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When Motivation Wanes, Rely On Discipline Instead

Meredith Atwood /

sleep deprived

When Motivation Wanes

One of the common things that I hear in various fitness groups or onlile is, “Help! I just don’t have any motivation to [insert workout here].” Fill in the blank with the excuse du jour, and I’ve seen it all. Not to be heartless, but I learned a while ago that motivation is not a thing. Motivation is not a noun, regardless of what the dictionary says. Motivation is a fleeting feeling that some of us believe people are born with, or have been bestowed with; others know the secret to making progress and gains.

That secret? These individuals realize that motivation is a myth.

When I started out as an adult-onset runner, I created goals and those goals motivated me, for sure. I was “motivated” by the fear of falling down and embarrassing myself. I was “motivated” by the sheer panic a race would inspire. Fear is certainly a motivator.

However, it was the bridge I built between that fear and the goal that is key. That bridge is the concept and execution of discipline. Once we admit to ourselves that motivation is not an intrinsic thing—that it’s up to us to go after our goals—we are able to frame our perspective a little differently.

I always tell my athletes: discipline over motivation. You aren’t motivated? Doesn’t matter. Be disciplined instead. Realize that action is the key—that moving forward and doing the motions of running or working out—no matter how we feel—is the key difference.

Today in my CrossFit class, I was wiped out before we even began. I started the workout extremely fatigued, tired and I wanted to quit. The motivation was negative infinity, and I didn’t feel that I could do the workout. Then I realized that of course I could “do” the workout. Could I do it super well? Maybe not. But I could move my body. I could do what I could. I could be disciplined in the space of not having this amazing “motivation.” By the end of the workout, I was wiped, fatigued and super sweaty—but my discipline had won. I completed it, and I went about my day knowing I gave my best effort.

My challenge for you is to extricate the word “motivation” from your daily language and insert “discipline.” To me, that changes the entire frontier of our conversation when we substitute discipline for motivation. I think we are hard-pressed to say, “I completely lack discipline”—no one wants to admit that! But sometimes it’s easy to say, “I just don’t have any motivation.” Shifting our choice of words can sometimes be the small change we need to get over the hump and on with our big goals.

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a weekly contributor to Women’s Running. She is a four-time IRONMAN triathlete, recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. She is also the host of the hit podcast The Same 24 Hours, a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. Meredith has two books coming out in 2019. Read more at SwimBikeMom.com

Related:

How To Deal With A Motivational Slump

Just Keep Moving Forward: Prioritizing Running

10 Quotes For An Extra Dose Of Motivation

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