Motivation vs. Discipline

It was a pretty typical Friday at the gym. The place was fairly quiet – common later in the week as all the members who were so enthusiastic on Monday have tuckered out and become scarce by Thursday. I didn’t want to be at the gym, either. I was tuckered out, dragging my feet begrudgingly from one machine to the next thinking about everything I’d rather be doing and lamenting my absentee motivation. Motivation is a slippery bugger. I have tried so many things to get it back. The motivation that initially got me so excited to hit the gym has remained elusive. It flickers in and out, sputtering like the flame of a candle.

Friday; however, as I caught myself  half-assing my workout, the truth struck me. I’ve read the quotes, saved them to my pin boards, but I hadn’t really internalized the idea until now. Motivation gets you started but, eventually, you are going to have to rely on discipline. Motivation is fleeting; discipline is enduring. Motivation may flare up from time to time, fanned by some momentary inspiration like a good weigh-in or a smaller pair of jeans, but when it is gone (and it will go away) you still need to show up and you still need to work every bit as hard as you did when its fire burned in your belly.

discipline

I have spent so much of my weight loss life (the years during which I have worked and fought to lose weight has truly taken on a life of its own, in so many ways separate from the rest of my existence) obsessed with motivation. Getting my “mojo” back, recapturing or replicating the moments of motivation that propelled my first steps on this journey. Recapturing that “lightning in a bottle.” It is as if I had come to believe that motivation was the key to success, was the element I had been missing all the years I tried and failed to lose weight. This time around, for reasons I may never be able to understand or explain, I am finding I am finally learning lessons in discipline. That, in fact, discipline may be that key I was searching for.

It is easy to work out, to make the healthiest food choices, to be focused and dedicated when you are motivated. At the end of your motivation is where the real work begins, where your true character is revealed, where your desire to meet the goals you’ve set for yourself are forged into habit. That is where a diet becomes a lifestyle, where a plan becomes a routine.

Yesterday evening, as I headed toward the gym, I felt the spark of motivation – the same spark so many people seem to feel at the beginning of a new week. Then I hit the weight machines and the reality of how hard this was going to be, how much I would sweat, how sore and exhausted I would feel hit me and my motivation was snuffed out. It was just the two of us: me and my discipline. And we, the two of us, killed that workout. We sweat, we ached, we pushed through the desire to ease up and the urge to quit.

I’m a work in progress, of course. I know there will be days I struggle to remain disciplined, when my character fails, when I don’t muster the strength to keep going without the unreliable external force of motivation. I am understanding, though, the role discipline is going to make in my success and it is exciting to feel I have turned that corner. Perhaps this will be the difference between achieving my ultimate goals and petering out before I get there.

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