I started off the new year all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. With my resolutions in hand, I did what I do every year. I made a list of the things I wanted to accomplish and dove right in with zero success. My goals aren’t novel. I wanted to lose weight so I hit the gym. My time management skills needed improving, so I bought a journal and researched some time-blocking techniques. I needed to save more money, so I listened to all the podcasts about personal finance and made a budget. Unfortunately, I didn’t get very far with any of these goals. Anything you want to achieve boils down to understanding these two things: motivation vs discipline.
Motivation used to be my main propeller, but I found that I was lacking it by Wednesday. It’s taken me some time, but I finally realized that there is a huge difference between motivation and discipline, and how to leverage the two in my own life.
People use motivation and discipline fairly interchangeably. I think it’s easy to assume a motivated person is a disciplined person. However they are very different, and understanding the definitions can help reframe things for you:
- motivation (n): the general desire or willingness of someone to do something
- discipline (v): train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way
Motivation is fleeting. It’s a feeling. It serves a purpose; to ignite you into action. When I watch an inspirational youtube video or listen to a podcast, motivation hits me. I book my next session at the gym, write tomorrow’s to-do list, and delete the items in my Amazon shopping cart. But motivation ain’t shit as soon as I feel an ounce of stress or I am too comfortable. My warm bed has been known to be a motivation killer, as well as Wednesday Wine Pizza Nights. If the weather is slightly suboptimal, I lose my motivation quicker than the IRS withdraws your money when you owe them.
Discipline, on the other hand, is kindling you keep adding to the fire to keep it going. Discipline requires showing up even when you don’t want to. My favorite approach to being more disciplined is to create tiny habits that become non-negotiables. I’ve made it a goal for myself to get at least 40 minutes of exercise 4 times a week. In order to be disciplined, I have to ensure there is no room for excuses. Setting up the right environment helps with achieving your goals. For example, I load up my car with my gym bag every morning when I have to go to the office. All of my gym stuff that I need is in there, so I have no excuse. I also book my workout class that morning, and if I cancel I have to pay.
Find Your Why
If you don’t have a compelling reason why you want to do something, you won’t do it. I idealize morning people who get up at 5 am every day and have these elaborate morning routines. I have tried to wake up that early and build a morning routine, but I honestly can’t find the “why” to actually make this a goal. I can do all the things I want to do in the evening, and honestly, I want more sleep in the mornings. On the other hand, exercising and losing weight is something I can find a million reasons I want to do this. Besides physical appearance, longevity and vitality are very motivational for me. When you have a clear purpose, it’s easier to stay motivated and disciplined.
Set Small Goals and Create a Routine
Setting small goals has been a game changer. Instead of focusing on hitting all my macros and hitting the gym 5 days a week, I started with just meeting my protein goal as my daily non-negotiable and going to the gym 3 days a week. I am now regularly going 3-4 times a week. It’s becoming a routine. Breaking your larger goals into smaller, more manageable ones can make them feel less overwhelming and more achievable. This can help you build momentum and stay motivated.
Be Kind to Yourself
I am far from being this motivated and disciplined goddess. My daily struggles include fighting the urge to throw in the towel at the slightest inconvenience. I’m only getting better at 2 out of 3 of my goals. But one of the things I’m learning in this process is that negative self-talk can negate weeks of effort. I’m sure many of you struggle with the ‘all-or-nothing’ mentality, but I’ve found it really doesn’t help. If you fall off the wagon, get right back up and keep carrying on.