Nobody Cares if You’re Motivated

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The past couple of weeks, I have been mentally out of the discipline game.  I haven’t gone off the deep end where I’m running around eating, drinking, and doing whatever I want, but I feel like I definitely have allowed myself a lot more slack than I normally do.

This might not be the end of the world, but for me, who is used to carrying things out in a timely and orderly fashion, I can completely tell that I am not at the top of my game, and I hate it.  I have so many things that I want to accomplish, yet I seem to keep sliding backwards when I should be striding forward.

I desperately want all of my goals to be accomplished.  So why is my motivation not propelling me forward in the way that a burning desire should?

Motivation isn’t the catalyst.

I read or heard something recently that you don’t need more motivation, you need more discipline.  This could not be more true in my experience: I am completely motivated to get my real estate license and to lose the last 5-8 lbs that I need to lose in order to be completely happy with my bikini bod, but the last couple weeks with discipline being completely thrown out the window, I can tell that my body is a little softer than it was 4 weeks ago, and I’m still on my first real estate book when I had planned to be on my second by now.

And so, here I sit, no real estate license in hand and jeans a bit more snug that I would like.  Nobody wants to hear about the time you were motivated to almost finish a race or almost start your own business.  We love stories about actual results.

Why, then, are people so quick to blame lack of motivation or claim they need to do all these things to get motivated to do something?  Why don’t they simply put their nose to the grindstone and start to see results?

 

Sadly, the truth isn’t exciting.

Quite frankly, discipline sucks.  No one WANTS to constantly resist all of the tempting foods that are constantly being shoved in our face.  It’s definitely not FUN to stay home on a Friday night once again so that you can pop out of bed bright and early on Saturday morning.  It’s BORING to sit down to the table to read a chapter for the 17th day in a row rather than flip on the TV to the latest hit show.

Motivation, on the other hand, is addicting.  It’s highly enjoyable to get all hyped up about something, especially if you are getting pumped up in a crowd.  You see people who have accomplished what you want to accomplish.  You hear about how they achieved this body or that amount of customers or traveled to this many places, and their story inspires you to make more of a push for your goals.

But the thing is, most goals are not going to be accomplished in the hour or two where your motivation is at peak levels.  If motivation is the only that that is fueling your fire, than you will be shivering in the cold long before the end game is in sight.

It takes discipline to go the long haul.  You are going to have to go out to the woods, chop a tree, bring it back piece by piece, and do this over and over again to keep that fire burning.

Simply put, discipline is the ONLY THING that guarantees your results.  The very nature of discipline implies consistency, and if you are consistent with anything long enough, you will eventually achieve your desire in one form or another.

Any time that I look at what I have or don’t have and try to mentally complain about how it’s not fair that I’m not at this or that level, I can always force myself to look back and see the lack of consistency that led me to where I am at that moment.

Discipline is hard.  But eventually, discipline leads to habit, and once you’ve reached habitual levels of consistent effort, your progress will speed up tremendously.

However, life still likes to throw roadblocks at you in the form of unexpected events.  When I have a week where my routine is uninterrupted, my food consumption, gym attendance, and learning schedule are unchallenged and go off without a hitch.

But throw in a random meeting or two, life responsibilities that take a lot of time in my otherwise normal day, and people who are visiting or who want to hang out, and my discipline goes out the window.

So, in reality, I’m actually not that disciplined.  If I was, I would be able to navigate those stumbling blocks with ease, and keep my eyes on what it is that I want long-term.

This is a sucky thing to admit to oneself, especially if you have an image in your mind that encompasses all you WANT to be, versus where you really are.  And once again, I have all the motivation in the world to want to be fit and advance my learning in general, but when it comes down to it, desire doesn’t matter.

Your body doesn’t react to what you WANT it to look like-it shapes itself based on what you do to it and how you feed it.  Your business doesn’t grow based on what you WANT your revenues to be, it yields tantamount to the consistent effort that is put forth by you and your employees.  When it comes down to the wire, your efforts will show, no matter how much you will them to be different than they are.

There is no shortcut to any success.  Motivation may cause an initial burst of energy that will get you past the breakers, but it is the slow, steady strokes, hand over hand, that will get you across the channel.

So sit down with yourself.  Acknowledge where you want to end up, and how far you are away from it.  Steel yourself for the long haul ahead.  Write out a specific plan for your days, and how you will handle routine interruptions.  Settle into the reality that it’s not going to be a high-energy, full speed ahead race where the finish line is reached in mere seconds.

The journey is long.  It’s arduous.  It’s full of moments that suck.  But in the end, the steady turtle of discipline will outpace the bounding rabbit of motivation every. single. time.

Making a Choice

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If you are a frequent social media user (and really, who isn’t these days), I’m sure you’ve seen the “Just Do It!” video put out by Shia Lebeouf over a year ago. While his gesticulations,  posturing, and total commitment to this piece invite a lot of humor, his overall message fits in nicely with my thoughts today.

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We as humans are masters of making terrible choices and of avoiding decisions whenever  possible.  Which, of course, is the opposite of what we should be doing.  Most people avoid making choices because a)they don’t know what they actually want, b)they don’t want to work hard, or c)they want to keep all options open as long as possible.  In order to get ahead in life, you need to Make. A. Choice., which means you need to have an awareness of the following things:

What do you actually, honestly, want?

There are few, if any people in the world who are true free agents.  Every person has obligations to someone, whether it be to a parent, a spouse, a child, a boss, or another established relationship in your life.  Before you make any choices, you need to think about how your options will affect those commitments, if at all.  Most of the time, we find that we have been using our responsibilities as an excuse to get out of making difficult decisions.  “I know I need to eat healthier, but my family won’t eat the healthy food I make” or “I know I need to work out but my boss demands so much of my time time” or “I want to stop drinking so much but my friends go out all the time”.  The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that you actually don’t want it that bad.

If you really, truly want something, there will be nothing that stands in your way.  I have a friend whose boyfriend drove an hour and a half, in traffic, every weekend in the beginning of the relationship because he valued her.  He actively CHOSE her, against all inconveniences and drawbacks, because he knew what he wanted.  I have another friend who uses his lunch break to work out so he can focus on other personal goals before and after work.  He actively CHOOSES to sacrifice sleep and social time because his aspirations are important to him.  I get up at 5am every weekday so that I can complete my cardio workout regardless of what might come up after work.  I actively CHOOSE to forfeit lazy mornings because I want to maintain my health.

Figure out what you wantMake that knowledge so ingrained in your mind that no one can make your focus waiver.  Then, make choices based on that solid foundation of desire.

What are your options? 

When people make a passive choice (something that they chose by their thoughtless actions rather than actively pursuing it with their mind) they are allowing themselves to believe that they don’t have any other option.  Passive choices come from not acknowledging that there are, in fact, two or more options, but instead simply falling into the easiest pattern of behavior.  “Ah, its after dinner, time to sit and watch TV” or “It’s Taco Tuesday-margaritas again!”  Stop.  Think. What are your actual options?  Which ones are going to lead you closer to where you want to be?

There are always alternatives.  Absolutely hate your current job?  Get a new one.  Sick and tired of constantly buying a bigger pants size?  Change your lifestyle.  Completely annoyed with your roommate?  Find a different living situation.  For every passive decision you have made, there were 2 or 3 other choices that may have led you down a better path.

“But wait”-you’re thinking-“It’s not that easy!”  Of course it’s not easy.  If it was easy, you would have already done it.  We are more than water falling down a hill-we should not always take the path of least resistance.  Honestly look at all of your options, and choose the one that leads you closer to where you want to be, whether it is one big decision or many small cumulative choices.

What aspects about that choice are going to be tough for you?

If you already have a set pattern of behavior, making a choice that directly conflicts with your established system will be difficult.  But what’s even more difficult is looking back ten years down the road and realizing that your life could have been so much different (i.e. better).  Yet you are also not doing yourself any favors if you blithely make a decision and skip off towards your goal without actually considering where you may stumble.

Take measures to be successful.  I know that if I come home from work absolutely starving, it’s going to be extremely hard to wait for my healthy meal to cook without devouring everything in the kitchen beforehand.  Therefore, I cook everything a day in advance so that I don’t have to wait and tempt myself.  If you know that you cannot say no to cookies in the break room, don’t go into the break room.  If you know that being alone with a certain person may cause you to be unfaithful to the man or women in your life, don’t be alone with that person.  If you know that you won’t go to the gym if you stop home beforehand, don’t go home until your workout is complete.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can will yourself through any and all temptation that comes your way when you are first starting out.  Believe me, I’ve told myself that “I got this” for many a social gathering, and then the next day I wonder how the hell I let myself get so out of control.  By anticipating your weak moments in advance, you can make sure you have barriers in place that prevent total collapse.

What do you have to sacrifice?

For some choices that we decide to make, there will be nothing to sacrifice.  However, for most life-changing or hard decisions, there will usually be something that has to be given up.  If you want to lose weight/get in shape, you have to give up unhealthy foods and sitting on your butt all day.  If you want to start a business, you have to give up time spent on happy hours and Sunday Football.  If you want to initiate a new relationship, you have to sacrifice one night stands and going out on weekends prowling for the opposite sex.

However, most of the time our ‘sacrifice’ is not really a loss.  Once you start eating good food, you feel amazing and can’t believe you ever ate crap to begin with.  Once your business gets off the ground, you realize that most of the hours you ‘gave up’ would have actually just been wasted existing rather than growing.  Once your relationship is established, you appreciate the steady love of someone who supports and complements you more than the momentary excitement of a new conquest.

If you truly want what you are choosing, the things you are giving up will not feel like losses.  And when all is said and done, you may realize that your sacrifice actually ended up being a blessing in disguise.


In the end, our most defining feature will be our choices.  Don’t let fear, other people, or routine make your decisions for you.  Don’t make half-choices where you waffle back and forth between two or three different things because you don’t have the cajones to take a stand.  Decide who you want to be and focus your selections based on that conception.  Once you start narrowing your vision and making strides towards your optimal life, you will find whole other planes of existence opening up to you.

You control your future.  You control your present.  You control you.  If you really sit down to think about that, its a terrifying reality yet an amazing opportunity.  Decide what choices will get you to where you want be and Just DO IT!

Discipline

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As I sit here after my final weekend of holiday break, my thoughts keep going back to the importance of discipline.  My last Friday and Saturday of freedom were filled with friends, food, and alcohol.  This makes for great memories and satisfied taste buds, but stepping on the scale this morning sent me right back into the harsh realm of reality and spurred my current contemplation.

This weekend was not a weekend where I practiced discipline at all. In fact, I may even go so far as to say that I ran gleefully into the arms of sloth and then maniacally danced a jig with gluttony.  But why should I care?  I had fun, right?  I spent time with old friends and made new friends, right?  I got to eat delicious food and indulge in all the wine I wanted, right?

Right.

But here’s the thing.  My weekend may have been a “fun” weekend, but for the majority of the time, I felt like shit.  I woke up exhausted on Saturday, and severely hungover on Sunday.  I didn’t do anything productive the entire weekend (minus my workout on Saturday).  I severely torpedoed my diet, and I’ll have to work my ass off this week just to undo the damage before I can actually start making progress again.

Had I just evoked even the slightest bit of discipline into my weekend, I could have saved myself a lot of headache.

But, what exactly is discipline?  Websters online dictionary defines it several different ways:

1:  punishment

 

2 obsolete :  instruction

 

3 :  a field of study

 

4 :  training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character

 

5    a :  control gained by enforcing obedience or order

 

       b :  orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior

 

       c :  self-control

 

6 :  a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity

 

The definitions I feel are most applicable are numbers 4 and 5.  If you re-read those definitions, you should notice a couple of things: one, there is a big emphasis on control, and two, the application of these definitions is not fun.

It is not “fun” to correct your personal thoughts and admit that you are wrong.  It is not “fun” to enforce self-obedience to a gym routine.  It is not “fun” to tie yourself down to a set behavior pattern for work and productivity.  And it is definitely not “fun” to say no to a  moist, fudgy, warm piece of chocolate cake.

BUT, discipline gives you things a lot more valuable than “fun”.

Discipline gives you self-respect.  I have been a card-carrying member of the Weekend Regret club more times than I can count.  However, the weekends where I have allowed myself some slight indulgences but largely practiced discipline with my time and diet turn into Mondays where I feel amazing.  The momentum from the weekend propels me forward rather than pulls me back, and the resulting feeling of pride gives me the extra oomph I need to completely dominate the week.  There is no replacement for self-respect, and practicing discipline is a essential piece that must be in place for this to manifest.

Discipline gives you opportunities.  Having discipline in the workplace, the gym, or with your relationships is rare and will not go unnoticed.  If you have the discipline to knock out the little, annoying stuff successfully at work, this gives off the message that you can be trusted with the bigger, more important projects.  If you have the discipline to make it to the gym on a daily basis, you will connect with people who can give you invaluable knowledge and motivation towards your fitness goals.  If you have the discipline to not compromise on your values, improve yourself constantly, and be loyal to your friends and romantic partner, you will find that people with these same qualities will be attracted to you.

Discipline gives you quality of life.  While it seems counter-intuitive, there is nothing that sabotages your overall happiness  faster than giving in to your every whim.  If I ate a donut every time I craved one, bought a shirt every time I saw a cute one, and kissed a boy every time I saw a hot one, I would be fat, broke, and very single with a tarnished reputation.  Self-denial gives you the stamina and resources necessary to build a life that is enviable.

Discipline gives you hunger for more.  Everyone knows someone who wastes their life eating McDonald’s, playing video games, and working a minimum wage job all while swigging  cases of Mountain Dew and heaving themselves off the couch only when absolutely necessary.  These individuals completely lack discipline, and as a result, they don’t have any desire to do better.  When you start disciplining yourself, the bare minimum is no longer an option.  With every goal you reach, your desire to do more and be more burns hotter.

And most importantly, discipline gives you results.  The weeks where I am completely on point with my diet and gym routine are the weeks that I can see dramatic improvements in my physicality.  The days where I don’t allow myself to get distracted or off-task are the days when I get more done than I had planned on.  When I don’t grant myself permission to step onto the slippery slope of self-indulgence, I am able to keep climbing up the ladder to success rather than constantly pass by the same three rungs in an endless cycle of desire vs failure.

It is human nature to resist discipline.  Our brains work on a very strong ‘immediate rewards’ based system, and in a world where we can access almost anything we want with a click of a button, the ability to delay gratification and train our minds to focus on rewards that manifest in months, not minutes, is sorely lacking.  In order to truly optimize your life, discipline needs to be one of your top priorities.  As with anything worth having in life, there are simply no quick-fixes or substitutions.  You have to work for it, you have to want it, and you have to tell yourself ‘no’.

My own self-discipline comes and goes in waves and it is something that I need to hone in on and perfect.  However, I also know that the more I practice, the easier it becomes.  This weekend made me take a step back and refocus on the plethora of benefits of discipline that my inner two-year old would rather deny.  Going forward, my Optimization Operation will capitalize on my areas of discipline that are already strong while simultaneously targeting areas of weakness because at the end of the day, I have no excuses and I will reach my goals.

Laying the Foundation

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I’ve been thinking a lot the last couple days about the foundation for optimization.  What is it that is going to make me truly ready to take on this new chapter in my life and make more than just a pipe dream or a flash-in-the-pan burst of inspiration?  What will guarantee that I succeed?  Putting together everything I’ve experienced with things that I’ve read and conversations that I’ve had, I’ve come up with a five things that I feel are essential for progress.

Organization

This skill is something that needs to be applied to every area of your life.  Being organized is the basic element that allows to you optimize your time, which is the most precious commodity of success.  There are several different things you can do to be organized in all aspects of your life.

  1. Create a to-do list. I am a nerd and absolutely love my to-do lists that I make for myself every day.  It gives me such a sense of accomplishment when I can cross things off. (Yes, I have gone back and written down something I’ve already done just so I can cross it off).  Aside from giving me a nerd-rush, to-do lists allow me to prioritize my time and focus on the things that need to get done.  On the days I haven’t written a to-do list, I find myself doing random crap that isn’t actually that productive.
  2. Write a menu for the week.  If you want to optimize your time, money, and fitness, planning out your meals for the week (and actually sticking to it) is critical.  Not only will you be ensuring that you are eating healthy things throughout the week, you will also be saving money by buying only the things you need at the store, not the random box of cereal that catches your eye or the good-intention vegetables that you end up throwing away because you never actually got around to cooking them.
  3. Clean your house/apartment/room.  I am a firm believer that your outside environment affects your headspace.  There is nothing I like better than the feeling that comes after an intense deep cleaning session (yes, I know, I’m a nerd).  The more you keep things clean, the easier it will be to be productive.  If you feel overwhelmed by the amount of cleaning that needs to happen in your space, chip away at it a little at a time over the course of a couple days.

If you are currently not an organized person, don’t worry.  Organization is a skill that needs to be practiced.  I use SO many different tools to stay organized: lists, calendars, reminders on my phone, etc.  Don’t be afraid to use the tools available to you!

 

Focus

This skill is how people actually accomplish their goals.  When I first started my Master’s degree, I was teaching full-time, in charge of several different clubs/activities at my school, and taking online classes two at a time.  Trust me, there were several tears shed throughout those months, but I sit here now with my degree finished and my job performance unscathed.  This is only due to the fact that I kept my focus on my degree and job and nothing else.  I did take breaks during the weekend to keep my sanity, but the majority of my free time was spent writing discussion posts/papers, planning, and grading.  If you set your mind to it, you can accomplish a LOT in a short amount of time.

I have taken some steps in the last couple of days to optimize my focus.

The first thing I did was *gasp* delete Snapchat.  It was a spur of the moment decision, and you know what?  I don’t miss it.  It was nothing but a waste of time.

The second thing I did was to put all of my entertainment apps (Facebook, Instagram, etc) into a folder on my phone on the second page so that it takes more work to access them.  The only things on my front page are boring things like my clock, calculator, contacts, etc.  It sounds hokey, but it actually works.

The third thing I did was to make a giant list of all the things I want to accomplish over the rest of my holiday break.  I’ve been chipping away at the list the last couple of days, and it has been an immense help in staving off the “guess I’ll just waste the next couple of hours on Netflix” black hole that seems to crop up whenever there isn’t a purpose or structure for the day.

Positivity

This may seem odd to include in a list of skills, but I am convinced that I am where I am today because of my positivity.  While my life is pretty rosy right now, there was a time that things were not so great.  I got married at 19 to a man who prioritized drugs over our marriage, and it took me four years to actually get fed up enough to leave.  Overall, that’s five years of my life that I wasted tied to someone who seriously weighed me down.  Rather than let the emotional abuse and resulting insecurity keep me from achieving my potential, I chose to view it as a learning experience and built myself back up from the ground floor.  In the last couple of years, I have observed that my positivity is what people notice and appreciate about me more and more, and I can’t count the number of times my colleagues and friends have commented on my positive nature and thanked me for it as well.

If you are not a naturally positive person, I suggest that you start by resisting the urge to dwell on the negative.  Go do something active and get your endorphins going.  There are so many times I arrive at the gym pissed off and leave doing a happy dance.  Think about things you are thankful for.  Do something nice for someone else.  I know that when you are in a negative state, trying to think and act positively is the LAST thing you want to do (I’ve been there).  I promise, though, if you muster the courage to actually do it, you will be amazed at your transformation!

Education

Education is not so much a skill as it is a process.  We tend to think that once we finish our schooling, we’re educated.  This is not the case.  Education is a practice that should be undertaken daily and should be pursued with a purpose.

Let’s explore a simple analogy.  If you want to build a house and you have never built anything in your life, you have set a steep learning curve for yourself.  Of course, everyone knows what a house looks like, and you could muddle your way through the process and throw together a nice little shack that falls down when the first person sneezes inside it. However, if you are actually serious about building a house, you need to read about houses, talk to people who have built houses, and spend some time actually building the house.

Our life is the same way.  Everyone knows what a successful life looks like; it is what we all watch and envy on TV and movies and the media.  However, it is not enough to simply know what that life looks like.  Optimizing your life requires that you have the necessary tools and knowledge of how to use them.  This means reading books written by people who have experienced more things than you.  This means talking to people who are where you want to be.  This means actually taking this information and applying it.

Change is the end result of all true learning.

Leo Buscaglia

In order to truly optimize my physical fitness, I am in the process of hiring a personal trainer (talking to someone who is where I want to be).  While I know that I could eventually get to peak physical condition on my own, I don’t want to waste time going through trial and error.  With the trainer educating me, I just have to worry about my focus, allowing me to spend more time educating myself on other facets of my life.

Spontaneity

The final trait that I feel is vital for progress is spontaneity.  A great majority of the good things in my life happened because I just did them.  I didn’t think about it a whole lot, I didn’t make a pros and cons list, and I didn’t agonize over how it would affect other people.  I simply decided, and took the necessary steps to accomplish it.

Case in point:

  1. I was talking to a boy in California during my last semester of college. My friend was moving to Arizona to teach.  My desire: Get out of the Midwest (and explore this relationship possibility).  My thought process: “I’ll live with you, sub for a bit, and be interviewing for jobs in Cali!” My action: I moved down to AZ with her and ended up getting a full-time job in AZ.
  2. I was still talking to the boy in California during my first year teaching in AZ. My desire: Actually make this thing work.  My thought process: “I’ll move to Cali and find a teaching job so we can actually date because I like you!”  My action: I finished out my contract in AZ, moved to California, stayed with the boy, scoured Craigslist and found a great live-in nanny situation within a week, applied for a million teaching jobs, and got hired for my current position within three months.
  3. I was tired of wearing glasses and contacts day in and day out.  My desire: Perfect vision. My thought process: “I’ll go in and get a consultation for Lasik surgery!” My action: I paid for it that day and was on the operating table getting my eyes lasered open within a month.  Best. Decision. Ever.
  4. I was newly single again and living alone (albeit 45 minutes away from my job), and my friend I had met a couple months before wanted to move to a city together up the coast that would be closer to work for me. My desire: A shorter commute and a town with a younger crowd. My thought process: “Well, I’ll look at the apartment and consider it”.  My action: Signed the lease in March and moved in April 1st.  My roommate and I are now best friends who do everything together, and my commute to work is a dream.

The common denominator in all of these scenarios is that I knew what I wanted and took steps to accomplish whatever it was immediatelyThe thought of failure didn’t even enter my mind.  It didn’t occur to me that I may not get a teaching job in California, I just moved.  It didn’t occur to me that Lasik might leave me with worse vision or blind, I just did it.  It didn’t occur to me that my roommate and I could end up hating each other, I simply moved in.

In my view, overthinking things can paralyze you to the point where the easiest decision to make is to not make a decision.  Could things go wrong?  Yes.  Could you make a turn and realize down the road that WHOOPS, that was a terrible life choice?  Hell yes.  But you need to trust yourself enough to know that you can rise up to any occasion.  Trust your instincts.  You will cover more ground correcting a wrong turn than you will sitting in the parking lot.

This blog and the whole idea of The Optimization Operation was a spontaneous decision that arose out of my reflection on a few conversations and life observations I have made over the past couple months.  All of my past experiences and life skills that I have attained are coming together to springboard me into the next successful phase of my life.  While I don’t expect it to happen overnight, I know that if I focus part of every day on achieving my highest potential, it can’t help but manifest.