Sunday, 12 October 2014

On Motivation and Discipline

I have been noodling over the question of motivation for some time now.  I first began working out (most recently) more than two and a half years ago, and when I started I was, to put it mildly, extremely motivated to lose weight.  Breaking a chair in front of your closest friends and their partners will do that.

A little more than a year ago, however, my motivation started to flag and my eating habits began to revert to their prior state.  My unhappiness with my job led me to rationalize all sorts of destructive emotional eating, and although I was still working out 6 days a week, those workouts became less intense over time, and more pro forma.  We all know that you can't outrun your fork, yes?  And I was carrying a BIG fork.

Time passed and I got a wonderful new job and I finally stopped giving myself excuses for slacking.  Somewhere in the spring of this year I stopped being merely motivated, and I started returning to being disciplined.  It wasn't enough to simply check the boxes, I needed to actually push myself one way or another, every day.  I had to push the workouts or push the eating habits to be healthier, or both, preferably daily, or at least much more often than not.

Discipline means getting up in the dark and the rain to go for a training walk because it's on the schedule.  Discipline means getting up early to get in a full workout before a family dinner rather than sleeping in.  Discipline means doing things you don't want to do because they're the right thing to do. 

Here's the thing that blows my mind - - if you are disciplined, it doesn't matter if you're motivated or not - - you will still see the results.  And the nice thing about being disciplined is that if you do happen to be motivated, it feels easier to be disciplined.  But if you're disciplined it won't matter if the motivation is there or not, because you will kick your ass to the gym and watch what you eat regardless.

I am not perfect, god knows.  I still struggle with emotional eating habits that I have built up over decades, so I know they're not going to break overnight or even over a year or two.  I will have to fight to stay disciplined every day for the rest of my life, which is a somewhat depressing thought.  And yet...that's not so depressing.  I know that I can be disciplined a day at a time, which is all that it takes.  Motivation was always a more slippery concept for me - - sometimes it was there, and sometimes it wasn't.  In contrast, discipline is more of a habit that can be nurtured and strengthened over time.  I know that for all my failings I am much more disciplined now than I was when I first started workout out, and some of those healthy habits - - working out 6 days a week, eating more vegetables - - are easier to do now that they are more ingrained.

Several of my MyFitnessPal friends have been struggling with motivation lately (as I was before I started my new job) and I have been giving a lot of thought to the distinction between motivation and discipline.  I know there will be those who disagree with me, but I really do think that it's easier to be disciplined than it is to stay motivated, because you can take it one day at a time.  For me, I really don't care how I get there if I see results as long as the way is healthy and sustainable.  If being disciplined is the way I am going to hit my goals, then being disciplined is the way things will have to be. 

This is all boldly stated by the woman who will be faced with 2 birthday cakes and a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner today, so we'll see how disciplined I really am!

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