Motivation = Discipline, Process, Rhythm

If you were to take a moment and peruse online literature about fitness, you would likely come across witty keywords and phrases centered on intrinsic motivation and perseverance. There is so much of this shit out there; it makes me sick. It is almost like people need to be reminded how to accomplish their goals and need a little pep talk every day to function.  Much of this proverbial vomit comes from self-proclaimed fitness experts that feel that they have the answer for you as it pertains to reaching your personal fitness goals via motivational malarkey, worthless step-by-step lists, and nebulous snippets of “advice” aimed to appease a laymen reader.  Most of it is a steaming pile of excrement. Don’t get me wrong, there are some incredibly knowledgeable fitness gurus out there, but there are much more who are not.

Let me stop there for a minute and say that I indeed do not have a Ph.D. in nutritional science or exercise physiology, and I do not claim to be a health and fitness professional or motivational speaker. The truth of the matter is that I found the gym at 14-years-old. The minute I stepped into a gym, I felt safe…it was my place…a place to clear my mind and get to work. For me, the results are, and always have been icing on the cake, but competing, or getting bigger and stronger was never my motivation. With that said, I truly believe that online “noise” and relying on “professional advice” as a source of motivation to improve yourself is detrimental to overall progress. In no way does this mean that you should not educate yourself and learn how different exercise movements impact different muscles, how to perform exercises correctly, or in what way to adjust macronutrient intake to maximize results properly. I am all for learning new things and expanding my knowledge.

The bottom line is that we are all individuals with individual needs and perceptions of the environment around us. There is no hack or “one size fits all” solution to our mental or physical existence and what we deem a success. There is no external source of motivation that will sustain the test of time.

If you truly want to accomplish something, you are going to do it, and you are going to see it through. You may have some barriers that you need to overcome (we all do), but you will find a way to succeed. You won’t need assistance from a book or some online social media factotum who makes life look so easy and who makes you wonder what you are doing wrong. By the same token, if you are not committed to yourself, and rely on external sources of motivation, you will soon start making excuses why you will not be able to achieve your goals. I am certainly guilty of boarding the excuse train…we all are.  It is easy to make a marriage, children, and a demanding professional career an excuse for not doing something for yourself. There are many other “excellent excuses” as well.

With that said, I want to offer the following thoughts on what works for me as it pertains to planting the seed of motivation and then ensuring strong roots take hold. I am not offering advice, just my thoughts. I believe that motivation is not a naturally sustaining phenomenon. Just think about it for a minute. Remember the last time you got excited about something and decided that you were going to go out there and take over the world? On the first day, you had goosebumps, energy, and were kicking ass and taking names. You felt the same way on the second day, but your energy levels were not quite as high as they were on the first day. On the third day, you got distracted, made an excuse for yourself, and decided to pick up where you left off the following day. On the fourth day, another excuse emerged, and then another, and another, and before you knew it you were telling yourself you would try again in a few months when the “time was right.” What went wrong? How did you fail?

Let’s swing back to my statement about the non-sustaining nature of motivation. Without discipline, a process, and rhythm, the scenario I described will happen every time you attempt to go after a personal goal. In other words, the key to sustaining motivation is viewing it as a process versus some supernatural force that should permeate every aspect of your existence. This approach, in my opinion, is even more critical if you already have a hectic personal and professional life. So how can motivation be looked at as a process? Let’s look at what I am saying a different way. Let’s pretend you want to start a company that manufactures basketballs. The goal is to create high-quality basketballs that consumers will purchase from retail locations who carry your product. To achieve your vision, you cannot merely wish the basketballs to appear, nor can you take a haphazard approach to producing basketballs by setting up shop in your garage. The only way to accomplish your goal is to implement a disciplined, tangible and realistic process that ensures the output of high-quality basketballs. If the motivation is to create basketballs, you need to find a real way to get there. So, let’s say you come up with this impressive and efficient manufacturing process to produce said basketballs. You’ve applied Lean, and Six Sigma management principles and you know your method is tight. Guess what? You are still going to pump out a certain percentage of basketballs that do not pass quality assurance/quality control standards. Does that mean your process is faulty? No. Every process has failures, and the only way to improve upon shortcomings is to accept them for what they are and implement appropriate mitigation strategies.

The same manufacturing example described can be applied to fitness motivation and sustaining a consistent output of motivation to achieve the desired result. Some of what I am referencing in this post is highlighted in my last piece titled “A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish.”  If you have a few minutes to burn, I encourage you to check it out. The way I’ve approached process development for my personal fitness goals is first to identify what I want to achieve. With a goal in mind, I then developed a plan or process to keep myself accountable, and most importantly, I established a daily rhythm, more conventionally known as a routine. I am not just talking about a workout routine; I am talking about a life routine.

To honestly stay committed and motivated, I firmly believe that you must keep beating the drum, you must stay on task, and your daily rhythm must become second nature.

You must get to the point where you feel incomplete if you miss a workout or miss a meal. You must get to the point where you think you’ve failed if you don’t wake up when your alarm clock sounds in the wee hours of the morning while most of the world is still sleeping. That, in my opinion, is when you know you’ve turned the corner, you’ve established a rhythm, and true discipline is taking hold. With that said, you are still going to be bumps in the road…you will always come up against personal challenges, but you will know how to get past them, and you won’t need help from an external source to get you there.

Since I launched Reignite, I’ve swerved off the road many times. I’ve missed some workouts. I’ve fallen short on my daily caloric intake and macronutrient ratios. I’ve gone to bed too late and slept through my “workout” alarm only to be jostled out of bed by my “you better get your ass up now, or you are going to be late for work alarm.” I am not perfect. We are not perfect. The key is not to make excuses for the bumps and let them become consistent. I look at each missed workout or missed meal as an opportunity to get better…a chance to development process improvement strategies to avoid future defects and improve my pass/fail rate.

The overall goal is to have a significantly higher percentage of good days than bad days and to continue pursuing perfection while realizing perfection is impossible.

The only way to achieve that goal is through discipline, a process, and rhythm. Keep grinding my friends.

The Duffle Bag

This Christmas was the first time in as long as I can remember that I was not with family. It was not intended to be that way, but things happen…life happens. Luckily, I have some awesome friends that are always there when I need them. One friend graciously invited me to have Christmas dinner with his family last night.

I met him in college about ten years ago, and we’ve been friends ever since. When we first met, we were both in excellent shape. I had just completed a bodybuilding show about five months earlier and he as actively hitting the weights and training like a madman with his martial arts instructor. After sizing each other up in the classroom, we finally confronted each other. Our first conversation probably went something like “Hey man, where do you train? What supplements are you using?” A bromance in the making! Some of you reading this may have a similar story or may even be laughing right now because you know precisely the type of conversation I’m referencing.

Anyway, the guy is a great cook. For Christmas dinner, he served up an excellent roast, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, and other holiday fixings. The meal came complete with music and good conversation. After dinner, we temporarily retreated to his outdoor balcony for a bullshit session and started talking about values and priorities. This particular talk is the reason for this post. The conversation kicked off with a short discussion about Jocko Willink. For those of you unfamiliar with Jocko, he is a former U.S. Navy Seal and probably one of the most motivational figures out there today. He has written several books and also has a podcast. Often, I listen to his podcast on the way to work in the morning. You can order his books and listen to his podcast here: http://jockopodcast.com/.  After our brief chat about a dude way more bad ass than we could ever be, we started talking about ownership, and values.

Regarding ownership, we discussed owning our actions and decisions and not blaming others for heartache, hardship, and challenges. Often, it is easy to blame someone or something for a problem we are experiencing. Think about it for a minute. How many times have you blamed someone else for a challenge? How many times have you blamed your boss for not giving you a raise, or blamed your parents for some developmental issue? How many times have you scrolled through social media and looked at some of your friends achieving something great and then made an excuse for why you are not in the same position. Just think about it for a minute and a guarantee you can come up with at least ten examples within a minute or two.

The bottom line is that we (you, me, everyone) cannot control anything except ourselves. Our ideas, decisions, and actions are the only things we can control.

Ten years ago, for example, I was in the best shape of my life. I worked hard in the gym every day, ate the right foods, slept eight hours every night, and woke up early in the morning – often at 4:30 or 5:00 every day. When I moved away from that life to focus on my family and career that was MY decision, and it was the right decision. As a result of that decision, I cut back on my time in the gym, ate different foods, went to bed late, and woke up with just enough time to get ready for work. Over time, and although I never stopped going to the gym, my overall level of fitness declined. I made those decisions, and I own those decisions.

The next half of our discussion focused on values, which gave me the idea for this post. This part of the discussion started merely as a bitch session about parenting and how much of a pain in the ass it can be to deal with children. Don’t get me wrong…I love being a dad to my two beautiful children, but they can certainly push me to the edge sometimes. I’m sure most of you who are parents would agree. Anyway, my friend started talking about his 10-year-old son and a recent incident where he filled a duffle bag full of toys in preparation for a sleepover and then threw a fit because the bag was too heavy and he couldn’t carry it to the car. “If it is too heavy, take some toys out of the bag, son,” my friend said as he reflected on the duffle bag conundrum that occurred a few days earlier. “I don’t want too! I want to take everything with me!” his son replied. At that point, my friend said, he took his son by the arm, sat him down, and explained that “there is only so much one little boy can carry, and only the toys that he values most should stay in the bag.” After hearing about his son’s duffle bag fiasco, I immediately turned to my friend and said: “you know man, that is a good metaphor for value systems.” Think about it this way – the toys represent values, and the duffle bag represents a person. There are only so many things we can value at any given time, and we must prioritize those values appropriately. If we do not efficiently do this, the bag becomes too heavy, and we become a burden to ourselves which translates to an unhappy life. More directly, we cannot give a fuck about everything all the time. We need to be selective with our values, and go out there and get it done with 100 percent effort.

A set of healthy and manageable values drives discipline, and discipline drives success.

Being consciously aware of this is essential, but only half the battle. Regardless of the weight of the duffle bag, we still have to pick it up and move it – there is no change without action…every destination has a starting point.