We all have “that” friend. You know “that” friend, the one who you make plans with and then last minute they can’t make it, they’re so sorry but something came up unexpectedly, or they had to take their cat for a vacation because the Vet said he might have some serious cabin fever and if doesn’t get out more often then his hairball problem might intensify. Now, we love that friend, because they’re a lot of fun when they do show up, and they make you laugh and you always have a good time together. You don’t begrudge this friend their flakiness; you’ve come to accept that it’s part of their charm as a matter of fact. However, you’d really enjoy if this friend were around and more reliable because you enjoy their company so much! This is motivation in a nutshell. Motivation is your unreliable, albeit great, friend.
Motivation is not to be counted upon for action. For example, if we only worked out as often as “that” friend came over to watch the newest episode of Stranger Things, then we’d probably only be stepping foot into a gym once every couple of weeks. Motivation is fleeting, and worst of all, it generally comes and goes in waves. Once motivation is lacking and the desired action or changes we’re pursuing cease (or never actually start in the first place) then chances are high that it is going to be an increasingly tough battle to win motivation back and break that routine of feeling under motivated. Additionally, motivation is an emotional state, and at times relatively easy drive away with other emotions. More often than not, my emotional motivations are to curl up in bed with a couple pints of Ben and Jerry’s and watch The Wire. These feelings especially intensify after a stressful, exhausting, or particularly crappy day.
While motivation may not be the friend you want for your lifestyle change, there is one steadfast friend who can always be counted on and that is your buddy discipline. While motivation is fleeting and heavily reliant on emotion, discipline, which is still an emotional process, primarily relies on action and choice. Another way to view the difference in these two friends is that you can’t always choose to motivate yourself to make certain food choices, get to bed on time, put down your cell phone, etc. but you can choose to have the discipline to do all of these things despite a lack of motivation.
Discipline is a great friend to have in your corner but sometimes you have to work to get back into discipline’s good graces. How do you go about getting that discipline back into your life? There are a few methods that can be utilized here! First and foremost is developing a good routine for yourself, and part of this includes making “good” decisions easier. For example, let’s say a goal is to have the discipline to wake up early and go running four days per week. One way to make that decision and process that much easier for yourself is to put out clothes and shoes the night before your run. This way, when the alarm goes off in the morning and that, “do I really want to go running?” thought occurs you have one less reason to stay in bed. When our defenses are down, and it’s 5am, and you’re when faced with the conundrum of working out or sleeping, something as simple as not having the excuse, “well I don’t know what clothes I’ll wear,” makes a difference!
Another driver of discipline is accountability. This factor can take many forms but it is a huge part of staying the course on a goal, project, lifestyle change, etc. The reason accountability works is that it makes your behaviors matter. To use the running example again, lets say you find yourself an early morning running buddy. The alarm again goes off at 5am and you’re faced with, “do I really want to go running?” Now that same question comes with, “do I want to abandon my running friend?” Chances are pretty good you’ll find yourself more likely to go running at that thought. As social creatures, humans have a hard time feeling like they let another person down. And there are many forms of accountability such as competitions, hiring a coach, committing to being healthier for your family, financially investing in an interest or aid to your journey. Accountability comes in many forms, and finding the one that resonates with you will go a long way in aiding your discipline.
Our last tool for winning back your discipline friend is incentive, and this goes well with accountability. Not long ago I had a friend ask for some help with his diet and exercise, as he had a goal of losing 50lbs by years end. I told him I would be happy to help him on one condition; he had to give me $500 on the condition that when he reached his goal I would give it back to him in full. However, if he didn’t achieve this goal I kept the money. I’ll let you in on a secret, he was going to get the money back regardless, but I wanted to create an incentive for him to stay on track. He didn’t want to lose $500!! Similar to accountability, incentive can take many forms. It might be treating yourself to a vacation, buying a book you’ve wanted, or simply an evening of not answering emails. The caveat with incentive is that ideally your incentive won’t be something that derails your goals, and there is a large element of integrity, as you have to stay true to the goals you are working towards and not cut corners or treat yourself prior to attaining your desired outcome. A good way to do this is to involve friends and family (and there we have some more accountability….boom!).
So discipline is a better friend to call upon and rely on. They might not be as flashy or exciting, but discipline is always there when you need them. The decision to have discipline and act within your goals is not always easy, but like a muscle, the more it is trained using routine, accountability, and incentive, the stronger and easier it will be to call upon. And it turns out motivation gets a little bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) when you and discipline are having a good time together, and you know what, motivation shows up a lot more when you’re putting your time and energy into motivation. In no time, you, motivation and discipline will be the three best friends that anyone could have!!