Imagine you owned a solar powered car. Silent, clean, and cheap to run on top. Great for fun rides, afternoon appointments or weekend excursions. Not so much for getting to work every day and on time. For that you would need something that’s less dependent on time, weather and seasons. Because although sunshine is free, it’s not reliable.
Motivation as a driving force is similar to sunshine. It doesn’t cost you any effort, but it’s not very reliable either. If you lack the necessary drive to complete a task, you might try solving that by looking for ways to get ‘more motivated’. Unfortunately that road is a dead end. Asking for more motivation is like sitting in a solar-powered car, asking the sun to shine more. The problem isn’t that the sun doesn’t always shine, it’s that your car depends on it.
If you’re in the dark, frustrated, unable to get anywhere, it’s time to consider a more conventionally powered car. How about one that’s running on gasoline? It’s not as clean, silent or cheap to run, but it’s reliable. If sunshine is motivation, what’s the equivalent to gasoline? It’s what moves you forward even on rainy days: Discipline.
Oh. That’s not very sexy. Neither is a Toyota. Yet discipline-driven Toyota sold nearly 8 million cars in 2014. The entire market for inspiring, motivational, commercially available, solar-powered cars in 2014? Zero.
Why It Works
If you find yourself without both, motivation or discipline, you might wonder what difference it makes. In fact, if you don’t have any money, sunshine might even seem more obtainable than gasoline. Is it easier to get started with motivation? Sure. But if you want to make it all the way to your destination, you won’t be able to avoid discipline.
You Can Influence It
Discipline is hard, but at least it’s something you can influence. You can kick-start discipline by creating external pressure, like entering a weight loss contest with your friends or committing to deadlines that you communicate to your clients.
Any initial boost you receive, is a shot at leveraging this one-time burst into a long-term habit. Initial results can show you that you’re on the right track, giving you more confidence for the future. The real change then happens after you establish new habits.
You can increase discipline by removing distractions – whether it’s blocking websites, or throwing out unhealthy snacks. Changing your environment, making it easier to stick to good habits and more bothersome to continue with bad ones has a significant impact on your levels of discipline.
Few things will affect your ability to exercise self-discipline as much as getting enough sleep. You can literally become more disciplined while you sleep. If you need an alarm clock to get up in time, that’s usually a sign that you don’t get enough sleep. When you’re well-rested, your gas tank is full and you’ll go much further.
You Can Depend On It
It’s hard to predict motivation. If you’ve been motivated all of last week, that doesn’t mean you’ll still be motivated next week. However, if you’ve been disciplined the entire last week, odds are you’ll carry on that way.
I don’t know if a sporadic activity that depends on my motivation at the time – like an impromptu run in the park – is really going to happen. But I’m virtually certain that my activities that by now have become habits, be it brushing my teeth or logging calories, get completed.
You Can Overcome Obstacles
There’s obstacles that can stop a solar car dead in its tracks: Rain storms, night fall, and sometimes even just steep hills. If your car runs on gasoline, those may be mere nuisances at most rather than the deal killers these present for solar-powered cars.
Motivation let’s you do the things that are fun and easy. Discipline let’s you power through the hard and unpleasant parts.
It’s that cost of effort that makes the outcome valuable. If an effort is only made up of easy, fun or inspiring steps, it may not lead to something that other people are wiling to hire you for.
Pick Worthwhile Destinations
Running a car is expensive and cumbersome. Insurance, maintenance, gasoline – it all adds up. Not to mention traffic jams, finding a parking spot and dealing with bad drivers. Unless wherever you’re going is worth that kind of effort, you won’t see much point to getting into the car and putting up with it.
When discipline fails, it’s often because of one of two causes: We either try to reach a destination too fast and crash on the way, or our destination isn’t that worthwhile to begin with.
If you don’t feel strongly about going, a thing as small as a traffic report can be all the discouragement you need to opt to not head out. If your destination isn’t truly important to you, you’ll only bother going if you enjoy driving in the first place. If your destination isn’t rewarding, you won’t see it worth the cost of getting there. If your destination isn’t inspiring, it won’t matter what kind of car you have. You’ll end up staying at home and watching Seinfeld reruns.
You Can Do It
Motivation costs you little, but it won’t take you to your destination unless it’s only a sunny day’s drive away. Discipline, on the other hand, can be purchased with effort, doesn’t require you to design your schedule around its availability, and won’t get you stranded just because the earth rotates.
If a rainy day brought you to a stand still, don’t ask how to get more motivated, but instead, push towards ending your dependence on it.