Since starting this journey, I've heard a lot that I'm motivating my friends to change, and that's awesome! Inevitably, some of them ask me "how do you stay motivated?" It hurts, they complain, or they don't have the time, or they simply don't feel like keeping it up because it's difficult, so they want to know what keeps me going, despite the fact that it hurts, and it's hard, and I have next to no free time and sometimes I only sleep four hours a night. The truth, though, is that I'm not always motivated or inspired to work out. There are days I absolutely do not want to run a mile at 6:30 in the morning before I've had breakfast, and there are evenings where I certainly don't want to end my day by picking up heavier weights than the day before. On the days I really push myself, I can think of plenty of things I'd rather do than run a mile, do 30 burpees, then strap myself to a sled or swing a mace or kettlebell around. In fact, the list of things I'd rather be dong can be kind of tempting:
- I'd rather be fucking
- I'd rather be drinking
- I'd rather be playing video games
- I'd rather be eating pizza
- I'd rather be playing video games at a bar while I drink and eat pizza, then go home and fuck
But I still do the things, not because I'm particularly motivated to do them, but because I need to be better, stronger, and faster to attain my goals.
A Finite Resource
Motivation is an exceedingly finite resource, especially in the life of the modern, busy human. Most of us are out of "motivation" before we even make it to our lunch break, and we're looking forward to going home and enjoying a sloth-filled night on the couch with our favorite TV shows and a glass of beer or wine. The right song might bring back a short spark of motivation, or maybe even reading a particularly well-worded article, but motivation itself is short and fleeting and if you rely solely on motivation to get the great work done, you're going to be procrastinating forever.
I was motivated to start this journey, but my motivation ran out about 45 minutes after I picked up more weight than I thought I could handle the first time. I was motivated to start running, but that motivation quickly died once my shins began to burn and my lungs ignited. What keeps me going isn't motivation at all. I'm out - that well is dry. About the only thing I'm motivated to do now is say "fuck this" and go grab a beer, because that sounds more fulfilling in the moment and it might help me ignore the pain burning in my shins and shoulders.
If you look at your body like you might a race car, then you can think of motivation like Nitrous Oxide. It'll give you a quick boost to put you ahead of the competition, but it runs out quickly and then it's up to your usual fuel and the quality of your build to keep you going and to fend off your opponents. After the bottle runs out, you'll have to rely on regular old gasoline to keep you going to the finish line. That fuel is discipline, and it's the biggest part of attaining "Supremacy of Self".
Once you've run out of motivation, you're going to rely on your own discipline to get done the shit that needs to get done. Unfortunately, if you're my age or younger, chances are that you've never really had to exercise that kind of discipline. It simply wasn't expected of many of us, because modern life simply isn't that difficult. The bad news is that discipline is hard to build, and it gets harder to build as you get older. The good news is that, just like any muscle in your body, you can build it by practicing and working it. The most important tip I can give you is that you should definitely not dive in to the deep end head first. I made that mistake when I first started. I quickly failed. If you're new to this trek, don't think you can add waking up 5 hours earlier than normal, changing your diet, cutting out all forms of caffeine, a long run, and a full-body workout to your routine every day. Unless you are possessed, naturally, of a completely indomitable will and focus, you will fail. (Hint: You are probably not possessed of a naturally indomitable will and focus.)
Instead of trying to change everything all at once, take smaller, easier steps toward improving your daily regimen. If you drink a lot of soda, replace it was flavored water. A lot of grocery stores sell carbonated, flavored waters that make an excellent substitute for soda. I used this method for less than a month before I'd completely cut soda, sweet tea, and (accidentally) energy drinks from my diet. Today, instead of 6 Pepsis and a bunch of coffee each day, I drink a cup of coffee, protein shakes and smoothies after workouts, and water the rest of the day. I have never felt better.
When it comes to your food, keep it simple and learn to cook. Throw out everything in your pantry or refrigerator that comes in plastic, a box, or a can, with the exception of unprocessed fruits and veggies. Go to your local butcher and get fresh cuts of meat if you're a meat eater, and buy fruits and vegetables the way they appear in nature -- raw, and not doused in brines or sauces. Skip the sweets. Keep protein bars on-hand in your car or at your desk at work to get you through the day, and take fresh fruit with you to snack on. Don't buy the shit you normally eat. If it's not around, you're less likely to eat it.
Make the habits you want to build easy to do, and the ones you're trying to kill hard to do. With dedication, you can build the discipline you need to reach your new goals. Through that, you will attain supremacy of self, and after that, all you have to do is keep getting better than you were the day before.