What keeps you going when the motivation isn’t there.
We all know the feeling, “I just don’t feel like doing it”, usually referring to right now or today. The feeling is not just tied to effortful tasks (although it usually is); I don’t feel like going to work, I don’t feel like going to the gym or training, I don’t feel like watching that movie, I don’t feel like eating that for dinner…and so on and so on. So what do we have to get us through the times when we don’t feel like doing something? Discipline, duty and demand.
Relying on motivation to get things done is “fool’s gold” really in the grand scheme of things. Very few people have such strong intrinsic (or internal) motivation and drive/will to keep them going, day in, day out – So, the majority of us mere mortals need something us…and that is where discipline comes in. “Discipline equals freedom”, the mantra of retired Navy Seal, Jocko Willink, immediately springs to mind. For Jocko, “there must be discipline”, says the man committed to getting up at 4:30am and taking a picture of his very functional watch every morning on Instagram. The discipline in his life, especially doing things he doesn’t always want to do, gives him the freedom to do the things he wants to do.
Discipline is more about maintaining an action or correcting a misaction. It is about obeying a code and governing your life. Another retired Navy Seal springs to mind in David Goggins. It’s funny listening to people say to Goggins “oh, you must love running…” and he’s like “nah, I fucking hate it!”, but he does it even when he doesn’t feel like it, perhaps even more so when he doesn’t feel like it – almost like telling the devil uh-uh, not today motherfucker! Sometimes it’s handy to view discipline in the sense of “mind control”, where you use your mind to tell the body what it is going to do whether it likes it or not.
Goggins admits he now feels a bit compelled to run as much as he does given the following he’s built up and how people have come to depend on him to “stay hard” (his mantra) – in essence he feels obligated – which moves us onto our second topic of duty. Duty is concerned with what you are morally or legal obligated to do, the former being more applicable in this case. Put it another way, duty is about ethics, what is the right thing to do, what must I do, whereas discipline is how do I replicate the right behaviour (and not the wrong behaviour) on a consistent basis. Naturally, duty and discipline go hand-in-hand. Duty is about honour, responsibility and an expectation to perform a task/job/role and/or in a certain circumstance. I’m sure for many of us a sense of duty to our partner and/or family is what keeps us going to work most days.
And this is where we move onto our third and final topic of demand. Given how we are talking about when motivation is absent, I’m more referring to demand by others than of one self – and this can obviously blend with duty as well. Demand is more associated with a command or request, an order or stipulation usually as a way of some form of right to do so. Sometimes if we find ourselves unable or unwilling to do something, it’s good to think of someone we could do it for. This is one way of working with addicts who generally don’t care about their own wellbeing, but will (attempt) to change for their behaviour for someone else. So, to use an economic analogy, when the demand comes a-callin’, are you going to supply yourself?
“Life is full of moments where we don’t have motivation or are demotivated – why? Where is our aim? When is our aim? Is it in the future looking back or in the present?”
It is very easy to get demotivated when we are not getting the results we wanted from our inputs in our pursuits. When I write a new post or do a new video and get zero interaction or when I check my subscriber/follower numbers it is very demotivating, but I use discipline to produce a new article every Friday and a video on the following Wednesday. I feel I have a duty, a moral obligation, to help people live a good life, to live better lives than they are currently leading. I do this through sharing my insight and by trying to expand people’s knowledge of themselves and the world around them and by attempting to displace bad ideas with better ones. When sometimes I’m struggling to write and someone asks me, “what are you writing about this week?”, in a way I treat this as a request (demand) to supply something of interest to read or view – so, even if I’m finding it difficult to do it for me, I have someone else to strive doing it for.
Discipline, duty, demand…three supplements to take for a deficiency in motivation.