No, You Don't
Is there something you’ve been wanting to do but can’t get yourself motivated?
Or maybe you started, kept it up for a while, then for whatever reason skipped a day.
And are right back where you were before it all began?
When gyms closed during last year’s lockdown, a friend inspired me to start running to improve fitness and lose the COVID kilos.
I have never been a runner; I much prefer walking. Last time I gave it a serious go, the furthest I ran consistently was five kilometres (3 mi) on flat ground - laughable, when completing a City2Surf is on your bucket list.
This time around, I’d lay out all my gear the night before so that when the alarm went off at 0500, I’d be on autopilot – up, dressed, and out the door.
Winter’s single-digit temperatures couldn’t stop me. Motivation was high and that endorphin rush upon completion was addictive; a great way to start the day.
Third week in, Sydney was hit with a week of storms and like many, I don’t do rain.
Before you know it, I was done with running, back to regular walks and eventually the gym (something I require no real motivation for).
If you share a similar story, you’ll recognise the frustration when you can’t get momentum with something.
But what if you were to learn whilst motivation is nice, it’s merely icing on the cake?
That the difference between where you are now and where you want to be ultimately comes down to one thing?
Just Do It
Are you one to make your bed after waking each morning?
Unless you’re expecting visitors, no one’s going to see it. Plus, you’re just going to mess it up tonight anyway, so what’s the point?
Among other reasons, making your bed is a form of discipline that has become a habit you no longer think about.
Like other rituals you’re disciplined with, there are benefits in doing them consistently; you shower so you don’t stink, brush your teeth so they don’t rot. Little or no motivation is required.
There’s a great post written by Allison where she delineates the difference between the two.
“Motivation only exists as a noun. But discipline has a verb form. In other words, discipline is something you do, and choose to do; motivation is a thing that can come and go, which you cannot choose to do or control.
Furthermore: you are never “motivated” to be more disciplined. Discipline is useless if it’s not tied to the actions you want to be disciplined with.”
Just because you brush daily doesn’t mean you’ll floss regularly. It’s a separate discipline.
So, how do we get ourselves to be more disciplined?
Firstly, recognise that self-discipline is a skill, something you can both learn and master.
As with anything, underlying desire is required.
Learning to pole dance is something I won’t be disciplined with because it’s not something I want to do. Becoming a better writer on the other hand, yes.
With that in mind, here are some tips:
Define clear goals or set intentions
Telling yourself “I want to lose weight” or “I want to earn more money” isn’t enough. Know exactly what you want to achieve and the timeframe you’ll achieve it in.
Start small and adjust as you go.
If your goal is to run a marathon (26 mi/42 km) yet can’t run a mile, you’ll likely give up unless you set smaller, achievable goals along the way.
Things don’t always go to plan; you don’t know what you don’t know and will have missteps along the way. Persist!
An early goal of mine was for this blog to go live within a couple of months of inception and derive an income within the first year.
Eighteen months in, the blog has only just gone live. Income? Ha! What income?
Know your strengths and weaknesses
Be self-aware; use strengths to your advantage and work around your weaknesses.
A strength of mine is in knowing I write better earlier in the day so oftentimes wake up in the early hours to work on the blog.
A weakness is not being able to have junk food in the house, therefore, don’t buy it (or eat it all in one go 🙄).
Digital devices are often a distraction so turn on do not disturb and regulate use to mitigate the problem.
Every. Single. Day.
Want something to become habitual? Start by doing it for at least five minutes a day.
Some days you’ll only do it for five minutes, some days longer. The important thing is you did it.
Once it becomes a habit, consider Matt’s two-day rule.
Life gets in the way; there will be days you don’t do a workout, work on your side hustle, whatever. If you skip a day, don’t let it become two in a row.
Have a to-do list?
It’s easy to procrastinate on tasks until they require your immediate attention. Days can go by without having made a dent on the things you need to do.
Accomplish one thing a day. Just one. Your productivity will go through the roof.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done, like the goal of running a marathon. Don’t focus on all twenty-six miles; just one and go from there.
Hold yourself accountable
There’s no greater motivator than to publicise what you’re going to achieve. Whether you announce it on social media or say it in person - your reputation is on the line.
A couple of years ago, I competed in a fitness challenge and told everyone - family, friends, fellow contestants, what I was going to do.
My cocky line was, “My only goal is to place better than last time,” to which they’d ask, “What did you come?”
Have an accountability buddy you check in with on a regular basis.
Every Friday, my buddy and I text each other a photo standing on scales to keep each other in check. It’s the first thing that comes to mind whenever I’m craving junk food as I’ll have some explaining to do (and a fine to pay) if there’s significant weight gain.
Sign up (and pay) for that future course or event - it’s now become a commitment you must prepare for.
Track everything! Put your progress on a calendar or fridge where you can cross it off every day. Use an app, spreadsheet, or journal to record the details. You can’t improve what you don’t measure.
The more you become invested, the less chance of giving up.
Whether you fall off the wagon or fall short, you’re only human. Forgive yourself and do what’s necessary to get back on track. It may mean lowering expectations or reassessing your goals.
Three months into my blogging career I self-sabotaged, lost motivation, reverted back to old habits.
There’d be days I’d lay in bed and watch YouTube all day.
For a whole month, I didn’t even look at the blog; zero work accomplished.
I tried to change too many things at once and it all caught up with me.
Pick yourself up, get over it and keep moving forward.
Not every basketball prospect makes the NBA. You may be destined for another path in life. It’s up to you to find what that is, transfer your skills, and make it happen.
Some reach the pinnacle, enjoy that sweet taste of success then quickly fall, whilst others get on top and dominate for a long time. Individual sports like boxing, golf, and tennis highlight such individuals.
How do they do it? Find the motivation every single time even once they’ve cleaned out the competition? To not only win but improve on their last performance – over and over again?
IMG Academy outlines the top twelve traits successful athletes demonstrate.
As well as self-discipline and motivation, key attributes include:
- Self-confidence – others are equally hungry as you to succeed. You’ve got to believe you not only have what it takes to compete against but be better than the competition.
- Accept criticism – no one is perfect. If you’re too proud to hear and accept constructive criticism, you’ll never learn from your mistakes or reach your full potential.
- Resilience - not everything will go your way; setbacks will occur. Harness your ability and grit to bounce back, adapt, overcome, and never let anything defeat you.
- Humility – stay humble. When you taste success, enjoy it but never let it inflate your ego and think you’re the shit. There’s always another level. Equally, when mistakes are made, own it; don’t make excuses.
- Passion – love you what you do. To be truly successful, you need to eat, sleep, and breathe your passion to be able to do it day in and day out. A half-assed effort won’t do.
You may feel lacking in some of these qualities. Recognise they can be developed and strengthened by creating smaller victories you’re able to conquer, one mile at a time.
Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
David Goggins, a retired Navy Seal, and ultra-marathon runner details the challenges he overcame throughout his life in his New York Times bestseller, “Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds.”
He’s as tough as they come. By no means gifted, he worked hard and went through hell for everything he achieved.
In his post, Eli summarises the ten challenges David outlines for you to callous your mind and push beyond your perceived capabilities; to be uncommon amongst the uncommon.
Surround yourself with motivation; remind yourself daily what you’re going to accomplish.
Use your fridge, bedroom wall, bathroom mirror, to post your goals – be they written or in picture.
On the desk I sit and work on the blog each day, I have two pictures taped to the surface. The first, my before and after photos when I won the fitness challenge and the second, the car I will reward myself with when I’m able to afford it.
It’s about reinforcing into your subconscious what is possible, what you are capable of until you make it a reality.
"Everybody comes to a point in their life when they want to quit. But it's what you do at that moment that determines who you are." – David Goggins
Motivation comes and goes - you can’t control it.
Be self-disciplined and take control – of your mind, your actions, your life.
You don’t need superhuman strength or ability to achieve what today might only seem like a dream.
You only need to begin.
So, what are you waiting for?