motivation is worthless

Motivation is worthless.

I read a lot of self-improvement, self-help, whatever you call the body of work that’s specifically about improving the individual (as opposed to something more general, like a book on how to cook).  Articles, books, blogs, etc.  I listen to podcasts, watch vlogs – I consume a lot of it.  Some of this is self-improvement tourism, the idea that you improve yourself simply by learning about ideas and actions that you may or may not put in place.  Some is genuine desire to learn about how great achievers managed to do what they did (reading about Benjamin Franklin or Elon Musk).  But one of the key things I’ve taken away from all of them is that motivation is worthless in and of itself.  This flies in the face of the “pursue your passion” thinking so prevalent on the startup/millenial focused internet.

Discipline equals freedom.

Jocko Willink

A couple of years ago, I found myself in a mess.  Back out of shape (I’ve been through THAT before), struggling with a career that had seemed headed in a good direction (I left a consulting career to pursue the “heights” of corporate America, again) and just a general struggle with daily existence.  I read a short article talking about the commencement speech Navy Adm. William H. McCraven gave at his alma mater, the University of Texas, in 2014.  You’re probably familiar with it by now, it’s entered the public awareness, but he basically told grads to start the day making their beds.  The reason is simple:  discipline will MAKE motivation.  Motivation is worthless, in the long run.

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.

Jim Rohn

This was certainly true for me.  I started making the bed every day, but that wasn’t the root habit that really turned things around for me.  What did was doing one pushup every morning.  I didn’t shoot for anything more than the consistency of doing one.  If I was running late, sick, unmotivated (!), whatever… do one pushup.  And at first, that one pushup was a struggle.  When you’ve hit a skid in life where most of your actions are driven by reaction rather than purpose, anything in the morning feels like an obligation you’d skip if possible.  But if you do one pushup a few days in a row, one day you’ll do it without thinking.  One day you’ll forget and abashedly drop down to the floor and do one on your way out the door.  And miraculously, one day you’ll do a second one.

Discipline is the difference between what you want now and what you want most.

Author Unknown

Why do we want anything?  I’ve thought about this, as we all do, and I come back to a couple of conclusions.  One is grand and theoretical, and the other is simple and practical.  The former is that we want the continued existence of the species (I’m not talking about biological necessarily, but just that we want to advance humankind in some form, by reproducing, creating a new vaccine, building a rocket ship, etc. etc.).  The latter is simply being happy.  Discipline achieves both.  By applying discipline in the form of a pushup, I reclaimed my health, focus, and yes, motivation, which is only worthless as a means of starting to do things.  I apply this concept of discipline first, motivation second to most of my lifestyle design these days, and it works wonder.  Remove the element of requiring motivation and apply the structure of discipline to most aspects of your life and you’ll see results.  Do one pushup every morning.  See what happens.