Motivation is great to have, but relying on it is like trying to predict the weather in Texas.
You simply can’t.
So why do so many people believe they need motivation in order to pursue a goal or take action? I believe it’s because they’ve bought into the lies of society that motivation is a key requirement to do anything.
“You’ve got to feel motivated and then you can go after it!”
“Some people are just born motivated and some aren’t. You can’t help that.”
They tell themselves this (false) story that when they have motivation, they’ll be unstoppable. We justify our excuses by telling us that we’ll get started when we find the motivation.
Until then, they’re going to wait for it.
(Hint: most die waiting on motivation to show up.)
Because it rarely ever “just shows up when we want it to.”
Motivation comes and goes. It’s inconsistent, unreliable, and unnecessary to succeed. One day you might feel it, the next you won’t. Those that only act when motivated create inconsistent movements forward, hardly sustainable or capable of creating anything meaningful.
You can’t build something great only doing work on the days you feel motivated, just like you won’t get in great shape only going to the gym on the days you’re motivated. You have to be willing to create a plan and commit to action without motivation in order to be successful.
You don’t need motivation, you just need discipline, systems, & accountability.
All three are more consistent and reliable than motivation.
Discipline: the commitment to a specific behavior regardless of how you feel.
Discipline doesn’t fail you like motivation. If you’re committed to a specific behavior, you do that behavior each day. Think Jocko Willink’s Discipline Equals Freedom book. We tend to overcomplicate the process and overthink it versus simply doing the work.
Want to be in better shape? We easily overcomplicate it by looking for the “perfect” workout plan, the “perfect” nutrition plan, and stare at the scale every day. Discipline would be instead committing to workout for 30 minutes every day, eat healthy (avoid bread, alcohol, sugar), and not look at the scale until this date next year. We show up and do the work every day regardless of how we feel.
Discipline is more reliable than motivation because it says “I’m a person of my word, I stick to the commitment I’ve made.”
Systems are the repeatable processes that we can do to create a similar end result.
Our habits become the results of the systems we use. Think James Clear’s Atomic Habits and the importance of simplifying our environment & cues. Most of us have a system for how we shower:
- Soap on the cloth.
- Wash left arm, left armpit. Right arm, right armpit.
- And onward down.
We don’t even think about it anymore. We climb in the shower and go on autopilot. That’s a system. The goal is to create small, repeatable steps that allow us to go on autopilot toward the end result we want. For example, I remember a CrossFit Games athlete wanting to improve her handstand pushups so she put an abmat next to the walkway to her bathroom. Every time she walked down the hall toward the bathroom, she had to stop and do 5-10 handstand pushups.
It became a habit that built the end result she wanted (handstand pushup strength/endurance).
Accountability is the piece that connects it all by holding us responsible (to ourselves or others) to be disciplined & work our system.
I recently wrote an article on the importance accountability to building our consistency. The better our accountability in the form of relationships or punishments, the better our consistency will be. These are incredibly crucial when adopting new systems and trying to forge discipline.
We need reminders (in the form of friends checking on our progress or payments to said friends when we fail to do the work) in order to reinforce the need to take a specific action without motivation.
- Like going to the gym every day before work
- Training for a race
- Practicing sales pitches every week
Accountability removes our ability to make excuses and skip the work, and creates a better opportunity to build a system that forges our discipline and moves us forward better than motivation ever could.
Motivation isn’t a requirement for success. Average people believe it is and therefore wait on it to strike before taking action.
Champions understand that motivation is nice to have, but not necessary. They build their discipline by creating strong systems with the help of stronger accountability so that when they don’t have motivation, they still make moves.