Motivation is a convenience. It is not a requirement to get things done; it’s a nice-to-have. You might blame [lack of] motivation for not accomplishing a task, but the tools are there, the support is there. You either don’t want it bad enough or you’re lazy.
There are days when even high-energy people have trouble springing out of bed. I’m sure Michael Phelps has days where he doesn’t want to jump into the pool.
You can read motivational quotes all day. You can read motivational stories and defer to Instagram for inspiration (#fitspiration), but I guarantee there will be days when you can’t get it going. Your boss is being an asshole. You had a fight with your significant other. You can’t get your thoughts together. You’re depressed. You’re too. Damn. Tired.
Getting shit done is a combination of hustle, discipline, and good habits. Make these attributes part of your being—to the point where don’t have to think when you want to tackle a project.
1. Embrace the suck
This is a term that’s used in the US Army when you are put in a shitty situation. “Suck” = “shitty situation.”
When soldiers are put in this situation, they are faced with two choices:
1. Bitch, moan and complain.
2. Accept their reality and respond like King Leonidas.
Be comfortable with being uncomfortable as the saying goes.
These soldiers honor their duty and so should you. You have a duty to your employer, your family, your business, your health, and yourself.
Duty > Motivation
Embracing the suck is accepting the reality that you don’t want to get started. But this isn’t an excuse NOT to get started. In fact, this is the perfect opportunity to. . .
2. Take the first step
Sometimes it’s simply showing up that allows us to get things going. An old college professor once said, “If you do the bare minimum by showing up to class then you’ll at least get a C. The material isn’t hard. It’s the effort you put in.”
Take the first step and just show up. You’ll at least attain average.
I’ll go to the gym in an unmotivated state but I know that once I’m there I have no choice but to exercise. I’ll get into my groove once I get started.
3. Set a low goal
Small successes build confidence.
If a quarterback is inexperienced or is having a rough game, the coach will call plays that require the quarterback to make quick and easy passes. A few completions here and there, a couple first downs, and this can be enough to build confidence for the quarterback to make a big play.
When I begin an article when unmotivated, I go for quick wins. I create a title, a couple key points, and jot down some random thoughts. These small milestones will be enough to make me hit my second wind and keep writing.
Discipline > Motivation
I am writing this article as I just completed a grueling nine-mile hike. I am filthy, hot, and exhausted. I am tempted to put on Netflix and sit on my ass for the rest of the day. I really really want to put on Netflix and sit on my ass for the day. The timing for beginning this article is terrible given the state I am in.
But I created the title, key points, and am in the midst of jotting down my thoughts. I am in the zone now. It took me a while to develop discipline. Sim Campbell from Unstoppable Rise has a great piece on discipline—specifically why some people are more disciplined than others.
4. Take a mental breather
When Thomas Edison hit a roadblock he’d go to sleep and get back to work when he woke up.
Go for a walk. Take a nap. Listen to music. Watch something uplifting.
Sometimes you just need to walk away for a few moments to get re-energized.
I’m not telling you to watch binge on Game of Thrones.
5. Realize this is your breaking point
It’s easy at this point to give up and veg out on Netflix or cry yourself to sleep. But realize this is what everyone else does. It is dangerously easy to give up or create an excuse to throw in the towel. “I’ll write off today and get started tomorrow.”
If you feel you’ve settled for mediocrity, realize that it’s moment like these that have gotten you here. Getting in shape, building a business, landing your dream job is not supposed to be easy. It’s meant for those that spring passed the ones that are taking a break.
Hustle > Motivation
Tell the negativity to fuck off
It’s usually at this point where your negative self-talk takes over.
“I’m not good enough.”
“What will people think?”
These are natural but unacceptable thoughts.
There will be days where you’ll be motivated. And there will be days when the thought of embracing the suck will make you want to swallow a bullet. When you’re faced with your endeavor, you’ll have a natural reaction to analyze the 25 other things you need to do to accomplish your goal. You’ll want to procrastinate or give up. The main point is to start at step 1. Then move forward.
Make taking action your instinct. Ingrain hustle into your DNA. Make hustling something you don’t have to think to do. You don’t decide to tie your shoes. You don’t decide that you’re hungry. You know what to do when you put on your shoes. And you know what to do when you’re hungry. You don’t need the motivation to tie your shoes or relieve your hunger.
Motivation is always involved in some way shape or form. You are motivated to make more money or to learn a new skill. But like Seth Godin says, you’ll eventually hit your Dip. Motivation will subside and you’ll be faced with a challenge. It is where your sense of duty takes over—your discipline and hustle.
Great progress begins with tiny steps of action, not motivation.