The silver and gold streamers flutter near your face, the champagne glass you’re holding is being topped off by the hostess, everyone is intently watching the clock with wide eyes and raised brows, and Frank Sinatra is blasting through the speakers as your best friend starts to weep profusely about her poor choice of men the last year and wipe her face on the sleeve of the sequined dress she said would look “so super hot” in.

Yes, my friends, I’m speaking of the dreaded New Year’s Eve, and with a new year comes the inevitable New Year’s Resolution. We’ve all been guilty of feeling a flit of optimism on this celebratory night and spewing our goals for the new year as if your laziness will somehow be overcome by motivation. Yeah right, like when does that happen?

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For those of you who struggle to keep your goals, I say this: motivation is probably not what you need. Motivation is all fine and dandy, but what about whipping yourself up a savory batch of discipline instead? Bear with me.

Discipline. Sounds kinky, right? We’re not talking about bedroom antics here, oh no. What I’m talking about is giving yourself a goal, and sticking to it because of this magical little word.

Let’s talk about human nature for a bit.

When you were in school and the teacher gave you homework, what did you do? You did your homework, yes? If you didn’t, then shame on you. But hey, that’s your choice. Let’s stay on topic. For those of you who completed your homework and turned it in (10 points for Gryffindor), why do you think you did? Is it because you wanted to get that A-Plus scholarship sooooo bad in 2nd grade?

Probably not. I can, however, guess the most likely reason why: Discipline. Mmmmm, it sounds so sweet rolling off the tongue. Try it. Yeeeeeah, smooth. Like a grape popsicle dipped in Welch’s Grape Juice. You did that homework because you had to or chaos would run rampant in your life; your mom would have choked you, your dad would have sent you away to a convent or work camp, and your Aunt Mabel wouldn’t have given you that twenty dollars on your birthday.

Yes, my friend, discipline is what keeps the wheels and cogs of this world moving. Without it, motivation is just a word that sounds like a car part I don’t know what to do with. How many times have you uttered the phrase: “I need more motivation”? What is the use of motivation if you don’t create disciplined standards for yourself?

Ever heard of Stephen Covey? You’re about to. This brilliant man said that we don’t achieve our goals because there is a difference between how we do something important compared to how we do something urgent. Your homework in school was urgent because you’d have gotten your arse beat if you didn’t do it, and your goals are just important because they come from yourself. Just important, you ask? Yes.

P.S., buy Mr. Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Peoplehere. Moving on…

So, the question you should be asking but I’ll give to you anyway is this: well jee whiz, how do I make something important into something urgent? Wow, what an awesome question (20 points for Gryffindor)! To make a goal urgent, it needs to be dipped in chocolate discipline, covered in motivation sprinkles, wrapped in discipline cellophane, and packaged in a discipline box. Seeing a theme here?

Start small. Make yourself a checklist of things that are urgent. Heck, even write urgent on the top of the checklist. Wow! Don’t even let motivation ruin it for you. Say “this list must be completed today or I will get a butt whooping”, except dad won’t get that switch in the yard, you’ll do it yourself. Hah, I’m kidding, no self flatuation here. Wait, that’s not right. Don’t let yourself even ponder not doing the things on your list; make it mandatory. This is where discipline begins, my friend.

The next time you decide to start that exercise plan or tell yourself “I’m going to learn Cliffs of Dover and play it at Aunt Mabel’s 5th wedding in three months”, think of motivation as the kick-starter for your goal, not the driving force. If you have discipline, even when you don’t “feel like” going to the gym or busting out the old Stratocaster, it will get you through those slumps. If you tell yourself you have to do it, eventually it will become second nature and you’ll have achieved a goal you never thought achievable. Why wait? Try it now. Try it. Go on, try it.

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Nancy likes long walks and fat, fluffy cats


2 thoughts on “Mastering Yourself: When Motivation Doesn’t Cut It

  1. I’ve been giving the discipline idea a lot of thought and am still pondering whether it’s the same thing as having no will power. Do you think having self discipline and having will power are the same?


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