Motivation, Discipline, and Habit

We’ve all failed to reach a goal. You ever stop and think about why though? I’m not talking about surface level reasons like losing interest in your goal or giving into cravings. Those are all symptoms of deeper problems. The reason you aren’t making progress and ultimately reaching your fitness goals is in your mind; it’s not changing to the extent you need it to. There are three mental changes that you have to go through before you get to success; motivational, disciplinary, and habitual. Allow me to explain.

-Motivation is just the beginning. It is like the push out of the nest a mother bird gives its baby when it needs to learn how to fly.

There are an abundance of posts, articles, and pictures dealing with the subject of motivation. Pictures of fitness models and quotes abound on Instagram, Facebook, Pintrest, and Twitter. This is the most talked about mental change, but in my opinion, the least important. We as people can be motivated to do anything, even if we don’t want to. A perfect example is going to work. You don’t want to go to work, but the thought of losing your job or not having an income trumps your desire to stay in bed, so you get up and go anyway. In this case external pressures are causing you to get up. This is called extrinsic motivation. You still hate your job, you still don’t want to be there, and you’re miserable because you are there. If that’s how you feel about your fitness journey, you’ll fail, period. You may be surfing the Web or browsing social media and see a picture or read something that makes you look at yourself and think, “I need to lose weight.” That thought may motivate you to start eating right and start a workout regimen, however, you have to pay attention to whether you’re just hyped up, or if you really want to change for yourself. If you really want to change for yourself and are motivated by internal pressure, that’s intrinsic motivation. Between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, it’s hard to say which one is more powerful. I suppose it depends on the situation. Either way, the pressures from these two types of motivation must be strong enough to make you believe that the only option you have is to set a goal, and get busy trying to accomplish it. I do know that intrinsic motivation stays with you longer than extrinsic motivation does. They both tend to wear off over the long haul and can be negatively affected by various emotions, such as sadness, anger, or even happiness. The same way motivation levels can be impacted by emotions, is the same way motivation levels can impact your attitude. Motivation can be your downfall if you depend on it to keep you on track. Motivation is best used when it is fresh. It is a huge help in making decisions to change or start something new and also in planning out how you’re going to do it.


-Discipline is merely a bridge to new habits.

If your motivation is genuine and you’ve made a serious decision to get started, congratulations, that’s only the beginning. Now comes the hard part, the disciplinary change. The second step that you have to get through is probably the one that gets the most credit for people’s success. To maintain discipline many things have to change in your life. Discipline is inconvenient and must always be on your mind. You must constantly fight those bad habits you have, those habits that have been forged over years of doing the wrong thing. They are your biggest adversaries in this test of self control and willpower. The disciplinary phase is what separates the real from the fake and is where most people give up. How you react to the challenges of this step will show you whether or not you really want something.

-Habit is one of the predominant forces in your decision making process, and ultimately affects your success or failure the most.

The number one reason people don’t have long term success is because they haven’t developed the habits it requires. And just to be clear, if someone says they want to be a certain weight or reach a specific goal, but then they get there and blow all of their progress, that is still a failure in my book. When it comes to being fit or healthy it’s not enough to merely get there once, you have to remain there or go further. Discipline requires willpower and willpower runs out, habits are automatic and can last forever. Habits that support your goal are the real keys to success, not motivation and not discipline. In order to build habits, you have to be disciplined enough to do the same things over and over again, and at the same times everyday. I read this book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhig and it gave me some good insight into a habit’s effect on a person. In the beginning of the book, it told the story of a man who lost his memory due to illness. The extraordinary thing about this man’s story is even though he lost his memory, his habits still remained intact and they continued to have an effect on his daily life. That’s how powerful habits are. All those male and female fitness models out there look the way they do because they have good habits.Those habits support their goals and cause them to maintain the progress they’ve made pretty much automatically. Yes, they needed to be motivated to get started. Yes, they had to have discipline to keep going. Ultimately, their habits are what allow them to stay in the game for the long haul.

So if you take anything away from this post it should be these 4 things

  1. Motivation is not a feeling you can depend on.
  2. Discipline only works when its end goal is to form habits. Discipline for discipline’s sake will exhaust you.
  3. Habits, above all else, are the key to your long term success.
  4. Motivation, discipline, and habits all work hand in hand.

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Photo Credit: Roland Tanglao