“I’m just not motivated today.”
“I have no motivation.”
“I don’t feel like it.”
“I’m not in the right mood.”
All phrases that we hear or say in our daily life. All phrases that hold us back from achieving what we say we really want.
All these phrases have one thing in common: Motivation, broadly speaking, operates on the erroneous assumption that a particular mental or emotional state is necessary to complete a task. This is a lie.
You have now become a slave to how you feel at any current moment.
I can hear it now, “but my feelings matter!” I agree that feelings do matter, to a degree, when it comes to achieving a goal or changing your life. The true, constant feeling about something you want to change or make better matters. The daily up and down should not control your life.
Your commute to work can be a great example of the emotional rollercoaster. You wake up, feel tired. When you get in your car you are either excited to go to work or dreading it. On your way, your husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend text you that they love you and you joy. Two minutes later someone cuts you off and now you feel angry. You get on the highway and you are stuck in traffic and feel frustrated. When you get to work, you feel relieved to make it on time. Your boss isn’t in yet so you are happy you don’t have to deal with him/her right away. That co-worker that you can’t stand won’t leave your desk so now you are annoyed. Lunch time! You are so happy to get away from work for an hour.
This is an exaggeration, but it is not far off for many of us. Think about all the emotions you feel by midday. Should you let every current emotion dictate your day and actions?
How do we make this better? Discipline.
Discipline, by contrast, separates tasks/work from moods and feelings and thereby circumvents the problem by consistently improving your mood.
Most of us look at discipline as a negative since it was used as such for most of our life. We were disciplined for negative behavior for most of our young life. But think about that…the answer to making a negative action or habit a positive one was discipline.
Losing fat is a great example of this. I’ve never seen someone happy about the action of cutting calories or waking up early to exercise. What makes them happy is the results achieved by disciplining an area of their life.
The successful completion of a task puts you in the same mood/state that chronic procrastinators think they need to initiate the task in the first place.
Another example is when people tell me they need to be in better shape to do CrossFit. You need to do CrossFit to get in better shape!
If action is conditional on feelings, waiting for the right mood becomes a nasty form of procrastination. I know that too well, and wish somebody pointed it out to me 20 years ago before I learned the difference the hard way.
If you wait until you feel like doing stuff, you’re screwed. That’s precisely how the dreaded procrastinatory loops come about.
Chasing motivation seems like a great idea at the surface until you realize you only feel motivated for shorts periods of time. Motivation needs constant refueling. It is great for short bursts of energy, but not at finishing the long race. Once your motivation runs out, fighting to feel motivated again takes a ton of mental energy which is why people quit when they depend on motivation alone.
You start to become disciplined because you make a choice to, not that you “feel” like it. Discipline doesn’t care about feelings. The energy to continue being disciplined comes from being disciplined in the first place. It feeds itself once you start it.
In summary, motivation is trying to feel like doing stuff. Discipline is doing it even if you don’t feel like it.
You get to feel good afterward.
Discipline is a system. A system that is more or less self-perpetuating and constant, whereas motivation is a bursty kind of thing.
How do you cultivate discipline? By building habits! Start as small as you can manage, gathering momentum, reinvesting it in progressively bigger changes to your routine, and building a positive feedback loop.
Start as small as you need to. It may not seem like the little things matter, but they are what you will build your new disciplined, energetic self. Each small habit will build on itself and eventually lead to progressively bigger changes to your routine, which will build a positive feedback loop.
We were not born being able to run, it started with small stumbles forward. Take the first baby step before you try to run.
Make the decision today, say it out loud, take action no matter how you currently feel.
I don’t see the “feelings” anywhere?