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I was recently involved in a discussion about motivation and discipline and it got me thinking about how we have misunderstood the concepts.

Why is it that a seemingly motivated person loses track somewhere along the road? What is the difference between the two? Which one of the two is the key to long term success?

Motivation is an internal focus that gets us going in the short term – it only exists as a noun. Motivation is something that can come and go, it is not something that you choose to do.  Discipline, on the other hand, has a verb form. It is something you do, something that you choose to do.  However, it is useless if it is not tied to something that you need to be disciplined with.

Discipline is what separates successful people from those that have not made it or cut it. We cannot hope to master the complex work we live in if we are not able to master the basic tasks that are needed in business on a daily basis. These tasks are not always nice to do, fun or inspiring but they are essential building blocks to building a successful business.

The sooner we realize—that just like highly successful sportsmen and women—we have to exercise self-control and self-discipline in order to climb our way to the top, the better for us.

What do self-discipline and self-control entail?

  • Practising and mastering the routine daily tasks that move us forward to our goals
  • Allocating our time efficiently; we all have the same 24 hours. The difference between success and failure is how we have used the 24 hours at our disposal.
  • Focusing on those activities that are going to help us achieve results in the short term. These tasks are often ones that you don’t necessarily like or find interesting, for example, daily stock take, daily cash up or daily KPI’s. Too much focus on the long term without short term success will lead to a state of despondency.
  • Discipline means being prepared to say no to certain things that take you away from moving forward, for example: eating certain foods, watching television, surrounding yourself with people who might be negative.
  • Discipline is a daily or hourly decision to behave in a way that moves you forward to a chosen goal or away from a certain point of discomfort or pain.

In business, the following areas are essential to be disciplined in if you want to give yourself a fighting chance of being successful:

  1. Controlling your thought patterns. This is where the importance of working through your daily affirmations becomes so important.  This is a daily task and needs to be scheduled in your daily diary
  2. Daily Goal setting. Personally, I find it very motivating if I set a daily goal to achieve and then take the time at the end of the day to review whether I have succeeded during the course of the day or not.  Ask yourself, “what will success look like today?” and then set out time in your diary to make that happen
  3. Deal with the difficult issues first – when you are still fresh and are able to think clearly
  4. Schedule time for learning something new. Invest in your own growth.  By invest, I mean that you will need to spend money and allocate time to digest and implement the learning so that as you grow, your business grows.  Ask yourself, “what is my annual personal development budget? How many hours per week am I investing in my personal development?”
  5. Stick to your default diary
  6. Focus on the tasks that are going to contribute to your businesses growth (cash flow) this week or this month. Ask yourself the following question, “is what I am doing going to contribute to my cashflow position this week or this month?” If your answer is no, reevaluate what you are doing and focus on those tasks that will contribute to that
  7. Daily exercise and meditation. You may not always feel like doing it but the moment you get going you will feel or experience the benefit thereof
  8. Review your numbers daily. This is an often-overlooked task but so important for a growing business as it will give you an early warning of what you can expect to see in your business in the near future, thus affording you the opportunity to self-correct timeously
  9. Review your budget and financials on a monthly basis at least

The above list is not an exhaustive list by any means, and you are encouraged to add it to the list as it suits your business or circumstances.  You will find that you don’t need to be motivated to do these tasks; you need a large dose of discipline.

In conclusion, MOTIVATION will push you for a few steps, DISCIPLINE will help you reach your destination.

Pieter Scholtz, Country Partner for ActionCOACH Southern Africa