Forget Motivation, This is the Key to Achieving Your Goals This Year

by Travis Pizel · 12 comments

Soon it will be the beginning of a new year, and everyone will be setting goals they want to achieve during 2015. Health clubs everywhere will be overrun with new people looking to join, and existing members that haven’t found their way through the doors in months.

January 1st is a line in the sand that provides us with a fresh start, and the motivation to take a run at losing a little weight, and getting in better physical condition. By the end of month, however, the club will look much like it did in December.

Why? What’s the difference between how we feel at the beginning of the year, and our lack of follow-through shortly after?

Motivation is Fleeting

We stop working towards a goal because we lose our motivation.

My son went through this exact scenario recently. Being a teenager, he is becoming increasingly conscious about how he looks. He’s a slim young man, and expressed a desire to come with me to the gym to lift weights in hopes of adding some muscle to his frame. I began scheduling my weight lifting sessions around his school day and activities.

At times, I could see he wasn’t thrilled about going. I wouldn’t give him the option of not going, I would simply come home from work and tell him to throw on his gym clothes. Last week, however, he was abnormally resistant to going. When I asked if he no longer wanted to life weights with me, he indicated he would like to take a break. I left it at that, and went to the gym on my own.

A few days later, he surprised me by asking me when his next opportunity would be to lift weights with me. The next day, as we drove to the gym we had a conversation about the difference between motivation and discipline.

Motivation is fleeting emotion, and emotions are likely to change without notice. Some days you’ll feel like working out for hours, some days you might just feel like flopping on the couch and eating an entire bag of potato chips.

In order to achieve goals, however, motivation just simply isn’t enough. You have put aside how you feel, and rely on discipline instead.

Goals Needs Discipline

To achieve a goal, what you really need is discipline. Discipline is what gets me out of bed at 4:15am to go for my training runs in the dark cold of winter. It is what drives me to go to the gym, and do my designated workout for that day regardless of what I feel like.

Simply put, discipline is not giving yourself a choice. Discipline is the realization that no matter how difficult it may seem at the time, whatever action you are trying to take is necessary to achieve your goal.

Discipline is what I need to pay off $109,000 of debt. It’s impossible to stay motivated 100% of the time, especially when your goal is nowhere in sight. I made the right spending decisions, had difficult budget discussions with my wife, and sacrificed even when every bone in my body was screaming for me to take the easy way out.

View Goals as a Way of Life

True discipline means ingraining the achievement of a goal into your way of life. I told my son I was proud of him. He missed a workout, and realized that he was about to start down a slippery slope that would undo all the hard work he had put in.

He knew that when he resumed he’d likely have to start all over working towards his goal of being in better shape. He had achieved discipline, and in doing discovered the key to achieving everything he wanted out of life.

Instead of viewing your goal as a short-term change in habits, (that you can quit once you reach your target) think of them as long-term habits you’re creating for the rest of your life. You don’t only want to be fit and healthy for the next few months, right?

You don’t just want to spend better right now? Or find more ways to save money only this year, right? So don’t create a short-term resolution this New Year — create new habits for life!

How do you find the discipline to stay on track with your goals? What’s one way you inspire yourself to keep moving forward?

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  • Jess says:

    Great advice. I had never thought of motivation as being sleeting either, but you are right it certainly can be. Slef discipline and consistency go a very long way over time.

    • Emotions can change so quickly, Jess…that’s why I like to develop a habit and instill discipline as quickly as possible. Now, once I get going I still try to get myself motivated too…….but I don’t rely on it. 🙂

  • Sassy Mamaw says:

    Discipline in reaching our goals is tied to maturity, also. Not looking for the quick fix. Sounds like your boy is growing up, Travis!

  • I too like to focus on long-term goals. The more overarching the goal is (like health for a lifetime) the more likely I am to stick with it. Smaller, less concrete goals usually fall by the wayside for me. It’s the same with finances, since I want financial independence so badly, it’s easy for me to stick with my frugal autopilot regime.

    Sidenote: the most effective workout plan I’ve ever had is my current system whereby I volunteer at my yoga studio in exchange for free classes. Since I have to be there to work my shift, I go to class on the same days every single week.

    • That’s interesting, Mrs. Frugalwoods, and I think opposite of most people. One would think that the shorter the goal, the easier it would be to achieve. That’s typically why you take big goals and break them down into manageable sized chunks. Kudos to you for breaking the mold!!! Thanks for your comment!

  • Gretchen says:

    Agreed. I’m reading a book right now that has me scheduling the parts of the day when I’m most productive so that I don’t even have to think about it. Of course, I’m scheduling with my goals in mind, so I’m very conscious of the milestones I have to hit to reach those goals. What I’ve found is that the schedule take the thought out of it for me, making being productive during the right times more of a habit than a thought. As a result, I have more energy for family when I get home at night.

    • That’s a great idea, Gretchen…different people are more productive at certain tasks at different times during the day. I LOVE working out first thing in the morning, but many people claim that they couldn’t do it. Thanks for sharing!

  • I love this post. “Motivation is fleeting,” I’ve never thought of it in those terms, but it’s true. We focus on motivation to get us through our goals, and that’s great, but really, it’s more about process–actually doing stuff. And discipline implies a long-term, integrated change, rather than just convincing yourself to do something. Good stuff here.

    • Thanks Kristin – don’t get me wrong, motivation can be very powerful….but I like to think it’s discipline that gets me out of bed and in the gym – but motivation kicks in once I put my earbuds in and really get the blood pumping.

  • I think this is also what separates the goals you’re really interest in achieving from the ones that you’re not really dedicated to doing. When there’s a goal that I’m really invested in, I feel like the discipline is built in, there’s no choice not to do something.

    A goal like, losing 10 pounds, isn’t something I’m very interested in, so usually I don’t end up making it.

    • I think there’s some truth to that, Emily….but I think there’s also times when people just simply don’t know how to dedicate themselves properly to make their dreams become a reality. If you can find a way to reach everybody and propel them to success, you’d be a rich woman. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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