What I’ve discovered about motivation is that it’s fleeting.
She’s a fickle and fair-weather friend, arriving usually without much notice, and only when she feels like it.
And when she arrives—oh what fun—her zeal for life is like a breath of fresh air. She twirls around and adds an energy you’d forgotten you had. Your bathroom gets scrubbed like it hasn’t in a long time, the tops of door frames get wiped free from dust, your 5am alarm succeeds in rousing you even though it’s dark, and you collapse in to bed each night feeling accomplished and ready for the next day.
You’re grateful that motivation has decided to visit, and you hope she stays a while.
She makes life easier—like riding an escalator instead of trudging up the stairs.
Unfortunately though, you never know how long she’ll stick around. Sometimes she disappears without a trace, other times she lingers. But when motivation is gone, how then does the 5am alarm rouse you?
How do you do what you do without the spring in your step?
I’m beginning to think that maybe discipline is just motivation but without the feeling.
So when the feeling is gone, the discipline of getting up, of showing up, of getting it done, that you’ve built throughout your every day, is enough to impel you into all that needs to be done.
And I know it. Discipline is an awful word.
Doesn’t it sound like it’s something that makes you force yourself to do something even when you don’t feel like it, over and over. Probably because that’s what it is.
Because I’d rather rely on my good mate Habit, than fickle old Motivation. And if I use discipline, the things I do over and over become habits that I want ingrained in my life.
I’m preaching to myself and even I’m eye-rolling.
I want habits of daily gratitude and quiet mornings.
I want ingrained habits of going straight to breathing prayers in uncomfortable situations, rather than complaints.
I want slowing practices of reading, of praying, of pounding the pavement to ground me, and to be able to do them without allowing my feelings to weigh in on the decision.
I want that, but I know I also have to give myself permission.
I’ve realised that in all my preaching-to-myself about discipline, I haven’t been very kind.
I’ve been berating myself about why I haven’t been able to get out of bed as early as I wanted, or why I can’t seem to be able to string thoughts together, let alone words.
After a month of wondering why I couldn’t quite get it together, and feeling frustrated that I wasn’t quite squeezing enough out of each day, I told myself it was okay.
It’s okay that the bathroom wasn’t sparkling. It’s okay that you haven’t produced any content or shared anything profound on social media. It’s okay that all you’re managing is the food for your family, and loving them hard—nothing else is quite so important anyway.
It’s okay friend. To go through the motions because that’s all you’ve got the capacity for in this moment.
It’s okay to pray only as you do the dishes, for that fleeting moment that no one is asking you questions or demanding your attention.
It’s okay to snuggle longer under the weight of your quilt, and snooze the alarm for just 10 more minutes.
There is a place for discipline, but there’s also a place for fluidity—for being kind to yourself, and for understanding seasonal changes, and shifts in balance.
There’s a place for work, and a time for play. There’s a time for putting in the hours, and wisdom to know when to stope and breathe. There’s a week for driving all over, doing it all, and another one for slow bike rides and doing not much of anything.
Discipline will come as you put one foot in front of the other.
Motivation will even come and visit again soon, but for now, linger in the freedom that comes when not everything needs to be done right at this moment.
Pull something out of the freezer for dinner.
Curl up with your hot drink and watch free to air tv and ignore the washing pile.
Sometimes it’s just been a day.
D’you hear me? I said it’s okay.