Almost everyone you will ever meet will want some combination of more money, better health, better relationships, and greater happiness. But wanting alone only creates disappointment.
So why don't more people create what they want for themselves? Sometimes they lack the skills, competencies, or capabilities. In other cases, they have the ability but lack the motivation, something inside that moves them to act without being prompted by any outside force. Another factor is self-discipline or willpower, the ultimate hack for producing the results you want—especially when you’re short on capability or motivation.
Success and Your Capabilities
One of the primary obstacles to creating the results you want is a lack of capability. Having published a post here every day since 2009, I have lost count of how often I’ve said that the right order for success is "be more, do more, have more, contribute more." Most people get in their own way, being unwilling to start with the "be more."
What one person can do, so can another, even at elite levels. There are thirty-two NFL football teams, requiring thirty-two starting quarterbacks. Few people are capable of being an NFL quarterback to start with, and even fewer are willing to commit to a decades-long development process. Whatever your goal is, the time you spend now developing your capabilities will provide faster results later, since higher capabilities let you work faster and with less effort.
Those who don't develop their capabilities will struggle to live up to their potential. Even though you are pure potential, giving you a lot of room to grow, choosing not to develop yourself will prevent you from success and greater results. You need to master whatever tools you intend to use to create the outcomes you want. Choosing the right tools is an important step, but without mastering your craft, your development will take more time with less payoff.
Wanting Isn't Motivation
Desire is not the same thing as motivation. Everyone wants something, but far fewer are motivated to do the work that would deliver what they want. Motivation is something close to hunger, a process outside our direct biological control. In the same way, a person who is highly motivated has little control over their desire and their actions.
Those who are not motivated enough will struggle to become the kind of person who could have what they want. So will those who never tried to identify and understand what they want and why they want it. Much of the time, the primary obstacle to motivation is comfort, our strong tendency to settle for something less than we can produce. The opposite of comfort here is effort, as the effort of investing time and energy requires you to sacrifice comfort. It may be hard to accept, but without the capabilities to create the result you want and the motivation to act on your desires, you will not be able to change your results.
The Magic Power of Self-Discipline
The magic of self-discipline is that it can help accelerate your results, even when you don't yet have the competencies, and even if you lack motivation. Doing the work is the fastest way to gain the competencies you need, as hard work gives you greater competency over time. Even if your results are not the best, you are making some progress towards your desired outcome. That progress will eventually improve your competency: every expert was at one point a novice who persisted long enough to become super-competent.
Motivation and hunger are powerful forces. However, motivation does not always show up every day. Self-discipline is about forcing yourself to act—even when you don’t feel like working, even when you aren’t at 100%, and even when there are more pleasant competitors for your time and effort. Your motivation is a driving force, but self-discipline is a powerful alternative on days when motivation goes missing.
Even though two people can reach the same result, your recipe may differ from someone else’s. You might need to work on your capabilities to produce the result you want, but start with more than enough motivation to pursue the capabilities and your goals. Someone else might be more than capable but lack the motivation to do the work consistently enough. They may need to substitute their self-discipline for motivation.
In the end, you have to ask yourself two questions. Can you do what you need to do to produce the result you want? Are you motivated enough to do the work long enough to have what you want, or will you need to rely on your willpower?