The hidden cost of discipline without motivation

A friend's question prompted me to reflect on the way I work.

Joschua asked me: "How's your motivation level?"

I'm currently promoting a new product, and it's always a rollercoaster ride. Some days, I am encouraged by the positive replies (people who want to try my software). On other days, I am discouraged by passive-aggressive negative replies.

(I can't blame them. Though I'm doing my best to make my cold emails fresh and interesting, we are all tired of this form of sales prospecting. But I digress.)

The point is: my motivation is sometimes very high, and sometimes, it is nowhere to be found.

The good news is that I can do my work without motivation.

Over the years, I have developed discipline, and it serves me well. No matter how motivated I am, I do what I'm supposed to do, day in and day out.

I wasn't always this person. As a kid, it took a lot of effort from my parents, teachers, and coaches to get me to do what I didn't want. It's no big deal; kids tend to be like that.

Many of us brought this trait of character to adulthood. They postpone doing their taxes, quitting a bad habit, or checking this long-due task off their to-do list. I can't. It makes me feel too bad.

Until now, I've thought of it as a competitive advantage. I started working at seventeen and have since kept in the back of my mind that I needed to compensate for my lack of formal education with hard work. Hard work, it seemed, meant doing the things I didn't want to do anyway.

Hard work and discipline were profoundly bound, and discipline often prevented questioning the hard work.

Back to this morning. When Joschua astutely asked, "How's your motivation level?" I answered with the rollercoaster emoji.

But in that very moment, I had a revelation:

What are the collateral consequences of working without motivation?

It doesn't affect the quality of my work (well, at least nothing drastic)
It's not about my mood and well-being while working (who cares? No pain, no gain, right?)

No. What suffers from hard work without motivation is the quality of my life ... when I'm not working!

I could brute force work and treat motivation as optional. I never considered its impact on my life outside of work.

Working without motivation is exhausting. Half of your energy is spent fighting your desire to stop. And when the workday is over, all the powering through leaves you no energy for your personal life.

I don't know you, but I tend to have a much shorter fuse when exhausted.

Irritable, tired, and without energy left for quality time with the family. Not who I want to be! But mindless hard work without motivation makes it unavoidable.

But days when I'm motivated are easy. Instead of leaving work deflated, I'm still full of energy. It's as if energy wasn't coming from a battery but straight from the nuclear power plant! It could last forever.

Don't get me wrong. Being disciplined is desirable, especially as an entrepreneur. We all ought to do things that are unpleasant but necessary.

Discipline becomes a problem when it's left unchecked.