Finding Motivation v. Practicing Discipline
I’ve spent many years wondering about how to stay motivated — personally and professionally. I’ve read a ton of books and listened to a shit ton of podcasts about it. I’ve worked with a life coach and I’ve gone to therapy. I’ve researched and asked other inspirational women around me. So now I’m going to pass on what I’ve learned to all of you to save you the time.
Are you ready?
You might need to sit down for this one.
Motivation is not a constant.
Read that again and again until it sinks in. How does it make you feel? Is it a relief? Does it anger you? Do you think I’m full of shit? Are you now Googling better advice? Well, that’s all normal, and I won’t take it personally.
But I think accepting this as a fact is one of the best things I’ve done for my own health and wellness. It has freed me from self-judgment and unrealistic expectations. For years, I thought something was wrong with me because some days I would get up early, do yoga, be super productive all day long at work, stick to my plans for healthy eating and exercising, keep up with my community service commitments, do chores, cook dinner and go to bed at a decent time.
On those days, I felt like I was on top of everything. I felt accomplished, like I had finally figured out how to juggle it all.
Then a week later, I’d find myself snoozing the alarm three times, skipping my morning yoga, staying in my PJs and working from home, dreading every phone call I needed to make, eating my feelings, ignoring calls and texts from friends and family, canceling plans and falling asleep on the couch watching true crime documentaries.
On those days, I’d beat myself for being such a lazy ass. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t stay motivated, but now I know those periods of super productivity were never sustainable in the first place and expecting myself to go, go, go like that every day was just ridiculous. Of course I could only do that for a week at a time before crashing hard the next week.
Acceptance is such a blessing. Learning that “super productive” is just another word for perfectionism and understanding that perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive pattern that fuels the belief system that you are not good enough. Dr. Brene Brown taught me this in her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection.”
I had to stop determining my worth based on my output. I don’t have to check off every item on my to-do list every day to be worthy and free from shame. I don’t have to beat myself up for eating off plan or having one more beer at the bar. If you do this to yourself, it's probably time to sit down and ask yourself the underlying reasons why you think you have to be busy to be worthy.
It’s something I still have to work on every day. I can still be overly critical of myself and I constantly worry whether I’m doing enough for myself and others. I get frustrated when I need to have a super productive day and can’t seem to push through, wondering “Where the hell is that motivation when I need it?”
Motivation is this mysterious thing we’re always looking for and we expect it to last when we find it, but that’s just not how it works. But believe me, there are a lot of people out there who will claim they can help you stay motivated. The secret is that motivation comes and goes. It may get you started on a goal but it will also fizzle out.
Now that I’ve killed your dreams and stopped you in your never-ending quest for perfectionism, let me tell you what does work for me these days. I still have a lot of goals, commitments and to-do lists. Some days I’m on top of it and sometimes I’m not — I just don’t beat myself up over it anymore. I don’t add perfectionist thinking on top of it.
But I also don’t quit trying either. I make my to-do lists realistic based on how I feel on any given day. I adjust and I try again. That’s not motivation — that’s discipline. Practicing discipline is what will keep you moving forward over the long haul and through adversities in your life. Discipline is what will make you appreciate your progress, however small you think it is, and will keep you from giving up.
You may be asking yourself what this has to do with health and wellness. Well, my friends, it has everything to do with health and wellness. Staying healthy is all about taking care of your mind, body and soul. If your mind is in constant turmoil, self-judgment and shame, your body’s performance will reflect that.
Women often overlook taking care of their mind and the importance of managing their emotions. Take the time to listen to your thoughts and how they manifest into your actions. Be thankful for the good days and be compassionate with yourself on the bad days knowing that everything is temporary.