What Is the Difference Between Self-Discipline and Motivation?

Any time you hear the word "hunting" your mind quickly gravitates toward your greatest shot, your proudest trophy, or even just the feeling of being in the wilderness. But have you ever paused to consider the mental aspect of your hunting journey? It requires mental strength to match the physical demands of achieving your hunting goals, and it wouldn't be possible without self-discipline and motivation. But are these two forces the same thing? If not, what is the difference between self-discipline and motivation?

The difference between self-discipline and motivation lies in their source and effect: self-discipline is an internal skill defining ‘what’ you do, helping one persist despite obstacles. Motivation is the ‘why’ behind an action, the fuel igniting action, and comes from internal and external forces.

In the world of backcountry hunting, self-discipline and motivation work hand in hand. Motivation gets things started, it's the spark that ignites your passion, driving you to face the challenges of the backcountry head-on or even training to get ready for an upcoming hunt. Self-discipline, on the other hand, is the fuel that keeps the fire burning, enabling you to maintain consistency and focus on your goals.

As the premium hunting fitness app, MTNTOUGH coaches thousands of mountain athletes to greater physical and mental fitness every day. From mental toughness programs to backcountry hunting fitness programs, we think know the inner workings of self-discipline and motivation.

In this article, we've drawn on our experience to provide you with a greater understanding of both forces, including their importance and practical applications. By mastering both, you'll develop the mental fortitude needed to succeed in the wild but also carry these qualities into other aspects of your life, ultimately becoming a more resilient and resourceful individual. Let the mental journey begin.

How Important Are Motivation and Self-Discipline in Hunting Fitness?

Motivation and self-discipline are essential in hunting fitness, responsible for sustaining progress and overcoming obstacles. They contribute to the development of mental and physical strength, enabling backcountry hunters to cope with demanding and unpredictable situations to achieve their goals.

In short, you need motivation and self-discipline if you want to want to make it in the bush. They work with each other and help push your performance higher. It's a bit of a 1+1=3 formula. Where each is great in its own right, but combined, they become something far greater and more formidable. Without both, you'll struggle to get where you want to go.

For practical purposes, think of it this way:

  • Without Motivation: You may not build up the desire to achieve a fitness goal, such as increasing your VO2 Max to 50.
  • Without Self-Discipline: You may not fully commit and stick to a workout routine of running 30 miles a week to build up your VO2 Max. 

While this is a simple illustration of how the tandem works together, and may not necessarily apply to your goals, hopefully, this example highlights the differences related to hunting fitness; what both characteristics bring to the mental toughness table. If you can't tell the difference, building your mental toughness and achieving your hunting fitness goals will be that much harder. There's still time to get it right though, you can easily put your body and mind to the test with the MTNTOUGH 14-day free trial, or keep reading for further clarification.

What Is Motivation?

Motivation is the force behind your actions, usually to start start something. Motivation can be extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation can be built with external rewards, such as money or awards. Intrinsic motivation relates to the inner self, such as personal satisfaction.

Motivation is the driving force that inspires you to take action and pursue your goals. It can be intrinsic, fueled by a deep-rooted passion for hunting and personal fulfillment, or extrinsic, driven by external factors like recognition, rewards, or the thrill of the chase.

Motivation keeps you engaged in the hunt and helps you stay committed to your fitness goals. By understanding what drives you and leveraging that motivation, you can enhance your hunting performance and push your limits further than ever before. 

Examples of Extrinsic Motivation:

  • Trophy Hunting: The desire to bag a record-sized elk and showcase it as a testament to one's hunting skills can be a powerful extrinsic motivator for some hunters.
  • Social Recognition: Sharing hunting experiences and successes with friends, family, and the online hunting community can drive individuals to push themselves in the pursuit of praise and admiration from their peers.
  • Competition: Participating in hunting competitions or challenging oneself to surpass the achievements of fellow hunters can provide extrinsic motivation to improve skills and strategy.

Examples of Intrinsic Motivation:

  • Connection with Nature: The deep-rooted passion for immersing oneself in the wilderness and forming a bond with the natural world can be a strong intrinsic motivator for backcountry hunters.
  • Personal Growth: The desire for self-improvement, whether it's honing one's tracking skills, mastering archery techniques, or developing physical endurance, can be a powerful internal drive.
  • Mindfulness and Presence: The meditative aspect of hunting, where individuals find solace and mental clarity in the quiet moments of stalking prey and patiently waiting for the perfect shot, can be intrinsically fulfilling.

Without motivation, it can be hard for a person to start something. This is because there is no 'initial drive' to get started. There is no spark to ignite the engine and drive the pistons. 

In fitness, motivated people have a strong inner desire to train. They find it easier to wake up in the cold mornings to work out. They also find pushing for that extra rep in the gym easier when their muscles are all worn out.

What Is Self-Discipline?

Self-discipline is the ability to commit and honor commitments you have made long-term. Self-discipline helps you to stay focused on your goals and not be distracted. If motivation is the spark that starts something, self-discipline is the ability to keep it going.

If self-discipline could be simplified into a single word, commitment would probably be the best fit. That's because someone with incredible self-discipline can control his actions, resist distractions, and stay focused on his goals, even when it's ridiculously tough. And someone with high self-discipline can endure hardship longer than others. It's a goal-oriented focus that puts on blinders to distractions.

If you're a hunter, self-discipline is what pushes you through miles of rugged landscape, and maintains focus for hours on end. It's the inner strength that allows you to endure harsh weather conditions and overcome physical challenges.

If we translate that into fitness training, self-discipline helps you keep training and come to the gym long-term. With self-discipline, you forge ahead on your hunting journey or training program, regardless of obstacles or setbacks, ensuring that you're always ready for whatever you face.

Which Is Better, Self-Discipline or Motivation?

Choosing between self-discipline and motivation isn't productive, as both are vital for backcountry hunting fitness. Self-discipline ensures regular practice and habit formation, whereas motivation encourages perseverance in the face of obstacles and setbacks.

Strangely enough, while neither is inherently better, as a pair, they are vastly superior to being on their own. This is buried in hyperbole because these two attributes are mostly co-dependent.

Can You Have Self-Discipline Without Motivation?

Yes, self-discipline can exist without motivation, as it relies on habit formation and consistency. Yet, motivation enhances the effectiveness of self-discipline by fueling one's passion and determination to reach goals.

Meaning, while possible, it would be highly unusual to find someone with remarkable self-discipline but an abysmal motivation, or vice versa. In the context of backcountry hunting fitness, combining self-discipline with motivation leads to a more effective and rewarding training experience, promoting goal achievement.

The Relationship Between Motivation and Self-Discipline

It's clear that motivation and self-discipline are different, and worth practicing individually. But understanding the power of how one complements the other and putting it into practice is what will ultimately help you achieve any goal you can think of. Let's look at this relationship closer to the hunting fitness world.

Translate that into fitness training, and you can say that motivation is the desire to be in the best shape. While 99% of hunters wait until the last minute to get physically and mentally ready for hunting season, the dedicated minority has been fully committed to training throughout the entire year.

Their self-discipline was so committed to getting in the best hunting shape of their lives, that no physical or mental obstacle would stand in the way of their goals.

Perhaps they had set their targets on improving performance to finally break their personal best and pack out the largest bull they've ever encountered. It could come from a place of missing the chance last year, or it could be the outcome of pure ambition. Either way, this was the spark - their motivation.

Packing out an elk isn't for the weak. Hell, you need to train and then some to pull this off. Achieving this type of goal isn't something that starts when the leaves start to fall. This is when self-discipline comes in. Can you keep up with the commitment? 

If yes, you possess the mental toughness to hit MTNTOUGH's backcountry training programs 5 days a week; you train, rain, or shine. Even if a historic downpour is in the forecast, you'll find the time to run. This level of self-discipline means rejecting invitations from friends to go to the bar because you know it could mess you up the next day.

Why Are Self-Discipline And Motivation Important For Hunters?

Referring back to the odd equation where 1+1=3, we believe we've uncovered what 3 is. Self-discipline + motivation = mental toughness. And if you want a semblance of success hunting, you're going to need heaps of mental toughness; the superhuman quality that every hunter benefits from.

The mentally tough backcountry hunters stay in the game when things become hard and stress piles up. Can you maintain focus when you're freezing, but still waiting for that bull? If yes, we salute you. If not, let's work on that.

The good thing about mental toughness is that it can be developed over time. Just as you develop calluses on your skin for physical toughness, you can develop calluses in your brain for mental toughness. 

This could be done by continuously working on your self-discipline and motivation. There are many mental workouts you can do to improve your mental toughness. The more reps of self-discipline and motivation you do, the better your mental toughness will be.

As a mountain hunter, you can train up your self-discipline and motivation by developing and sticking to a fitness plan, which will get your body and mind ready for the rewarding and grueling hunt ahead. Over time, your ability to be motivated and disciplined to follow your plan will develop your mental toughness to survive out there. 

Want to take action on your mind exercise? Perfect, here are 4 tips to get you started.

4 Tips on How to Train Self-Discipline and Motivation

Fortunately, training in self-discipline and motivation is not exactly rocket science. The hard part is effort, not academia. 4 components will get the snowball rolling, they are:

1. Setting Goals

As the saying goes, "Fail to plan, plan to fail." If you want to take your self-discipline and motivation to the next level, you need to set clear, achievable targets that are always a step up from what you can currently achieve.

Treat your goals like breadcrumbs, guiding you towards that sweet taste of victory. Whether it's upping your pack-out weight in training or honing a new skill, having your sights locked on a specific target will keep you motivated and driven to succeed. One of the best places to start is with your fitness.

The obvious first stop is to find your weakness and transform it into a strength. You can use the MTNTOUGH Standard Fitness Test to help you uncover what that may be; you might find it's a broad bucket like endurance, balance, or strength, or maybe something more specific like your legs, back strength, or conditioning multiple areas to conquer deadfall.

The magic kicks in when you commit to improving it, come hell or high water. That's because setting goals establishes clear boundaries to jumpstart your motivation, where you can then look around and hype yourself up enough to dig deep to reach what seems undoable at the moment. When you're out in the wild, ready to bag that once-in-a-lifetime trophy, you'll be glad you did.

2. Creating a Routine

Consistency is king because it's what separates the weekend warriors from true legends in the backcountry. This ultimately fulfilling the promise you've made in your goal-setting phase. A routine should be properly mapped out and specific to your goals.

For instance, if you're training for an extended hunt in Montana, you shouldn't be following the latest fad in exercises, or following a program for getting laser-etched abs. What the hell is the purpose of that?

Your routine should also cover a wide range of movements, not just focus on building strength. This means your daily regimen combines strength, endurance, flexibility, mobility, and mental grit.

You need a functional fitness program that is designed for the real-world experience of western hunting. One that accounts for side hilling, deadfall, and high altitudes, to name a few. This is a long way of saying that creating a routine isn't worth a thing if it isn't purposeful in accomplishing your goals.

Once the plan is ready, lock it in with a mental commitment, and stick to it.

3. Build Accountability Checks

Let's be real, hunting's better as a team sport. Having a rock-solid crew comes in handy when you're all committed to the same goal. Teaming up creates an unstoppable force, where you push each other to conquer challenges and rise above the rest.

Together, you'll hold each other accountable and stay on track, making sure no one's left behind when the going gets tough. And just as important, you can encourage one another along the way. This is what's referred to as redirecting in the mental toughness business, where in moments of hardship you get out of your head and focus your energies on helping others around you. It's a powerful tool.

4. Practicing Mindfulness and Visualization

The brawn part of backcountry hunting gets a lot of attention, but the brains are just as deserving. No matter how strong your tendons and muscles are, if your mind can't push through, you don't stand a chance.

Two amazing tactics to strengthen your mental fortress include mindfulness and visualization. These are incredibly broad topics, but they encompass things you've surely heard of or tried, such as meditation, deep breathing, and mental imagery. You'll find after doing this for a period, your ability to roll with the punches and stay focused under pressure sharpened tremendously.

These methods can also firmly plant you in routine and goals, where you visualize what the end state looks like. This is particularly helpful when you're low on motivation. Find more detailed instructions on mindfulness, meditation, visualization, and more in our guide to 7 mental strength exercises.

Whether it's a setback in the suburbs or a game-changing moment in the mountains, with a sharper mind, you'll be ready to seize it with confidence, knowing you've put in the time and effort to conquer your mind and body.

Time to Toughen Up Your Mental Game

Mental toughness is a fascinating subject. Everyone has a different definition of it, yet they all work towards a common goal of persisting through hardship because of a bigger purpose. Of the long list of attributes that can make a person mentally strong, self-discipline and motivation would have a top spot on the mental toughness Mount Rushmore.

Both are wildly different, if motivation were the stamina of the two, self-discipline would be the endurance. That is, motivation pushes you to the max for a burst, the kind that gets you jazzed up to take action. Self-discipline then takes the baton and sees how long it can keep good on the motivation. That's why these two aspects of mental toughness are better together.

There's no better way to start your mental toughness journey than to create a fitness routine that tests your body and mind, be it for hunting purposes or self-improvement. And there's certainly no better way to fulfill this fitness routine request than by taking advantage of MTNTOUGH's 14-day free trial.

We know you'll see the value in it, but if you decide to leave, which you cancel any time you like, we hope that you'll at least take the motivation that made you try us out in the first place, and leverage your work-in-progress self-discipline to see it through.