Earlier today on the Garage Gym Fitness Facebook page, I shared a particularly relevant story for this time of the year on the difference between discipline and motivation. (Check that article out here.)
It’s not explicitly written for the fitness enthusiast, but there’s no doubt there are lessons to be applied there. Too often do I see “#MotivationMondays” or memes and posters trying to inspire. Even worse, we all are guilty of doing this to ourselves – the phenomenon of self-inspiration is tricky. Practically speaking, I don’t believe it works.
You can call it whatever you want – psyching yourself up, getting pumped, getting motivated, being inspired, setting resolutions – but success will ultimately come down to action. At some point, motivation needs to go through some sort of conversion process, where it’s refined into execution, for it to mean anything.
One major example of self-motivating stands out to me, and it’s obvious: New Year’s resolutions. Let’s get into the concept of setting a date to renew your dedication to your own health, and let’s use a hypothetical situation to do it.
It’s the holiday season. (Sound familiar?) You have picked and poked at every snack table, treat tray and festive beverage you’ve laid eyes on, and there’s no apparent end in sight. You’ve just recently gotten through three days of Thanksgiving leftovers, and now there are holiday parties, office get-togethers and quick snack stops while you’re out Christmas shopping.
Inherently, there’s nothing wrong with any of this, assuming we bounce back. We know what we’re doing with every cookie we eat and every workout we put off. Maybe part of the reason we’ve worked so hard in the gym and with our meal plans is because we wanted to enjoy ourselves around the holidays. Where it starts getting dangerous is when we rely on self-motivation, though: When we tell ourselves, “All of this is fine, because I’m starting over on New Year’s Day.”
It opens a can of worms, doesn’t it? With a single thought process, we’ve convinced ourselves that we can simply flip a switch and instantly turn on our ability to recreate good habits after two months of practicing bad ones. (For fun, give a quick Google search on how long it takes to establish good habits. Spoiler alert: It’s about two months.) When we think we can just magically become motivated when the calendar flips over, we open ourselves up to excuses, because we create a safety net that doesn’t actually exist. “It’s OK if I miss my workout today because I can just get an extra one in this weekend, when I’m not so tired.”
Discipline, in regards to fitness, is following through on the steps to your goals regardless of your motivation level. I can tell you firsthand that I am not motivated to work out at 7 a.m. in mid-December, when it’s 29 degrees in my garage and the bar feels like ice. At that point, there is no poster I can look at or song I can put on that will change my mind. My mindset isn’t what needs to change at that point – only the binary question of whether my workout is done or not.
All that said, I’d rather rely on discipline over motivation, because motivating factors are flighty. Frankly, if I have to be in a certain mood or emotional state to get a workout in, it’s much more likely that I’ll skip it.
None of this is to come off as a hard-ass, because I do have my lapses! I’m not a natural gym rat – training is a means to an end for me, as opposed to many who truly love lifting for lifting’s sake. Sometimes it can be easy to forget what that end is, but keeping sight of it is at the root of discipline. If your will to reach your goals is stronger than any force that would deter you, then you won’t need motivation. And not needing to rely on memes to get yourself in the gym is always a good thing.