Updated: Aug 27, 2021
Motivation is a word we like to throw around a lot. We either use it as an excuse for not doing something, or give it credit (it doesn’t deserve) as being the being change-maker of something in our lives. Either way you use it, you’re putting too much pressure on it.
Motivation is a burst of energy and a happy thought process at best. It makes us feel good in the moment and intoxicates us with happy thoughts to the point where we commit to doing three hours of exercise a day. Sustainable, right?
Motivation is not what most of us need in our lives. The majority of us have plenty of it – it’s why we start new things that we’re so hopeful about, and when that motivation fizzles out, we just forget about it and move on. So not the goal we were trying to achieve when we first had that motivational rush or spark of energy. Motivation is liked the poisoned apple to your mind. Everything looks good on the outside, but you can’t really see that how you’re going about achieving your goal is all wrong. Then, when our motivation inevitably leaves, and you’re left with this idea or plan that made you so excited, you’re unable to follow through. What does this mean? Ultimately, it leaves you feeling like a failure; unable to motivate yourself to do anything. Do you see how motivation can feed into a vicious cycle of the mind where you convince yourself that you’re not able to do anything?
Let me break it down to you.
First, you need to understand that what you think and what you do are two very different things. Closely related, yes, but one depends on action, and the other can just slide away at the mere whisper of distraction. We can think something, which will spark a kind of action, which again, after our thoughts (AKA our friend motivation) have disappeared, will feed back into that action.
In simple terms: if you suddenly think to yourself one day, ‘I’m going to stop eating ice cream every night’, well, first of all, that’s great. It’s a great thought to have. This thought informs what your action will be. So, maybe for four nights in a row, you’ll stop eating ice cream. It’ll be hard, but you’ll keep going because you feel somotivated. Inevitably, that feeling will fade. You won’t feel motivated forever. You will go back to your old habit. It’s a brand-new action that you’ve started and takes time to become a real habit (but that’s a story for another day). What I’m trying to get at is this: Motivation will not always be there for you to fall back on. It will disappear. This is what motivation does. It’s short-lived; it’s fleeting; it doesn’t stick around. Yet, you keep expecting it to. Why? Have years of experience and binging on ice cream at 3am taught you nothing?
So, we’ve established that motivation isn’t long-lasting. Okay, you might be thinking, so it’s not going to stick around for long. What do I do when that happens?
Here is my answer: you can either give up or get disciplined.
Everyone credits motivation with life-changing actions. Motivation is the glossy, creamy chocolate sitting in front of you, begging to be eaten. Discipline is the raw green broccoli next to it. You know which option is better for you – but you just won’t eat the broccoli, unless you feel like it. You’ll either forget your new supposedly life-changing action and go back to what you were doing before (eating the chocolate). Or, you’ll suck it up and eat the broccoli (AKA our best friend discipline).
Discipline is under-appreciated. He’s the kid nobody likes because he forces you to look at yourself and make decisions and stick to them. He’s the one buried in your subconscious who gets. Stuff. Done.
But truthfully, if you’re going to lead a life you love and you’re proud of, you need to break up with motivation and make discipline your best friend (for real this time). That might mean a 5am wake up time and a promise to hit the gym every morning, come rain or shine, hail or storm. That might mean giving up Instagram every night between 8 and 10 p.m. That might mean committing to just a ten-minute workout every-day. It’s hard; it’s scary; it’s painful. But if you commit to your action, and you want to see real change in your life, it’s also necessary. Give it a few months and you’ll begin to see big changes.
You don’t want to. But you should.