, driven people do not except success to be handed to them.  They know you don’t succeed by just showing up.  You have to put in time, effort above others, and the continual effort of lifelong learning.

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