As with anything of value, achieving better health and fitness requires ongoing work. You’ve got to keep turning up to training, and you need consistently strong efforts in training. You’ve got to stay on top of your nutrition, and you need to take care of your recovery needs such as sleep, stretching and rest. All. The. Time.
Such a consistent effort surely requires motivation. How would you even get started without some form of motivation? You need discipline too, though. Self-discipline, to be precise. But what’s the difference between the two?
Motivation is defined as “your desire or willingness to do something.” It’s the fuel that gets you started, and we know that the hardest part of any task is getting started. When your motivation is high you have momentum. However, that momentum is based on emotion and emotions tap out quickly.
You see, your reasons for training and eating well may never change. Whereas your desire or willingness to take the necessary actions for those reasons is fickle.
Let’s look at the example of ‘Jane.’ Jane has just confirmed her wedding date six months away. She wants to get there in the best physical shape possible so unpacks her moldy training gear and books her sessions for the following week. She’s super motivated and the excitement about the wedding encourages her momentum.
Her first two weeks are rocking. She’s met her attendance goals and is already feeling better–she’s got even more momentum! But week two ends with unpleasant news, her wedding planner has ditched her. Naturally, Jane is worried and miserable. She opts for some wine-o-therapy over the weekend and come time for her Monday morning training session is lacking both energy and motivation to go. So she skips the session.
And the next because she’s guilty about missing the first, and then feels less fit so misses another, and then it’s the weekend and oh look, wine!
Desire, willingness and excitement–the emotions that drive motivation–last only for three to six weeks. You lose the emotional drive as the task becomes habit and that’s when your momentum drops.
Self-discipline refers to “your capacity to control your feelings and actions in pursuit of your goals.” Whereas motivation refers to why you start a task, self-discipline refers to what you do to achieve the end goal. It is self-control.
Discipline enables you to keep going even when your motivation is wavering. Discipline, however, is more difficult to achieve than motivation. You feel good when you’re motivated, but with discipline you learn to ride out the bad days, the failures and the crappy emotions. It’s like getting through a nasty workout–it’s uncomfortable, but you know it’s going to be good for you so you stick it out.
Discipline is arguably more important, but you need motivation too. Here are some tips to make the most out of the good motivation while establishing discipline.
- Set SMART goals
- Ride out the three to six week motivation wave, once you’re through that you’re naturally developing discipline
- Make the most out of your momentum by making your goals public
- Acknowledge and accept that you will have bad days, they’re a part of the process
- Strive for balance by rewarding yourself for the small wins
Adhere to a behaviour for eight weeks and it becomes a habit, and then tasks that required a lot of effort become a breeze!