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Inspiration vs. Discipline

June 18, 2018
By Dr. Jason Song

I recently heard that “inspiration is the enemy of discipline.” That might sound counterintuitive because people assume that being inspired or having an inspiration is very “cool” and significant. I mean, artists talk about being inspired. Authors talk about having an inspiration to write. Even politicians say they were inspired by certain social or political events or individuals. So, what’s wrong with inspiration?

First, while there is nothing inherently wrong with being inspired or having an inspiration, inspiration itself is not what gets things done. The normal stuff of life requires discipline, not just inspiration. Taking care of responsibilities requires discipline, not inspiration. For instance, most parents are not inspired to change diapers. Most students are not inspired to do homework. Most teachers are not inspired to write lesson plans or create exams. Most people get up in the morning for work not because they are inspired. You get the point. The stuff of life requires discipline, hard work, and commitment. You can’t get things done by waiting on inspiration to kick in.

Second, inspiration might be sufficient to get you started, but it won’t get you to the finish line. Let’s say that you’re inspired to write a book. Well, your inspiration might give you ideas or even motivate you to create outlines. But, only hard work will produce the final manuscript. It takes countless revisions, multiple drafts, hours and hours of re-reading, etc. to get the book written.   

Inspiration is over-rated while disciplines is de-emphasized in our culture. That happens in Christian life as well. Too many believers are searching for inspirations (from pastors, to books, and spiritual experience) without paying their dues of discipline (reading the Bible regularly, praying, going to church, participating in small groups, etc.). I contend that waiting for inspiration is often no different than being lazy, irresponsible, or fearful. Further, based on my personal experience and observation, inspiration usually comes as the byproduct of discipline, commitment, and hard work.

Thus, discipline yourself rather than journeying through life googly-eyed and searching for that which will inspire you. Put in the hard work. Stay committed and focused. That’s how you get the stuff done. That’s how you build your legacy.