The Problem with Motivation:
January 1st: “I’m motivated to get in shape this year!”
After watching a superhero movie: “I want to get in shape like that actor!”
After reading Born to Run: “I’m gonna run a barefoot marathon some day!”
After watching Pumping Iron: “I’m gonna train like Arnold!”
Most of us start this journey with a single moment of motivation. We were motivated to take action, and sure enough on that first day or two after being motivated, we DO take action.
We go for that run. We do some push-ups. We head to the gym and crank out some bench presses and squats. Whether it’s a movie, a Facebook post, or a conversation with a friend, we see our motivation jump up for a short period of time.
And for two days, things are great! As long as you have enough motivation to overcome inertia, you’ll take action. However, after a few days (or a week if you’re lucky), your motivation tank starts to run low. That initial boost of motivation is finite and fleeting. You filled the tank after watching that movie, but now the effort required to get up early and go workout (or whatever it is), is slowly chipping away at your reserves. The tank of motivation is finite, but the need to get up and go to the gym? That’s like concrete – it’s not going anywhere.
So, you need to keep that motivation tank filled if you are going to keep going. So like an addict chasing his next hit, you’re back on the search for “more motivation” to get back up above the effort line. When your effort/motivation line is above the action zone, you take action. When it’s below the action zone, you stay sitting on your couch.
This is why people are CRUSHING IT in the gym for the first week of January, or for the weeks leading up to their weddings/vacation. They are seriously motivated to make change. But, that darned up and down motivation. It wavers. But the demands of you don’t. When this happens, when motivation wanes, old habits start to creep back into the picture and pull you back down to where they want to be: out of the action zone!
This is when you wake up a few months from now and realize: “oh crap I’m back to where I started and I abandoned my goals. DAMN YOU MOTIVATION, YOU FLEETING FOX! How dare you abandon me in my time of neeeeeed.” (I’m just assuming that’s how you’ll talk to motivation internally. Not that I talk to myself ever.)
How to Use Motivation Correctly:
It’s time to stop blaming motivation when you don’t change, and stop waiting for motivation to give you permission to change permanently. Here’s how to use motivation properly.
You know the phrase: “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.”? We’re gonna steal that sucker: “Give a nerd some motivation, he or she will train for a day. Teach that nerd to build structured discipline, he’ll train for a lifetime.”
So, the next time you are motivated, don’t use that motivation to JUST do the activity you are fired up to try. Instead, use that motivation build permanent systems that make you stay in the action zone longer. Long term, non-fleeting stability. How does this
STRUCTURED DISCIPLINE! Mic drop.
…wait, I still need that mic.
Structured discipline is your magic ticket to long-term success. The more discipline you have, the less reliant you’ll be on another dose of motivation to take action. In short: “F*** motivation, cultivate discipline.”
Motivation is going to promise you things, and then leave you when you need it most. When you can capitalize on that motivation by lowing the amount of inertia you have to overcome to take action every day, the more likely you’ll be to succeed.
Here are some other examples of how to build structured discipline:
Motivation is a Power Up, but it won’t last forever.
Motivation is like getting star-power in Super Mario Bros. It can help you do things that you never would have been able to do otherwise. In that sense, motivation is awesome. But you need to be able to harness it in the right way in order to make it sustainable and effective.
What are you motivated to do after reading this article? And what’s one SPECIFIC ACTION you’ll take so you’re not relying on motivation to make it happen long term?
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