If you want to get anything done you need to cultivate discipline and not wait for motivation.
Motivation assumes that a particular mental or emotional state is necessary to complete a task. Discipline, by contrast, separates the task to complete from your mental or emotional state and thereby actually circumvents any such obstruction preventing you from completing your desired task.
You feel good after the completion of tasks that are leading you towards your desired outcome. This creates a positive feedback loop and develops discipline. Motivation is the other way around. You think that you need to feel good in order to complete a task. Do it regardless of feeling. This requires discipline.
Discipline is cultivated by building habits.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no scientific evidence of a magic number of days, often quoted as 21 days, in order to perform a certain task before it becomes a habit. In a recent study the number of days to achieve automaticity for a particular task ranged from 18 to 254 days. But thinking in terms of a certain number of days to achieve a habit is already missing the point. The goal is to improve your life and a task should therefore be thought of as a permanent change to your day-to-day life from that point forward.
By formulating good habits we are trying to achieve a goal. Goals should be the big picture of the state that you wish to be in at a future point in time. The process to get there is the daily habits that we need to form to make that goal a reality. My recommendation would be to start small and achieve something every single day. If you want to lose weight, cultivate the discipline of exercising daily. Start with 10 Star Jumps every morning, who doesn’t have time for 10 Star Jumps? Neuroscience tells us that the more we practice something, the stronger those neural pathways in the brain become and the easier it is to sustain the task.
Let’s look at some of the ways to formulate good, sustainable habits:
- Make it a routine – a task needs to be practiced consistently in order to develop a habit in our brains
- Get rewarded – perceived rewards are one of the most significant factors in predicting dedication and satisfaction toward work
- Get peer pressure – find a friend who is going to kick your ass and get you to the gym no matter what (just remember that you need to return the favour)
- Make it painful not to do – pay for a gym membership. Pay for a trainer. Get someone to hold you accountable. gofuckingdoit.com is a site that was built on this concept
Go out and foster good habits and practice some discipline, you will quickly find the reward in the discipline rather than the feeling of motivation or the end result.