How does one stay motivated? That’s the million dollar question—one that I am asked most often. While I certainly do not have it all figured out, I have learned a great skill that has assisted me in muddling through this motivation question. I call it “Big Picture Discipline,” and it requires drawing the distinction between movtivation and discipline.
Be “All In”
If we are looking at our health, our fitness, our nutrition and triathlon as a long-term thing we do– not just something you will “start on Monday”–that makes a difference.
If you take care to try and make good choices every day, be consistent in workouts over the course of years and your life, that the motivation factor isn’t as strong as say, habit. Not perfect… just a little better and focused goes a long way.
Lack of Motivation = Excuse
While it’s a hard pill to swallow, “lacking motivation” is actually a form of an excuse. What we should really be saying is: I am lacking in discipline. (And ouch, that kind of hurts.)
But I’m afraid there is much truth in the statement. It’s easy to say, “I am not motivated to do this workout,” just blow it off, and declare ourselves in a funk and “lacking motivation.”
However, what we are really saying is: I don’t wanna workout. I am not disciplined enough to make this a priority. (Pssssst– sometimes that’s okay! We are not required to make every single darn workout a priority.) Let’s at least assess the situation correctly, and say what we mean.
I would rather sleep today.
I need to work rather than work out.
My kids are sick, and they come first.
None of those have to do with motivation. We must keep in mind that the “Big Picture” is key.
To do that, we go by the adage of “progress, not perfection.” We can choose to start each new year or season a little better than the last–physically or spiritually or emotionally–or all three. Please know that these small steps are not asking for radical transformation. We can make progress in the smallest of ways, like, I don’t drink diet soda anymore. (That’s a big one, actually. Scratch that.)
Some questions to ask when we are feeling “unmotivated?”? Here’s a list to keep our discipline in check, and us looking towards the bigger picture:
- Will this workout and the consistency of training keep me on track for “the best me possible”–not just now, but also for years to come?
- Is what I need to do or accomplish more important than this workout? (Does this particular workout matter for my races and my goals? Is it a key workout? Or can I let it go in favor of taking care of something that life requires? Can I juggle my schedule around to accomplish it all?)
- Does this food or drink that I am putting in my face fuel my body… or stuff my emotions?
- Am I giving myself an “out” and an excuse to notshow up and make this happen?
- Am I acting with discipline… or with excuses?
Nope, it’s not easy to stay “motivated” all the time. But when we switch our thoughts to discipline, then we often shift the burden to action. What we can do to make dreams and health and progress happen? Action! Motivation has a tone of helplessness, of external stressors or causes–like something else is to be blamed for the lack of motivation.
Tony Robbins says that people often blame the lack of resources on their current state in life, but really it’s the “lack of resourcefulness” that is causing their perceived issues. I love this, because it puts the ball in our courts to make action happen. We are responsible for finding a way and figuring it out.
This vague idea of motivation as coming and going, and being bestowed on us? We should wipe it out of our lives. Motivation will come and go, but discipline is up to us.
We are in charge of our decisions. We make the decisions to do, to move forward, and to live our lives how we see fit. There’s an amazing freedom in discipline, actually. We just have to summon the courage to believe in it and roll with the punches.
Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. You can download a free copy of the book here. She is the host of the iTunes podcast, “The Same 24 Hours,” a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. Meredith lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, and writes about all things at MeredithAtwood.com.